By TOM SHANAHAN
Team equipment managers hear the juiciest gossip. As the locker room empties, they quietly go about their business, unintentionally a chameleon blended into the walls. Others forget they’re within earshot.
Marty Daly was one of those guys at Michigan State.
Daly was the Spartans’ assistant equipment manager from the 1965 to 1972, a time that overlapped College Football Hall of Fame coach Duffy Daugherty’s 1965 and 1966 national championship teams. He later was promoted to head equipment manager, serving in that role from 1972 to 1976. He moved on to similar jobs with the NFL’s Baltimore Colts and the University of Miami.
He’s now age 76 and enjoying retirement in Orlando, his stories sharply stored in his mind. He could start a blog – Daly Tales from the Locker Room – with his yarns, both humorous and haunting.
Here’s a humorous one from his Michigan State days. Daugherty had recruited a running back named James Bond who lettered in 1971 and 1972. The Spartans’ impish coach couldn’t resist identifying his recruit with the fictional British secret agent. He petitioned NCAA and Big Ten to allow Bond to wear jersey No. 007.
“I already had the jersey made up,” Daly said, “but the NCAA overruled Duffy.”
A haunting tale has been moved to now-it-can-be told category. The file was labeled under, “Feud, Biggie Munn and Duffy Daugherty, 1954-72.”
Munn had been Michigan State’s head coach from 1947-53 with Daugherty a top assistant. The Spartans under Munn compiled a 54-9-2 record with a national title, in 1952. When Munn retired to the athletic director’s role, Daugherty was promoted from within, but his first team (1954) stumbled to a 3-6 record. Munn vented loudly, complaining Daugherty was ruining the program he had built.
Although Daugherty and the Spartans bounced back with a 1955 Big Ten title and Rose Bowl victory as well as back-to-back Big Ten and national titles in 1965 and 1966, the bad blood lingered.
“I was in the locker room one day,” Daly said of a disappointing season in the late 1960s. “Duffy was yelling at all of his assistant coaches: ‘One of you guys in here is a traitor! Everything I say is getting back to Biggie!’”
Daly knew the source — his boss, the late-Ken Earley, MSU’s head equipment manager, 1954 to 1972.
He says now, “Ken told me, ‘Biggie hired me. I’m loyal to Biggie.’”
Daly loved Daugherty, but just to show you he has all kinds of stories to tell — even those not so flattering — he recalled the time he drove Daugherty home from enjoying drinks at an alumni golf outing.
“Duffy asked me to pull over so he can take a leak,” Daly said. “All of the sudden lights start flashing behind us. This cop gets out, recognizes Duffy and says, “Coach Daugherty! You coached my brother!’ He let us go.”
There you are, three tales from inside the locker room that grew harmless with time. But another back story Daley tells remains relevant from the controversial 1966 season. The rankings finished with No. 1 Notre Dame (9-0-1), No. 2 Michigan State (9-0-1) and No. 3 Alabama (11-0-0).
The story Daly tells took place a couple months after the 1966 season ended. He unexpectedly found himself seated at table having breakfast with Daugherty and Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant at the Palmer House in Chicago They were in the Windy City for the 1967 National Sporting Goods Association Convention Feb. 5-9 at the McCormick Place.
Daly was only 22 years old and seated alone when Daugherty entered the room and joined him.
“That’s the kind of guy Duffy was,” Daly said. “I was just a kid sitting at table, but he knew me from practices. He always talked to the student managers and student trainers. He was a good guy to everybody.”
Next, Bryant entered the room alone and spotted Daugherty. He joined his good friend.
“Duffy and The Bear talked,” Daly said. “I just listened to two legends.”
Naturally, rehashing the 1966 season was a subject of conversation.
“The Bear was going on about how he needed to get him some of those Negro boys,” said Daly, mimicking Bryant’s well-known southern mumble that pronounced the word as “Nig-ruh.”
Daly continued recounting the conversation, substituting “Black” for Bryant’s vocabulary.
“Bear told Duffy that he thought Michigan State had the best athletes because of all the Black players,” Daly said. “Bear said he had some fast and good white players but that Duffy had bigger and faster players. I never forgot his words.”
