Can a Segregated Team be Best College Football Team Ever?

by Bob K.

Was Alabama of 1961 college football’s greatest team? Well, compared to a team of today, they would be outweighed by at least 0ne hundred pounds per man. They were an all-white segregated team who would not play an integrated opponent. And they did not play two-platoon football since the rules did not allow it. Have you ever thought about the disadvantages of a one-platoon football team, trying to play against a two-platoon team?

Suppose you could pick two leading teams from the same season that did not meet and match them in a national championship game. For example, how about Tennessee vs. Michigan State in 1952, Auburn vs. Ohio State in 1957, LSU vs. Iowa in 1958, Mississippi vs. Syracuse in 1959,Mississippi vs. Iowa in 1960, Alabama vs. Ohio State in 1961 or Mississippi vs. USC in 1962. Do you know who would win all those games? Michigan State in 1951 and 1952, Ohio State in 1957, Iowa in 1958, Syracuse in 1958, Iowa in 1960, Ohio State in 1961, and USC in 1962. And how would they win? By forfeit. These Southern teams would not play against integrated opponents. Suppose you had a national championship game and one team didn’t show up!

The following concerns Georgia Tech’s 1955 football team and it is taken from Allison Danzig “The History of American Football” copyright 1956 by Prentice-Hall, Inc. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

The once again Dodd took his team to a bowl game. It was back to the Sugar Bowl for the fourth time, to play Pittsburgh, winner of the Lambert Trophy as Eastern Champion. Though outgained by as good margin, 311 yards to 142, and having failed to complete one of its three passes it launched, Tech won the game, 7-0, to maintain its perfect bowl record in six appearances under Dodd. A pass interference penalty called against Bobby Grier of Pittsburgh, the first Negro to play in the Sugar Bowl, led to the only touchdown of the game, It gave Tech, which had recovered a fumble on Pitt’s 33-yard line before throwing the pass, the ball on the 1-yard line, and quarterback Wade Mitchell carried it over.

Because of Greer’s presence on the Pitt team, the Governor of Georgia had called on the state board of regents to bar Tech from playing in the Sugar Bowl game. After the governor had been burned in effigy by rioting Tech students, the regents permitted the Engineers to go through with their commitment but took steps to prevent any state team in the future from taking part in games in the South where segregation customs were not carried out.

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By Mo Johnson, Copyright © 2006-2017

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