TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Thousands of Alabama football fans came out to celebrate the Crimson Tide's national championship with fireworks and cheers on a chilly, damp Saturday, then headed home with a promise from coach Nick Saban.
Speaking from a stage erected at midfield of Bryant-Denny Stadium with the team behind him, Saban told a crowd estimated at 38,000 that he's not done winning at Alabama.
"I want everybody here to know this is not the end," Saban said. "This is the beginning."
Saban held aloft the crystal ball from the Bowl Championship Series trophy to thunderous applause and chants of "Roll Tide!" Fans went crazy when an announcer introduced six All-Americans, including running back Mark Ingram, the school's first Heisman Trophy winner.
The university staged the event to mark its undefeated season and national championship victory over Texas. Fireworks went off and the band played, but the biggest cheer came when Saban introduced the team.
"Because they are a team of champions, they were able to win the national championship," said Saban, whose speech was broadcast statewide.
Alan Britt got to the stadium 4½ hours early to be first in line, and hundreds of people were waiting behind him by the time the gates opened. Britt wouldn't have missed the celebration, despite gray skies and temperatures in the 50s.
"This doesn't happen everyday," Britt said. "It happens a lot more here than at other places, though. Roll Tide!"
The national championship meant money for Kelly Hester, who spends her falls selling T-shirts, caps and 'Bama trinkets outside Bryant-Denny. She had nine tables full of championship merchandise for the event, and fans weren't just browsing.
"People have been starved for this," Hester said.
Saban had an idea of what could be possible during his first spring scrimmage in 2007.
"I knew when I walked out that tunnel three springs ago and there were 92,000 people in this stadium that that kind of positive energy would allow us to achieve the highest expectations and goals we could have," he said.
As Saban spoke, construction workers expanding the stadium's capacity to 101,000 paused to watch from high above an end zone.
That's not the only work going on around the stadium. Athletic director Mal Moore said Alabama already is making plans to erect a statue of Saban near ones of the school's other national championship football coaches, including the late Paul "Bear" Bryant.