Research for these lists date to 2012 and writing “Raye of Light: Jimmy Raye, Duffy Daugherty, the 1965-66 Michigan State Spartans and the integration of college football,” August Publications. Foreword by Tony Dungy.
By TOM SHANAHAN
Duffy Daugherty’s Michigan State 1960s Underground Railroad teams were distinguished by game-changing stars recruited from the segregated South, but the championship teams dominated with a Midwest-based roster of Black and White athletes with a boost from Duffy’s ahead-of-the-game Hawaiian Pipeline.
THE 1960s UNDERGROUND RAILROAD TEAMS
— 1959 to 1972, 44 passengers boarded, escaping segregation for East Lansing. Their home towns in the South represented eight of 11 Jim Crow states — all but Maryland, Tennessee and Alabama.
— College Football’s first fully integrated rosters: In 1962, the Associated Press reported Michigan State’s 17 Black athletes “represented the largest delegation of Negro athletes in the history of major college football.”
— 1965 national champion (10-1), named by United Press International (now USA Today), the National Football Foundation and as co-champions by the Football Writers Association of America (Alabama, 9-1-1, was voted Associated Press champion and FWAA co-champ). The Spartans had 23 Black players and 10 Black starters during a period with segregation in the South and a status quo at integrated schools limiting rosters to a half-dozen or fewer Black players.
— 1966 national champion, named co-champions by the National Football Foundation. Michigan State and Notre Dame played to a 10-10 in the Game of the Century and finished with 9-0-1 records. The Spartans had 20 Black players and 11 Black starters and a starting Black quarterback, Jimmy Raye.
— Back-to-back unbeaten Big Ten titles, 1965 and 1966. No Big Ten school matched back-to-back unbeaten Big Ten titles until Ohio State in 2019 (9-0) and in its truncated 2020 (5-0) season.
— South’s first Black quarterback to win a national title, Jimmy Raye of Fayetteville, N.C.
— First all-minority backfield: QB, Jimmy Raye (Black); FB Bob Apisa (Samoan); HB Clinton Jones (Black); HB, Dwight Lee (Black).
— First pair of Black team captains as voted by players, without a white teammate sharing the role, George Webster and Clinton Jones.
— First Underground Railroad All-American player, Sherman Lewis, 1963, third in the Heisman Trophy voting.
— First Underground Railroad All-Big Ten player, Sherman Lewis, 1961.
— First Underground Railroad player, Clifton Roaf, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, 1959. Roaf never played a down due to a knee in spring football his freshman year. Yet, he said he remained “indebted to the people of Michigan State” for his degree. He returned home to Pine Bluff as dentist for 40-plus years. “
— Academic record: Of the 44 Underground Railroad passengers, 30 graduated (68 percent). Only 10 earned All-Big Ten or All-American honors. Daugherty’s scholarship players were about more than football. By contrast, in the 1980s the the national graduation rate for Black football players was 30 percent, forcing the NCAA to crack down on schools exploiting Black athletes.
— Black Coaches: Daugherty hired two pioneering Black college assistant coaches who went on to careers as NFL offensive coordinators, Sherman Lewis and Jimmy Raye. Daugherty hired Don Coleman among the nation’s first Black college assistant coaches in 1968, but Coleman didn’t stay in coaching. Coleman was a College Football Hall of Famer from Flint, Michigan. Lewis coached at MSU 1969-80, and 16 NFL seasons, with four Super Bowl rings, XIX, XXIII, XXIV, XXXI. Daugherty hired Raye at MSU 1971-75, and Raye coached 36 years in the NFL. He was one of the first Black offensive coordinators with the Los Angeles Rams in 1983. When the San Francisco 49ers hired Raye in 1977, there were only seven other Black assistant coaches among 28 teams.
— Black Head coach: Tyrone Willingham of Jacksonville, N.C., was recruited by Jimmy Raye among Daugherty’s final Underground Railroad class, 1972. Willingham played football and baseball for the Spartans. He considered Raye and Sherman Lewis mentors. Willingham was the first Black head coach to take a team to the Rose Bowl (Stanford, 1999 season) and the first Black head coach in any sport at Notre Dame (2002-04).
COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAMERS, 1960s teams
— Head coach Duffy Daugherty, enshrined 1984.
— Four players: George Webster, enshrined 1986; Bubba Smith, 1987; Gene Washington, 2012; Clinton Jones, 2015.
— First four Black players from the same class enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame was another Michigan State milestone. They also formed the first four in the same class since from any school 1940.
MICHIGAN STATE HALL OF FAME
— Seven players, representing the full roster from the 1965-66 championship teams: George Webster, Bubba Smith, Gene Washington, Clinton Jones, Steve Juday, Bob Apisa, Jimmy Raye.
— Two coaches from the 1965-66 championship teams: Duffy Daugherty and defensive coordinator Hank Bullough.
— Two more Underground Railroad players: Sherman Lewis (Louisville, Kentucky), Eric Allen (Georgetown, S.C).