Daly added Bryant told Daugherty, “I know what you’re doing up there. I’ve got to get me some of those Black players.”
“Bear told Duffy that he thought Michigan State had the best athletes because of all the Black players. Bear said he had some fast and good white players but that Duffy had bigger and faster players. I never forgot his words.”— Marty Daly, quoting Bear Bryant on Michigan State’s superior talent in the 1966 season.
Daugherty, Daly said, didn’t respond with much more than, “I’m going to continue to recruit down there.”
Daly, obviously, was partial to Daugherty. He also was disturbed by bigoted Jim Crow laws that southerners continued to cling to despite passage of the 1964 and 1965 Civils Rights Acts. But Daly’s biases don’t negate the veracity of his account of breakfast with Duffy and the Bear.
Jeffrey Marx, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and New York Times-bestselling author, describes Daly as a man “with a huge heart.” Marx spent his summers in high school working for Daly as an equipment assistant during the Baltimore Colts’ training camps.
“Marty is a great guy,” Marx said. “I don’t know about the Michigan State time period, but I know the person he is and what he did to help out so many other kids. He helped us grow with exposure to people and experiences. Marty was a likeable, loveable guy who cares about other people.”
One day when Daley was new to the Colts, he found himself alone unloading equipment at Baltimore’s old Memorial Stadium. The truck had returned from a preseason road game. Three African-American youths from the neighborhood, James Gaylord, Matt Walker and Bradley Rodgers, were playing in the shadow of the stadium. Daley asked them for help, paying them from his own pocket.
All three continued working part-time as ball boys during the season and have remained in contact with Daly; they have plans to get together later this summer. One of them, Walker, played eight years in the San Francisco Giants minor league system.
Daly’s breakfast with Duffy and The Bear says much about their dueling legacies on college football integration. Daugherty’s has been unappreciated despite his 1960s teams featuring college football’s first fully integrated rosters in the 1960s. Bryant’s integration role has been embellished, skipping over his dismal 1960s track record in favor of myths and fiction enshrouding the 1970 USC-Alabama game. The Bryant hagiography has unfairly reduced Daugherty and other true 1960s pioneers to footnotes.
In 1966, college football’s national controversy involved the Spartans and Irish ranked 1-2 until midseason when Notre Dame jumped over Michigan State, although both teams remained undefeated. When the teams met in the Game of the Century on Nov. 19, 1966 before a record TV audience of 33 million, Notre Dame was widely criticized for running out the clock to preserve a 10-10 tie and its No. 1 ranking.
Meanwhile, the provincial controversy in segregated Alabama was all-white Alabama fans grumbling their No. 3-ranked team deserved the national title. They claimed to be victims of reverse racism. The poll voters, Alabama fans contended, watched the TV news of peaceful protesters in Birmingham and Selma beaten brutally by the police. They responded with ballots against Alabama football.
Bryant, despite what he expressed to Daugherty, played along with his fan base rather than expressing his inner thoughts his team was too small and too slow. Bryant had preferred small, quick teams that were necessary in the single-platoon era of playing 60 minutes, but he was slow to adapt to modern football. In 1964, NCAA approved two-platoon football. The change opened the door to bigger athletes that didn’t have to play 60 minutes. Bryant got away with it as long as he continued to play only all-white opponents without peaking above the Mason-Dixon Line.
Alabama’s All-American offensive tackle in 1966 was Cecil Dowdy, a 6-foot-1, 202-pounder taken in the 1967 NFL draft’s ninth round by the Cleveland Browns (he lasted only one season with the Browns, one with the Los Angeles Rams).
The 1966 Spartans lined up defensive end Bubba Smith (6-8, 285), the first overall NFL pick by the Baltimore Colts, and rover/linebacker George Webster (6-5, 230), the fifth pick of the NFL draft by the Houston Oilers.
Bryant’s comments on bigger and faster players suggested the obvious: Who was going to block Smith and Webster?
Similarly, Notre Dame’s featured defensive tackle Alan Page (6-4, 245), the 15th overall selection by the Minnesota Vikings, and linebacker Jim Lynch (6-1, 235), the Maxwell Award winner taken in the second round by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Again, who was going to block Page and Lynch?
