In my childhood, this game would have never taken place. Well, check that. The game would have never taken place with African-American players. That is because blacks were prohibited from playing at Alabama, Clemson, and practically every other school in the south. Remember, Alabama is where George Wallace stood in front of the registrars office in 1963, and claimed that no black would ever attend the University of Alabama.
If George had gotten away with that rule, Alabama would not be playing tonight, that is for sure, and it would not be the preeminent power in college football.
However, because of some very brave men, women and children who came along before me, that has changed. And that change occurred because of people black, white, brown and yellow, who sacrificed much __ sometimes going to jail, sometimes giving their lives, __ to open up the South.
The African-American kids you watch tonight would’ve been playing at schools like Alabama State, Alabama A&M, Jackson State (Miss.), Tennessee State University, Alcorn State and some of the other HBCUs like Southern University, or maybe Florida A&M.
The fact that African-American athletes can now attend any school they desire, 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, have weakened the HBCU programs
Meanwhile, the HBCU football programs which once provided the only place for black athletes to play college sports, have struggled to maintain a level of excellence. The once rich talent pool for HBCUs that produced Hall of Famers such as Walter Payton, Jerry Rice, Bob Hayes, Michael Strahan, and many more, have been drained by the major white schools, and mid-major white schools.
Again, desegregation was a good thing. After all, black people should have always been afforded the right to live in an equitable society.
African-Americans played a heavy price in many ways in the struggle for freedom, and the demise of premier football at HBCUs is just one of them.