Alabama’s Iron Bowl And Integration—Was Football Victory Worth It?
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[See also by Paul Kersey: Joe Paterno And The Penn State Rape Scandal: Discrediting The Opiate Of America]

This Saturday, November 26, those watching the 76th Iron Bowl between Auburn and Alabama on CBS will see a bizarre situation: two overwhelmingly white schools represented on the field by two overwhelmingly black teams, most of whose athletes call “home” those cities and counties that white Alabamians now avoid like the plague—for very good, but currently unmentionable, reasons.

It’s been 41 years since celebrated Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray wrote these gloating words following the 42-21 defeat of the all-white Alabama Crimson Tide football team by an integrated University of Southern California Trojans at historic Legion Field in Birmingham AL:

OK, you can put another star in the Flag.

On a warm and sultry night when you could hear train whistles hooting through the piney woods half a county away, the state of Alabama joined the Union. They ratified the Constitution, signed the Bill of Rights. They have struck the Star and Bars. They now hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal in the eyes of the creator.

Our newest state took the field against a mixed bag of hostile black and white American citizens without police dogs, tear gas rubber hoses or fire hoses. They struggled without the aid of their formidable ally, Jim Crow.

Bigotry wasn’t suited up for a change. Prejudice got cut from the squad. Will you all please stand and welcome the sovereign state of Alabama to the United States of America?”

[Hatred Shut Out as Alabama Finally Joins the Union,  September 13, 1970. Note: Quotes have links throughout]

It was of this game—and the performance of USC’s black fullback Sam Cunningham —that one of legendary Alabama coach Bear Bryant’s assistants famously remarked: “Sam Cunningham did more to integrate Alabama in 60 minutes than Martin Luther King did in 20 years." to the legend, the shock of seeing the pride of the lily-white Southeastern Conference (SEC) go down to USC supposedly convinced conservative Southerners still hesitant to accept forced Federal integration that they would need black players on their beloved university football teams to compete.

(No fewer than three books have celebrated this legend: Turning of the Tide: How One Game Changed the South; One Night, Two Teams: Alabama vs. USC and the Game That Changed a Nation; and Career in Crisis: Paul “Bear” Bryant and the 1971 Season of Change.)

Somewhat inconveniently for the legend, in the following year, 1971, an Alabama team with only two black players beat USC in Los Angeles 17-10.

But maybe there’s some truth in it too. 1971 was also the year of the first integrated Iron Bowl matchup between Auburn University and Alabama—so named because Birmingham was once the ironworks capital of the south.  This intra-Alabama rivalry is perhaps the most storied in all of sports. It was the subject of a recent ESPN documentary, Roll Tide/War Eagle.

And 1971 was the last time these two schools—both with alumni and student body populations that are overwhelmingly white—would be represented by actual student-athletes who reflected the character of each institution.

The players on the field for that historic game between two undefeated teams 40 years ago would have a small chance of being recruited by either Auburn or Alabama today. The past five recruiting classes for both schools have been under five percent white. White athletes at both schools are forced to walk-on if they want to play football—as the Green Bay Packers Jordy Nelson was at Kansas State.

In the forty years since that historic first integrated Iron Bowl, a lot in America has changed.

In California, columnist Jim Murray’s Los Angeles is no longer an American city. (He died in 1998). A Los Angeles Times columnist now praises the fact that the US national soccer team was booed in favor of the Mexican at the LA Coliseum.  [Again, it's red, white and boo, By Bill Plaschke, June 26, 2011]

In Alabama, whites have fled the city of Birmingham, creating some of the most prosperous suburbs in the country—Whitopias like Vestavia Hills, Mountain Brook, and Hoover.  Same in Montgomery, where the business with the most impressive balance sheet is now one that polices for “hate”. And Huntsville, the former home of Werner Von Braun and NASA’s rocket center, has seen the mission of aiming for the stars diverted to Muslim outreach.  