Smith, Webster, Page and Lynch are in the College Football Hall of Fame. Page also is a Pro Football Hall-of-Famer. Long-time NFL writers say Smith and Webster missed the Pro Football Hall only because of knee injuries.
Bryant was also behind the times as a Southeastern Conference member. Five of the 10 SEC schools broke barriers with Black athletes in the late 1960s ahead of Alabama. Two were Deep South teams, Mississippi State and in-state rival Auburn. Additionally, among the other major conferences in the South, all nine members of the defunct Southwest Conference were ahead of Bryant and five of the eight Atlantic Coast Conference schools.
But since little was written about racial progress in sports pages in the 1960s, Daugherty’s legacy as a crusader with the sport’s first fully integrated rosters hasn’t been fully appreciated. In addition to the South’s segregation, through the 1960s many schools still followed an unwritten quota of a half-dozen or so Black players. For example, USC won the 1962 national title with only five Black players and the 1967 national crown with only seven, despite USC’s location in heavily populated and diverse Los Angeles.
In the 1966 Game of the Century, the Spartans lined up 20 Black players, 11 Black starters, two Black captains voted by their teammates, College Football Hall of Famers George Webster and Clinton Jones, and the South’s first Black quarterback to win a national title, Jimmy Raye of Fayetteville, N.C. Notre Dame had one Black player, Alan Page.
WHY BRYANT’S BREAKFAST QUOTES MATTER
Daly’s breakfast story also underscores the hypocrisy of Bryant’s apologists – and they are legion — crafted since his death, in 1983, to obfuscate his track record of dragging his feet on integration. Alabama’s campus was desegregated in 1963, but Bryant waited another eight years for his football program to join m the 20th Century.
As anyone that reads this website knows, I’ve pointed out many holes in the 1970 USC-Alabama myths that include outright fiction. They myths claim Bryant scheduled the game to lose it to show his bigoted fans it was time to recruit Black players. The myth ignores Bryant had already recruited Wilbur Jackson, in his 1970 class.
While it’s true USC won 41-21, USC fullback Sam Cunningham admitted years later Bryant never paraded him through the Alabama locker room, telling his players Cunningham was what a football player looked like. Some of Bryant’s players had played with and against Black athletes once Alabama high schools desegregated in the late 1960s. They knew more about integrated football than coach despite the myth portraying it as the other way around.
The 1970 myth, which wasn’t told until the late 1980s and took hold in the early 1990s, propelled Bryant’s embellished a misleading Bryant role into college football annals.
The myth gained legs through the modern lens of the 1990s when Black milestones were appreciated and recognized. However, there was no 1970 buzz that would have been generated by 1990s cable TV sports and sports talk radio. The game was played on a Saturday night with no TV audience. Game stories didn’t mention race. Blacks playing football in the South was fait accompli by 1970. The hard work had been done by true pioneers before Bryant got on board.
These facts are ignored in documentaries by HBO (2008), Showtime (2013) and ESPN (2019, 2020) that celebrate Bryant and USC coach John McKay as white heroes.
Alabama fans accept the premise of the 1970 USC-Alabama game portraying Bryant as a wily coach teaching his Crimson Tide fans through a loss that an all-white roster was too small and too slow. So, why wouldn’t the 1966 Alabama team also be too slow for Michigan State’s fully integrated roster? Instead, hypocritically, the fans of Alabama, whose 1966 team played eight of 10 games within its state borders, say they were victims of reverse racism with a No. 3 ranking.
Alabama author Keith Dunnavant successfully floated the conspiracy narrative in his 2007 book, “Missing Rings. How Bear Bryant and the 1966 Alabama Crimson Tide Were denied College Football’s Most Elusive Prize.” Dunnavant builds his case around winning 1964 an 1965 national titles and voters not wanting a to reward an all-white team with a third straight championship. The HBO, Showtime and ESPN docs trot him out without challenging the dubious theory.
