Nebraska-Oklahoma provided stage for Black stars in '70s

NORMAN, Okla. — Part a century in the past, the Nebraska-Oklahoma contention video games introduced a grand degree for the most productive Black university soccer avid gamers whilst 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 methods ruled with stars most faculties within the South wouldn’t even recruit.

After Texas was the final all-white staff to win a countrywide name in 1969, Nebraska and Oklahoma gained two Related Press nationwide titles each and every between 1970 and 1975, with Black athletes enjoying crucial roles. Each and every gained their annual November showdown towards each and every different on tips on how to the ones championships.

Rodgers, Pruitt and Glover had been a few of the largest 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-Three within the 1972 Heisman race (Rodgers, Pruitt, Glover) — the primary time that came about for Black avid gamers.

“I feel that our play and our luck on the ones soccer groups opened the door for numerous Black youngsters that adopted us,” Pruitt recalled amid arrangements for Nebraska’s sport at Oklahoma this weekend, 40 years after their well-known showdown.

The honors and popularity streamed in for Black athletes at Nebraska and Oklahoma in the ones days. Glover gained the Outland and Lombardi Trophies in 1972 and Lee Roy Selmon gained each in 1975. Washington, an electrifying operating again recognized for his silver sneakers, completed 1/3 within the Heisman vote casting in 1974.

It is going again to the coaches who made up our minds to prioritize recruiting Black athletes — Chuck Fairbanks and Barry Switzer at Oklahoma and Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne at Nebraska.

“Prior to it came about, if I used to be to select the colleges in all probability to damage the boundaries, Oklahoma and Nebraska most certainly shouldn’t have made the checklist,” mentioned Richard Lapchick, head of the Institute for Variety and Ethics in Recreation on the College of Central Florida. “However coaches like Barry Switzer, Tom Osborne, Chuck Fairbanks and Bob Devaney had been daring sufficient to look the longer term and brave sufficient to bury the former generation of segregated groups. The consequences had been glaring of their information and the information of a few in their nice Black avid gamers.”

Switzer grew up within the 1940s and ’50s close to tiny Crossett, Arkansas, and mentioned his father, Frank, was once a bootlegger. Frank had Black bootleggers running for him, and his son frequently tagged alongside when it was once time to gather. Thru that, Switzer noticed the youngsters at the different facet of the tracks and discovered they’d a lot in not unusual. He mentioned his father frequently helped Black folks, and he dedicated to do the similar thru recruiting when he was Oklahoma’s head trainer in 1973.

“It was once the suitable factor to do,” Switzer mentioned. “So once I was head trainer, I mentioned, ‘You wish to have to take into account that that is how it’s going to be.’ I informed my team of workers that’s the way in which we’re going to way it, and also you’re training for the unsuitable team of workers in the event you don’t need to do it my manner.”

The coaches had been good to fall in line — Oklahoma had the absolute best successful share of groups that performed Department I-A soccer all over the 1970s and gained nationwide titles in 1974 and 1975. Nebraska was once fourth and gained nationwide championships in 1970 and 1971.

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

The rules for that early 1970s dominance had been set a lot previous.

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

Nebraska’s first Black All-American was once offensive lineman/linebacker Bob Brown in 1963, and the Huskers fielded the “Magnificent 8” — 8 Black avid gamers at the two-deep intensity chart — in 1964. Nebraska’s 1971 nationwide championship staff featured seven Black avid gamers with outstanding roles.

Texas and Alabama — the outdated guard — had been dealt stinging defeats by means of the Large Reds within the early 1970s.

Alabama beat Nebraska for the AP name in 1965 earlier than falling right into a drought. Red Tide trainer Paul “Endure” Bryant sought after to recruit Black avid gamers however was once met with resistance. The past due Sam Cunningham, the Black USC operating again who shredded Alabama in 1970, has been given a lot credit score for serving to combine university soccer within the South.

Nebraska left unquestionably that it was once time for alternate when the Huskers performed Alabama for the nationwide name within the 1972 Orange Bowl. Rodgers burned the Red Tide with a 77-yard punt go back for a landing within the first quarter and the Cornhuskers cruised to a 38-6 victory.

“I do know folks discuss how USC beat Alabama in Birmingham the yr earlier than we beat Alabama slightly soundly in Miami, however I additionally know that our sport in that Orange Bowl was once a large issue that started to erode the colour boundaries much more within the South,” Osborne informed

Texas beat Oklahoma in 1970, its 12th win in 13 tries. Oklahoma, with its inflow of Black skill, beat the Longhorns 5 instantly years from 1971 to 1975.

As for the Large 8 (and later Large 12) contention, Oklahoma ruled Nebraska within the past due ’70s and into the 1980s till the Cornhuskers beat Switzer 3 times with Turner Gill — a Black quarterback from Castle Price, Texas. Each had 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 you recognize your Oklahoma historical past and you recognize your Nebraska historical past, the platform that they gave Black athletes was once superb,” Holieway mentioned.


AP Sports activities Creator Eric Olson in Omaha, Nebraska, contributed to this record.


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