"You can't be serious about this"

This article appears in the Nov. 16 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

It was a joke. Surely, it had to be. "It's our first year!" Bill Curry said into his BlackBerry. "No. We're not doing that."

It was February and the 67-year-old Georgia State coach, taking a break from Grandparents' Day at Sarah Smith Elementary School, near his Atlanta home, was talking to Bill McDonald, an associate athletic director at Alabama. McDonald had worked with Curry throughout the 1980s, at both Georgia Tech and Bama, but what he had just said seemed ridiculous. He wanted Curry's newborn Georgia State Panthers, who don't even start playing until next season, to plan a trip to Tuscaloosa and play the resurgent Crimson Tide.

"When is the game?" Curry asked.

"Nov. 20, 2010," McDonald replied.

"Come on," Curry told him. "Let's talk about 2012 or 2013."

"Nope. Take it or leave it."

"You can't be serious about this. We have mostly freshmen. Just give me another year, at least."

"Can't do it."