USC Trojans Football: The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
In a time long ago and a world away, there existed two universes of college football. One was racially integrated, one was not. Often they would meet on the field. Nothing would be proven that would affect American social activities by such a simple act of athletic competition, or would it?
West Virginia born and bred John McKay was a former coal miner and Air Military tail gunner during World War II. Arkansas born and bred Paul Bryant was the 11th of 12 children and also a WWII veteran. They had become friends.
Texas won the national title in 1969, Penn State finished No. 2. Both were undefeated. A national outcry for an additional game, an "11th" game in the regular season was heard. In theory, it would match two powerful programs during the season and would stay open from year to year so that a school could use it to challenge for a potential national title shot. John McKay and Paul Bryant quickly agreed to play in 1970 and 1971.
Southern Cal vs. Alabama: Clash of the Titans.
The 1970 epic would be played in Birmingham in front of 78,000 fans. Bryant's Tide was non-integrated, McKay's Trojans were integrated. Alabama had stood front and center for the old way of southern football and had not moved ahead to actively pursue non-white athletes.
Southern Cal entered with quarterback Jimmy Jones, halfback Clarence Davis, and a sophomore fullback named Sam "Bam" Cunningham, collectively known as "The Soul Patrol." The Patrol destroyed Alabama that night, 42-21, rushing for 485 yards. Bryant had seen enough.
The following Monday Bryant approached the school administration and advised "It's over. A boy is a boy and he should be able to play where he wishes to play." The formerly silent alumni base as well as the administration saw the writing on the wall.
Paul Bryant led the charge in the Deep South to make football color-blind. He was highly successful in doing so. The remaining segregated schools followed Bryant: the main man had spoken.
Seven years later, Bryant brought a Crimson Tide unit, built around his own "Soul Patrol" of Ozzie Newsome and Tony Nathan, into Los Angeles and defeated No. 1 Southern Cal, 21-20.
The world had come full circle, and aren't we better off for it?
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