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Thursday, September 23, 2021

Nebraska-Oklahoma supplied stage for Black stars in ’70s

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Half a century in the past, the Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry video games provided a grand stage for the most effective Black faculty soccer gamers whereas the South dragged its toes on integration.

With Nebraska’s Johnny Rodgers, Wealthy Glover and Willie Harper and Oklahoma’s Greg Pruitt, Joe Washington, Rod Shoate and brothers Lee Roy, Lucious and Dewey Selmon main the way in which, the applications dominated with stars most colleges within the South wouldn’t even recruit.

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After Texas grew to become the final all-white staff to win a nationwide title in 1969, Nebraska and Oklahoma gained two Related Press nationwide titles every between 1970 and 1975, with Black athletes taking part in crucial roles. Every gained their annual November showdown in opposition to one another on the way in which to these championships.

Rodgers, Pruitt and Glover have been among the many greatest stars within the “Recreation of the Century” — No. 1 Nebraska’s win 35-31 win over No. 2 Oklahoma in 1971. They positioned 1-2-3 within the 1972 Heisman race (Rodgers, Pruitt, Glover) — the primary time that occurred for Black gamers.

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“I believe that our play and our success on these soccer groups opened the door for lots of Black youngsters that adopted us,” Pruitt recalled amid preparations for Nebraska’s sport at Oklahoma this weekend, 40 years after their well-known showdown.

The honors and recognition streamed in for Black athletes at Nebraska and Oklahoma in these days. Glover gained the Outland and Lombardi Trophies in 1972 and Lee Roy Selmon gained each in 1975. Washington, an electrifying operating again identified for his silver footwear, completed third within the Heisman voting in 1974.

It goes again to the coaches who determined to prioritize recruiting Black athletes — Chuck Fairbanks and Barry Switzer at Oklahoma and Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne at Nebraska.

“Earlier than it occurred, if I used to be to choose the colleges more than likely to interrupt the limitations, Oklahoma and Nebraska most likely wouldn’t have made the checklist,” stated Richard Lapchick, head of the Institute for Variety and Ethics in Sport on the College of Central Florida. “However coaches like Barry Switzer, Tom Osborne, Chuck Fairbanks and Bob Devaney have been daring sufficient to see the longer term and brave sufficient to bury the earlier period of segregated groups. The outcomes have been evident of their information and the information of a few of their nice Black gamers.”

Switzer grew up within the Forties and ’50s close to tiny Crossett, Arkansas, and stated his father, Frank, was a bootlegger. Frank had Black bootleggers working for him, and his son typically tagged alongside when it was time to gather. By means of that, Switzer noticed the youngsters on the opposite aspect of the tracks and discovered they’d a lot in frequent. He stated his father typically helped Black folks, and he dedicated to do the identical by recruiting when he grew to become Oklahoma’s head coach in 1973.

“It was the proper factor to do,” Switzer stated. “So once I grew to become head coach, I stated, ‘You’ll want to perceive that that is the way in which it’s going to be.’ I advised my employees that’s the way in which we’re going to strategy it, and also you’re teaching for the mistaken employees should you don’t need to do it my approach.”

The coaches have been good to fall in line — Oklahoma had the very best successful share of groups that performed Division I-A soccer all through the Seventies and gained nationwide titles in 1974 and 1975. Nebraska was fourth and gained nationwide championships in 1970 and 1971.

Switzer established Oklahoma as a spot to go for Black gamers in Texas, together with Oklahoma’s 1978 Heisman winner, Billy Sims.

The foundations for that early Seventies dominance have been set a lot earlier.

Prentice Gautt grew to become Oklahoma’s first Black athlete in 1956. He was a two-time all-conference choice and the 1959 Orange Bowl MVP. Receiver Eddie Hinton was a third-team AP All-American for the Sooners in 1968.

Nebraska’s first Black All-American was offensive lineman/linebacker Bob Brown in 1963, and the Huskers fielded the “Magnificent Eight” — eight Black gamers on the two-deep depth chart — in 1964. Nebraska’s 1971 nationwide championship staff featured seven Black gamers with outstanding roles.

Texas and Alabama — the {old} guard — have been dealt stinging defeats by the Large Reds within the early Seventies.

Alabama beat Nebraska for the AP title in 1965 earlier than falling right into a drought. Crimson Tide coach Paul “Bear” Bryant wished to recruit Black gamers however was met with resistance. The late Sam Cunningham, the Black USC operating again who shredded Alabama in 1970, has been given much credit for helping integrate college football in the South.

Nebraska left little question that it was time for change when the Huskers performed Alabama for the nationwide title within the 1972 Orange Bowl. Rodgers burned the Crimson Tide with a 77-yard punt return for a landing within the first quarter and the Cornhuskers cruised to a 38-6 victory.

“I do know folks speak about how USC beat Alabama in Birmingham the yr earlier than we beat Alabama quite soundly in Miami, however I additionally know that our sport in that Orange Bowl was a giant issue that started to erode the colour limitations much more within the South,” Osborne told Huskers.com.

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Texas beat Oklahoma in 1970, its twelfth win in 13 tries. Oklahoma, with its inflow of Black expertise, beat the Longhorns 5 straight years from 1971 to 1975.

As for the Large Eight (and later Large 12) rivalry, Oklahoma dominated Nebraska within the late ’70s and into the Eighties till the Cornhuskers beat Switzer thrice with Turner Gill — a Black quarterback from Fort Price, Texas. Each have been forward of the curve in that includes Black quarterbacks and gained nationwide titles with them — Oklahoma with Jamelle Holieway in 1985 and Nebraska with Tommie Frazier in 1994 and 1995.

“If your Oklahoma historical past and your Nebraska historical past, the platform that they gave Black athletes was wonderful,” Holieway stated.



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