"These people expect us to win, and so do I," says Perkins.
A red-haired woman intercepts him on the way out. She identifies herself as a columnist for an Alabama weekly and asks for a picture—of her and him together "for my column." Perkins puts his arm around her and grins. "I'm glad there's something around here worth looking at," he says. The redhead gushes happily as the two of them pose for the photographer.
Perkins eats lunch at Bryant Hall, the Alabama athletic dorm. When built in 1963, the place was so well appointed it was known as the Bear Bryant Hilton. Through the magic of redecoration, it has come to look like a $1.98 steak house. Its interiors, dominated by red, black and silver foil, are garish enough to give all its inhabitants insomnia. The furniture looks as if it were designed by Buck Rogers, and the lamps appear to be various types of military weapons. Perkins has ordered a refurbishing.
As Perkins drives up, a husky blond athlete waves at him from a car where he is talking with a girl. When Perkins is seated inside, a black player comes up and, deferentially, asks if he can stay in Birmingham with his mother after the game. "She's coming in from Washington just for the weekend." Perkins purses his lips. "We travel as a team," he says finally. The boy waits for a second, trying to determine if that's the answer, and then gets up, thanking Perkins for his time. Perkins softens. "I'll think about it," he says. But when the player is gone he says he knows he can't allow it because it would "start a flood. And all it would take to spoil it would be for someone to stay in Birmingham and wind up in a car wreck. His family would never forgive me, and I wouldn't either."
The husky blond player calls to Perkins from a nearby table. "My girl friend was impressed, Coach," he says.
"Why didn't you introduce me?" Perkins says, smiling.
"I'm still scared of you," says the blond.
Walter Lewis, the Alabama quarterback and team star, is there. Lewis was a pallbearer at Bryant's funeral. He says the transition to Perkins "has been rather smooth." He says the one thing that seems to link Perkins and Bryant is that "they both care." He says Bryant stuck by him last year when "unfounded rumors" were flying that he was dating the wife of a white player. He says Bryant never treated him like a "black" quarterback, nor did he think of Bryant as a "white" coach. "He told somebody before he died that he regarded me like his grandson, Marc," Lewis says. "And I thought of him as a father."
At the last major team meeting of the week, Perkins tells his players he doesn't know how they're going to react to the pressure on Saturday because "I haven't been there with you yet to know. I think I know. I think you'll react positively.
"The alibis have been lined up on the table for you—new coach, new offense, all of it. But if you, lose you won't lose because of those things. You'll lose only if you don't play as well as you're capable. But if you do play like you're capable, you'll win."