Bear Bryant, cue music …


Just watched a documentary on HBO about the integration of Southern college football. Good stuff, interesting material—and now I must hurl.

Bear Bryant, the legendary Alabama coach who was a God to the state, was praised and praised and praised for … thinking about integrating. That’s what the ol’ Bear did year after year: He thought about it. Other schools recruited blacks—he thought about it. More schools recruited blacks—he thought about it. And thought about it. And thought about it. Finally, in 1970 or ’71, Alabama signed its first black player.

I know times were weird. And difficult. But I’ve now heard over and over what a great and courageous man Bear Bryant was, and I just don’t buy it.
Perhaps Bryant was a superb football coach. But, truth be told, had he been really courageous, he would have been the first to recruit black athletes—not the 50th (or so). He was insanely influential. He could have spoken up years earlier. But he didn’t.

He waited. And waited.

And waited.

Until it was safe.

4 thoughts on “Bear Bryant, cue music …”

  1. The Pride of Curry

    Fun fact of the day: Bryant actually allowed four African-Americans to try out for the football team in 1967. 1966, if you recall, was famous for the 10-10 Notre Dame-Michigan State tie in the “Game of the Century.” What isn’t as well-known (well, outside of Alabama) is that Bryant’s two-time defending national champs went 11-0-0, gave up a TOTAL of 37 points in 11 games…and didn’t come close to getting a national title. Many people, then and now, blamed George Wallace’s politics for keeping Alabama away from the national title. So, the next season, he allowed four players to try out for the football team. None stayed on, and it was actually 1970 when Wilbur Jackson was signed.

    I would say, however, that Bryant’s decision to play integrated USC (featuring Sam “Bam” Cunningham and Birmingham native Clarence Davis) at Legion Field in 1970 may have done more to influence Alabamians than anything, because USC did what they wanted, when they wanted in a 42-21 romp.

  2. The Pride of Curry

    And, in another somewhat fun fact, it’s widely known that Bryant often-times helped out fellow coaches, like Jake Gaines at Florida A&M, Eddie Robinson at Grambling, and Duffy Daugherty (who really WAS a progressive on race in college football) at Michigan State, get good black players from Alabama that he could not recruit (as a son of Alabama, Bryant WAS influential in the 1960s. But not as much as Wallace. Not then, anyway)

  3. I’m shocked!!!! Jeff Pearlman not knowing what he is talking about. Jeff always thinks he better than everybody, and think anybody south of the Mason-DIxon line are stupid inbreed rednecks.

  4. Jeff, I only wish I would have put my emails to you regarding this subject on your blog instead. Sorry, Britt just sent me the actual blog address. Thanks for spending the time to read my emails! I hope I was able to change your mind on the great ‘Bear’ just a little bit … and if not, at least give a few points to research a little further! Keep up the good work, whether I agree with what you write or not, I find everything very interesting! ROLL TIDE!!

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