Oh, and Jefferson County—home to now-72 percent black Birmingham—has recently declared the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history.

The last Iron Bowl at Birmingham’s Legion Field was played in 1998. Legion Field is now in the heart of one of the worst ghettos in America—so bad that Birmingham Southern College had to build a fence around its entire campus after a black-on-white rape occurred in the 1970s.

Birmingham was once home to six Fortune 500 companies; now it has only Regions Bank. The cost of doing business in a city run by a continuous string of Democratic black Mayors and an overwhelmingly black city council is directly responsible.

Not coincidentally,a stunning 88 percent of Alabama whites voted for John McCain (!) in 2008.

But hey, Auburn and Alabama’s integrated football programs keep producing national championship teams—albeit with socially marginal black players who consistently fail to graduate, and worse, bring disgrace to the schools. embarrassingly liberal New York Times reporter Warren St. John, an Alabama grad, wrote a book, Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, about his adventures purchasing an RV and following the 1999 Alabama football team. St. John reports an incident at a tailgate he attended, where a news story came on ESPN that black player Shamari Buchanan was embroiled in a ticket-fixing scandal and might get kicked off the team and forfeit games as a result (p. 149):

‘It’s the stupid n[ deleted for censorware reasons],’ a woman snarls.


“‘Stupid n—— are always getting us into trouble.’

“Silence, then:

“‘She’s got a point,” a man at her side says. “Them n—— always doin’ sumpin’ stupid.'”

“Needless to say, it feels as though someone has yanked the emergency brake of life.”

The desire to win football games—and the belief that only problematic black players can make this happen—got the Crimson Tide on crippling probation in 1995. ‘Bama went on probation again in the mid-2000s, thanks to payoffs to black Memphis recruit Albert Means to the tune of $100,000. It only fully recovered after hiring coach Nick Saban in 2007—but not before a number of the black players got in serious trouble with the law. Saban finally led Alabama to a BCS Title win in 2009.

Like ‘Bama , Auburn was put on probation by the NCAA back in 1992 for a pay-for-play scheme involving Eric Ramsey, a marginally talented black player who accused Auburn head coach Pat Dye of running a racist program (Dye wrote a whole book, In the Arena, defending himself from those charges and stating over and over again that blacks were better athletes). Ramsey secretly taped conversations with coaches that dealt with the pay-for-play scheme and 60 Minutes did a special on his charges.

One coach even told Ramsey that if he “wasn’t playing football, he’d be just another n—— to Auburn people.” Michael Weinreb’s Bigger Than The Game, we learn why any indiscretion by black athletes at either Auburn or ‘Bama will seemingly be tolerated (p.42):

“In 1982, during Bo Jackson’s freshmen year at Auburn, there were 18,401 students enrolled at Auburn University; 446 of those students or 2 percent, were black. On July 11 of that same year, the United States of America brought suit against the state of Alabama and most of its four-year colleges, questioning whether the state with a black population of 25.6 percent ‘operated a racially dual system of higher education, and if so whether the vestiges of the dual system have now been eliminated.’”

Bo Jackson would go on to win the Heisman Trophy; Auburn would lower standards for marginal black students in a bid to increase black enrollment and avoid Federal litigation (though it’s still under five percent). Same with ‘Bama.

Inevitably, the day will come when one of these grateful black students tries to get Auburn to take the line “War Eagle, win for Auburn, power of Dixieland!” out of its fight song—because the term "Dixieland" is offensive to black people.

But the Opiate of America (and the two schools where the drug is the strongest) is unquestionably part of the reason no-one in a position of power in the state of Alabama willing to say “enough”.

So whatever happened to the sons and grandsons of the white Auburn and Alabama players (and fellow white southerners) who played on those all-white SEC teams before integration?