What Dunnavant doesn’t tell you was both Alabama’s 1964 and 1965 titles were shared crowns. In the era of poll voting, the NCAA recognized four organizations as declaring official national titles: Associated Press, United Press International, National Football Foundation and Football Writers Association of America.
In 1964, Alabama (10-1-0) took the AP and UPI titles, unbeaten Arkansas (11-0-0) the FWAA and Notre Dame (9-1-0) the NFF. In 1965, Michigan State (10-1-0) claimed the UPI, FWAA and NFF crowns, Alabama (9-1-1) only the AP. Dunnavant conveniently skips over those details to suggest Alabama was everybody’s champion.
If we stretch out the Alabama debate one more year, in 1966 Notre Dame was named by AP, UPI and FWAA and co-champions by the NFF with Michigan State.
If a point is awarded for each of those four title organizations over three years, Notre Dame finishes on top with 4.5, Michigan State second at 3.5, Alabama third at 3.0 and Arkansas fourth at 1.0.
In the 2019 ESPN documentary, Dunnavant states — deceptively, sloppily or ignorantly — that Michigan State was “… one of the most integrated programs in the country.” The misleading impression from a Bryant apologist overlooks that the AP reported Michigan State’s 17 African-Americans in 1962 was a record for major college football. That was the same year USC had only five Black players.
ESPN not only gave Dunnavant a platform for misleading comments, other journalists picked up on dubious statements. In the same ESPN film, Charles Davis, then working for FOX but now with CBS Sports, echoes Dunnavant’s claim Alabama was a clear No. 1 team.
“Even with the tie, Notre Dame and Michigan State both finished ahead of undefeated Alabama in the final rankings,” Davis said. “Alabama had been No. 1 the last two years, 1964 and 1965.”
Who was No. 1 depended on the poll.
In the ESPN film on Recruiting, another Davis quote shows how little he knows about Daugherty’s true legacy and pioneering role.
“For Duffy Daugherty,” he says, “it wasn’t just about being progressive and being Abraham Lincoln, Duffy was about winning football games.”
To state Daugherty only recruited Black players to win games is hypocritical when the same film praises Bear Bryant for recruiting Black athletes only because he had fallen behind the times.
Daugherty ignored unwritten quotas while taking chances on Black athletes. Other schools limited their Black athlete recruits well-known stars, the equivalent of a 5-star recruit in today’s vernacular. Daugherty recruited 44 Black players from the segregated South between 1959 and 1972. Only 10 of Daugherty’s southern recruits were All-American players or All-Big Ten picks. His 44 recruits, including non-stars, had a 68-percent graduation rate.
That conspiracy theory also overlooks Texas was voted the last all-white national champion, in 1969. The No. 1-ranked Longhorns defeated all-white Arkansas, ranked No. 2, in a Dec. 6, 1969 showdown that decided the national title. In other words, two all-white teams were ranked 1-2 entering their final regular season game. President Richard Nixon attended the game to crown an all-white team as national champion as part of his Southern Strategy to capitalize on the backlash against Civil Rights movement.
Alabama’s revisionist history also sounds too much like a southern college football version of The Lost Cause.
In the early 1920s, southern historians captured the narrative in American history that the Civil War was about The Lost Cause, a fight over states’ rights, not slavery. It portrays Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, a traitor to is country, as a noble warrior and Union Gen. U.S. Grant as a butcher and drunk who overwhelmed Lee with superior troop numbers and firepower. Military historians, though, note how Grant outmaneuvered Lee on the battlefield, forcing him to surrender at Appomattox.
“And, so, Confederates lost the Civil War, but they certainly won the war of myth,” author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates said in a History Channel documentary. “And Grant was on the wrong side of that myth.”
Bryant’s apologists contend his hands were tied by racist Alabama Gov. George Wallace. However, that defense overlooks Wallace was out of office by Jan. 17, 1967. Bryant’s recruiting classes of 1967, 1968 and 1969 remained all-white. And he only signed one Black player in his 1970 class, Jackson. It also doesn’t answer this question:
Who was going to fire Bear Bryant?
The late-David Halberstam, a Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times best-selling author, wrote in a 2002 ESPN article that Bryant was a good coach but as a leader on the social issue of his times, he failed.
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