African-Americans were at practically every position on the field in the Ole Miss-Alabama game, with the exception of quarterback.
If this were 45 years ago, all of those positions would’ve all been fielded by white players. The African-American kids on the field Saturday night would’ve been playing at schools like Jackson State and Alabama State. If they weren’t there, they would’ve been at HBCUs like Alabama A&M, Tennessee State, Southern University and Grambling University.
Surely, some will point to the fact that it was 45 years ago, and it is not worth bringing up. While that is true, I must explain that 45-years is not a long time ago. The fact I was born in a segregated hospital, and attended segregated schools growing up in Tennessee, attests to that.
Furthermore, the ramifications of top flight athletes attending schools like Alabama and Ole Miss has drained the HBCU programs.
Consider that schools like Ole Miss and Alabama _ 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.