Alabama displays ‘participation trophy’ from 2022 national championship loss in team cafeteria


Nick Saban
Getty Images

Standards are high for the Alabama Crimson Tide football program. For most teams, just reaching the national championship would be considered a huge success — but that is certainly not the case in Tuscaloosa.

Last season, Alabama made it all the way to the national title game before falling to SEC rival Georgia. Despite the loss, Alabama did not walk away empty-handed. The Crimson Tide received a trophy for their efforts in the College Football Playoff, but offensive lineman Emil Ekiyor Jr. says it only serves as a reminder of what the team failed to accomplish.

In a recent press conference, Ekiyor said the trophy is displayed in the team cafeteria. As far as he is concerned, that piece of hardware is nothing more than a “participation trophy.”

“It’s kind of hard to turn the page, you know?” Ekiyor said. “Obviously, it was a tough loss. Worked all year to achieve that goal. In a way, we still haven’t turned the page because it’s always in the back of our minds. I mean, in our cafeteria we got the participation trophy from the cafeteria just sitting there. It’s a participation trophy. You made it, but you didn’t do anything. You didn’t win. I wouldn’t say we fully turned the page. There’s always something externally that motivates us, but that’s all I got to say.”

The team has been more kind to this trophy compared to the one it received when lost in the national championship game a few years ago. A year after Alabama’s national title loss to Clemson at the end of the 2016 season, then-strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran demolished it in front of the players.

The annual expectations at Alabama are a championship, and even in a season in which his program won the SEC and went to the title game, Saban said 2021 was a “rebuilding year” for the program. If that was a rebuilding year, that is bad news for the rest of college football.

Going into 2022, Alabama is once again the national championship favorite, but that doesn’t mean the roster is without any questions. CBS Sports’ Barrett Sallee recently broke down a few areas that the Crimson Tide still need to shore up in order to finish the job this fall.