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Michigan State plans statue to honor 1960s teams that led college football integration

PHOTO (Michigan State Athletics): Michigan State coach Duffy Daugherty stands before his five returning All-American players in 1966: Clinton Jones, Bob Apsia, Bubba Smith, Gene Washington and George Webster.

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Michigan State athletic director Alan Haller revealed on Monday the athletic department is in the preliminary stages of honoring Michigan State coach Duffy Daugherty’s historic 1960s teams that led college football integration with a statue.

Haller appeared on “The Drive with Jack” on Martin Luther King Day to discuss his first year on the job, Michigan State athletics and the school’s long history of diversity on campus and in the athletic department.

“As we look at the renovation of the football building, one of the things that are included in the plans is we’re going to put a statue out front of the new football complex of the iconic picture of Duffy and the five athletes,” Haller said. “That will be the first thing you see as you go into the building.”

Daugherty’s 1960s teams were college football’s first fully integrated rosters that set many milestones. The decade was highlighted by the 1965 and 1966 national championship titles with back-to-back unbeaten Big Ten titles.

Listen to Alan Haller on The Drive with Jack

The statue is mentioned at the 8:50 mark.

Michigan State athletic director Alan Haller


When the 1965 roster returned with five All-American players, Michigan State’s elite Sports Information Department team of Fred Stabley Sr. and Nick Vista posed them with Daugherty for posterity. Standing around Daugherty were halfback Clinton Jones, fullback Bob Apisa, defensive end Bubba Smith, receiver Gene Washington and rover George Webster.

Haller said the statue project has been rolled into the renovation of the football facility spurred by a $30 million donation from Michigan State basketball alumnus Mat Ishbia, the CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage.

“The history of who came and what came before us will be really important as we move forward not just in football complex, but everything we do in athletics,” Haller said. “Making sure we’re paying attention to what has been done in the past and making sure that has a big part of what we do in the future.”

When Michigan State played Notre Dame in the 1966 Game of the Century on Nov. 19, 1966, at Spartan Stadium, the quasi-national championship game t was a seminal moment in college football. A record TV audience of 33 million tuned in. The game ended in a controversial 10-10 tie, with Notre Dame running out the clock. Notre Dame retained its No. 1 ranking and national title in the Associated Press, United Press International and Football Writers Association of America polls, but the National Football Foundation named the Spartans and Irish co-national champions.

Michigan State’s 1965 team claimed the UPI and NFF national titles and split the FWAA with Alabama, which was named the AP champion.

But the Game of the Century represented much more as reflected on the TV screens.

Michigan State was the future with 20 Black players, 11 Black starters, two Black team captains, Webster and Jones, and the South’s first Black quarterback to win a national title, Jimmy Raye of Fayetteville, N.C.

Notre Dame was the past with only one Black player, Alan Page.

Prior to Daugherty changing the model of building a title contender, most schools followed an unwritten quota of only a half-dozen or so Black athletes. USC’s 1962 national title team had only five Black players and its 1967 national championship roster with O.J. Simpson only seven. But by USC’s next national title in 1972, Trojans’ coach John McKay had adopted the Michigan State model. USC had 23 Black players on its 1972 roster.

Daugherty’s 1960s teams were dubbed the Underground Railroad for the players recruited from the segregated South, but Michigan State had a long history of Midwest-based integrated rosters.

When Michigan State and UCLA played in the 1956 Rose Bowl, “Jet Magazine” wrote the 13 Black players, seven from Michigan State and six from UCLA, was the most in Rose Bowl history.

Four of MSU’s five 1965 and 1966 All-American players are in the College Football Hall of Fame: Webster, 1987; Smith, 1988; Washington, 2012; and Jones, 2015. Daugherty was enshrined in 1984. Apisa is in the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame. He was the first Samoan All-American player. Daugherty recruited him as part of his Hawaiian Pipeline out of Honolulu Farrington.

When Jones joined his teammates in the College Football Hall of Fame, it marked the first time four Black players from the same class were enshrined and the first time any school had four players inducted from any school since Boston College in 1940.

Listen here to Episodes 8 and 7 of Duffy’s Daugherty’s Milestone Minutes to understand how Michigan State’s history leading college football integration has been overshadowed by myths and fiction surrounding the 1970 USC-Alabama game.


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