— Four of the first eight picks of the 1967 NFL draft were Spartans: 1st, Bubba Smith, Baltimore Colts; 2nd, Clinton Jones, Minnesota Vikings; 5th, George Webster, Houston Oilers; 8th, Gene Washington, Minnesota Vikings. No school has matched the run.
— Eight seniors in the 1967 NFL draft: Smith, Jones, Webster, Washington, Charlie Thornhill, Jeff Richardson, Jim Summers, Dick Kenney,
HAWAIIAN PIPELINE/POLYNESIAN FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME
— 1954-1980, 11 players recruited from Hawaii when it was still a lightly recruited state.
— Bob Apisa, Honolulu Farrington, was the first Samoan All-American player as a two-time All-American pick, 1965-66. He is credited with launching the wave of Polynesian talent that permeates football at all levels.
— Larry Cundiff, Honolulu Iolani, was the first Hawaiian Pipeline All-Big Ten pick, 1959.
— William Kaae, Honolulu Farrington, was the first Hawaiian Pipeline player, 1955.
— Hawaiians 11, Ohio State 8: On Oct. 15, 1966 at Ohio State, Michigan State’s fourth-quarter comeback to win 11-8 preserved the unbeaten season. Bob Apisa scored six points on a touchdown, Dick Kenney three on a field goal and Charlie Wedemeyer caught a two-point conversion pass. The headline in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin: Hawaiians 11, Ohio State 8.
— Two Polynesian Football Hall of Famers: Bob Apisa and Charlie Wedemeyer (Honolulu Punahou).
1966 GAME OF THE CENTURY
— Nov. 19, 1966 at Spartan Stadium: No. 1 Notre Dame 10, No. 2 Michigan State 10.
— Record TV audience, 33 million – more than Super Bowl I two months later.
— National co-champions: Michigan State and Notre Dame played to a 10-10 tie before overtime rules and finished with 9-0-1 records. They were named co-champs by the National Football Foundation. Notre Dame entered the game ranked No. 1 and MSU No. 2. The AP, UPI and FWAA polls kept Notre Dame No. 1.
— NFF’s Vincent DePaul Draddy: “The reasons are rather obvious why we divided the award. It seemed like the only fair thing to do with a couple of excellent teams like Notre Dame and Michigan State.”
— Seven 1967 first-round draft picks. Michigan State: Bubba Smith, Clinton Jones, George Webster and Gene Washington. Notre Dame: Paul Seiler, Alan Page and Tom Regner. Add in the juniors and sophomores (freshmen were ineligible until 1972) on the field that day and there were 10 first-rounders, 42 overall draft picks, 33 pro players and 25 with All-American honors. There were six College Football Hall of Famers, Michigan State’s foursome and Notre Dame’s Alan Page and Jim Lynch.
— Heisman Trophy voting, three players from the two schools finished in the Top 10 of the 1966 Heisman Trophy voting: Notre Dame’s Nick Eddy, third; Michigan State’s Clinton Jones, sixth; and Notre Dame’s Terry Hanratty, eighth.
— Terry Hanratty, Notre Dame’s quarterback: “I still say to this day those are the two best teams to ever play each other. You look at the amount of talent that was on both sides of the field.”
GAME OF THE CENTURY QUARTERBACK QUOTES
On the attendance, with 80,011 fans squeezing into 76,000-seat Spartan Stadium:
— Michigan State’s Jimmy Raye: “I think I’ve met all 80,011 based on how many have told me they were at the game.”
— Notre Dame’s Terry Hanratty: “Tell Jimmy I’ve surpassed him. I’m at 200,000. It’s like Woodstock.”
— Jimmy Raye on Duffy Daugherty starting a Black quarterback: “Daugherty was one of the most courageous persons I’ve had the privilege to be associated with in my athletic career. I can only imagine the pressure he must have been under and received when he made the decision to make me the starting quarterback in the mid-1960s. Most of the things that happened to me in my coaching career — if not all — came as a direct result of the opportunities he gave me. I will be forever grateful for the courage he had and the kind of individual he was to give a chance to a young man who was denied a chance in the South to pursue and academic and athletic career.”
— Terry Hanratty on Michigan State as his second choice to picking Notre Dame: “Duffy Daugherty was such a wonderful human being. No one can ever turn me against Michigan State. When I told Ara (Parseghian) I was coming to Notre Dame, I knew I had to call Duffy. I’m thinking, ‘This is going to be horrible’ because you hear all these stories about coaches jumping on kids. I told Duffy, and he went on for 20 minutes about what great school Notre Dame was and what a great guy Ara was. He made that very difficult call for a 17-year-old kid special. I’ll always have a fondness for Michigan State because of Duffy.”
NOTE: None of the Underground Railroad players were sent to Daugherty by Alabama coach Bear Bryant. There have been many myths created to obfuscate Bryant’s foot dragging on desegregation, and they have been at the expense of Daugherty and other true 1960s pioneers. Bryant was forced to state in a 1969 deposition he was unaware of an African-American football recruits. He had been sued by the Alabama Afro American student association for failing to recruit Black athletes despite the campus having desegregated in 1963.
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