By TOM SHANAHAN
The Rose Bowl in the 1950s matching the Big Ten and West Coast schools that formed the forerunner to today’s Pac-12 was the penultimate event to the college football season prior to the Bowl Championship Series and College Football Playoff.
Big enough that Michigan State coach Duffy Daugherty and UCLA coach Red Sanders were guests on the Jack Benny Show on the eve of the Rose Bowl. There appearances starts at the eight-minute mark and lasts five minutes.
Notice how Duffy, a likeable an impish character throughout his career, handles his lines more naturally than Sanders. The modern media would have loved Daugherty, who was a college football analyst following retirement from coaching (1954-1972).
Duffy was on the cover of Time magazine the following fall. In the 1950s, Time publisher Henry Luce said a cover on his magazine was a coveted honor in American culture.
The 1956 Rose Bowl pre-dated Daugherty’s Underground Railroad, which recruited 44 players from eight southern states (all but Alabama, Tennessee and Maryland) from 1959 to his final class in 1972. But he answers a Benny question that explained why southern Black high school coaches soon began to lay the early tracks to the Underground Railroad.
With time, they began sending Daugherty players, most prominently Willie Ray Smith Sr., the father of College Football Hall of Famer Bubba Smith.
Willie Ray Sr. won 235 career titles and two Black Texas state titles during segregation. He sent seven players to Michigan State between 1963 and 1967. Three started in the 1966 Game of the Century against Notre Dame: his son Bubba, College Football Hall of Famer Gene Washington and All-Big Ten safety Jess Phillips.
Michigan State, dating to Biggie Munn’s teams (1947-53) and his 1954 Rose Bowl championship team, were known for Black All-American stars. The Spartans beat UCLA 28-20 as Ellis Duckett blocked a punt and returned it six yards for a touchdown and Leroy Bolden scored on a 1-yard run. Duckett and Bolden were both from Flint.
In the 1956 Rose Bowl, Daugherty tells Benny he likes his team’s advantage in speed. Clarence Peaks of Flint scored on a 13-yard pass and threw a 67-yard option touchdown pass to John Lewis of Fremont, Ohio. Peaks and Lewis were honorable mention All-Big Ten.
However, Daugherty’s Hawaiian Pipeline was in place for the 1956 Rose Bowl. William Kaae, a Hawaiian from Honolulu Farrington, was a running back on the 1955 team.
A decade late, Daugherty recruited fullback Bob Apisa out of Farrington. Apisa was the first Samoan All-American player as a two-time choice, 1965 and 1966.
Daugherty pre-dating the modern media allowed for myths and fiction involving Alabama coach Bear Bryant and the 1970 USC-Alabama game to fill a void. They tales have distorted history ,overshadowing Daugherty’s Underground Railroad teams leading college football integration with its first fully integrated rosters. They also have overshadowed the true 1960s pioneers in the South. Bryant didn’t segregate his program until 1971; five Southeastern Conference rivals desegregated ahead of Alabama.
Media in Los Angeles propagated the 1970 myth in the late 1980s, and unknowing national media have regurgitated the myths and fiction ever since then without vetting the story. Alabama authors Keith Dunnavant, Don Keith and Don Yaeger wrote books that highlighted the myths. HBO, Showtime and ESPN have subsequently regurgitated the accounts.
A foundation of the myth was former USC coach Craig Fertig and 1970 USC player John Papakadakis making up a story about Bryant taking USC fullback Sam Cunningham into the Alabama locker room, while Bryant embarrassed his players, saying Cunningham is what a football player looked like.
Papadakis, who wrote the scene into a failed movie script, failed to recognize with the line that Bryant was the one that failed to recruit Black players. Some of his players had played with Black teammates once Alabama high schools had desegregated. ESPN’s 2020 feature on the 1970 USC-Alabama game failed to ask Cunningham about the fiction, skipping over that part of the myth that propelled the story in the national media.
In a 2003, Cunningham came clean and admitted the Bryant story never happened in an interview with Neal McCready of the Mobile Press-Register
I’ll put my research on this subject up against anyone.