That is something I still find remarkable.
If this game had taken place 50 years ago, all of those positions would’ve all been fielded by white players. African-Americans could not attend those schools.
The African-American kids you watch on Saturday, would’ve been playing at schools like Alabama State, Alabama A&M, Jackson (Miss.) State, Tennessee State University, Alcorn State and some of the other HBCUs like Southern University, or maybe Florida A&M.
Surely, some will point to the fact that it was 50 years ago. While that is true, I must explain that 50 years is not a long time ago. The fact I was born in a segregated hospital in Nashville, Tenn., and attended segregated schools growing up in Tennessee, attests to that.
The fact that African-American athletes can now attend can now go to any school he/she desires, is a great step forward for society. However, the ramifications of these top flight athletes attending schools like Alabama, Auburn, and all the other SEC schools, has drained the HBCU programs.
Consider that SEC schools like Alabama or an Ole Miss _ where people literally rioted over the mere prospects of a couple of African-American students enrolling in school _ now benefit mightily from the desegregation of those schools that open the door for African-American athletes.
Meanwhile, the HBCU schools, which once provided the only place those kids could go to school, and always opened their doors to people of all ethnicities, have suffered. Just like desegregation played a role in collapsing vibrant, African-American communities, it has done the same to HBCU football, and HBCU athletics overall.
Now, let me be clear in saying that in no way do I think desegregation was a bad thing. As Americans, black people should have always been afforded the right to live as free as any other man or woman.
However, what I am saying is African-Americans played a heavy price in many ways in the struggle for freedom. The demise of premier football at HBCUs is just one of them.