Well, for one thing, Tom Lemming, the founding father of recruiting guides, told Michael Lewis in the book The Blind Side that white high school athletes were discriminated against by college scouts and coaches because they couldn't possibly be as a fast as black athletes. He said the same thing to The Chicago Sun Times [What college coaches don't talk about, By Taylor Bell,  October 1, 2009]; he said the same thing to the South Bend Tribune. [Groomed to be grounded, By Eric Hansen, December 30, 2005]

Auburn University is one of the only SEC schools to start two white running backs in the past 12 years. Tre Smith rushed for more than 120 yards in helping the Tigers beat ‘Bama in 2002. Smith was a star prospect, but only Auburn offered Smith the chance to play running back.

Three years prior, Heath Evans had started running back for Auburn. But in  Hard Fighting Soldier by Auburn University team chaplain Chette Williams, we learn the great struggle Evans had in convincing head coach Tommy Tuberville that a white guy could play a position dominated by blacks:

“Coach Tuberville installed a one-back offense–tailback, not fullback. At Ole Miss a year earlier, his one back had been Deuce McAllister, the best running back in school history, and Heath, the coaches believed, did not fit that mold. ‘You look at a big, white running back, you’re not going to think tailback,’ Heath told a Birmingham News reporter. So he began to sit through his sophomore season with literally no hope of significant playing time. Ever.”

We learn a few pages later that Evans didn’t get significant carries until Week Eight against Arkansas, when he rushed for 68 yards and a touchdown.

Evans would go on to start tailback the rest of the year, and be a big contributor in the 2000 season primarily playing fullback and blocking for an eventual NFL running back, Rudi Johnson. Wanting to come back for his senior year, he asked Tuberville if he’d at least make him the starting tailback going into spring practice and that it would be his position to lose.

Tuberville said “no.”

Heath declared for the draft and spent 10 years in the NFL.

Bottom line: there are plenty of talented white Southerners who never get the chance to play college football in the South. When they did, white Southerners actually dared defend their unique crypto-nation.

Judging by the immigration bill recently passed in the state, they still desire to defend it. inadvertently, Michael Oriard let slip a crucial point in his book Bowled Over: Big-Time College Football from the Sixties to the BCS Era in regards to all that was lost in the South on that Saturday afternoon 41 years ago in Legion Field. On page 61, he writes:

“The integration of SEC football was more momentous for white Southerners than for black, resulting in the loss of a bastion of white southern masculinity but bringing a compensating benefit in the national stature of conference teams through the prowess of black athletes. “

Like the Afrikaners in South Africa who get to play their international rugby with the downfall of Apartheid, at least white people have their Auburn and Alabama football to cheer for.

Fitting that we should recall the words of LA Times columnist Jim Murray by noting that Los Angeles is no longer part of the Union. We aren’t that far off from the moment that Peter Brimelow wanted to fictionalize in Alien Nation: when the last white a.k.a. American family tries to flee LA.

But there will be no escape for Alabamians. The people fundamentally responsible for the bankruptcy of Jefferson County are beginning a mass exodus from Birmingham to those suburban Whitopias There’s no such thing as restrictive covenants anymore, so the problems that white Birmingham citizens face—profiled here at’s The Killing Years—will now be exported there.

I believe it’s this simple: were it not for the (significantly exaggerated) belief that only black athletes can win football games, the citizens of Alabama and other Southern states (joined by many others around the country) might find the will to stand up to a Federal government bent on electing a new people—and destroying the historic American nation.

The downfall of great cities like Birmingham could only happen because white people a.k.a. Americans lacked the courage to confront the problems that are present wherever they are blessed with “diversity”.

War Eagle or Roll Tide? What does it matter when you can no longer venture safely into the major cities of Alabama—but base your entire identity upon a college football team comprised of the very people who make those cities uninhabitable?


Paul Kersey[Email him] is the author of the blog SBPDL, and has published the books SBPDL Year One, Hollywood in Blackface and Captain America and Whiteness: The Dilemma of the Superhero. He works in political consulting and resides in Denver, Colorado.

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