Congrats are due to Raye of Light author Tom Shanahan, who snared first-place honors in Enterprise Reporting from the Football Writers Association of America in the organization’s national sportswriting contest. His story on the 1962 Rose Bowl focuses on a now-forgotten incident when UCLA’s eight Black players and Los Angeles Times sportswriter Jim Murray stood up to segregationist Alabama coach Bear Bryant seeking a backdoor entry into the Rose Bowl in place of the traditional Big Ten entry. This is a heavyweight competition: Tom’s story beat out several submissions from The Athletic, and the overall winners included writers from the likes of ESPN.com, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
It’s an amazing, deeply researched story about a forgotten but vitally important time in American sports history. Here’s what the FWAA judge wrote about the story: “Superb story about something that happened many years ago that even the most ardent college football fans probably don’t know about. Researching something as far back as the early 1960s is never easy and the writer does a fine job presenting it from all angles.”
Tom has emerged as one of the country’s leading researchers on untold stories about the integration of college football. Raye of Light is a thoughtful, readable and definitive look at how Michigan State University’s Duffy Daugherty emerged as a leader in college-football changes mirroring the changes in American society during the Civil Rights era. History has not accorded Daugherty, quarterback Jimmy Raye, and the Spartans proper credit for their roles in the integration of college football. Too many view Daugherty as recruiting a couple of All-America players from the South, winning a bunch of games with his 1965-66 teams and then having it all come to an end.
But that ignores the history set by Raye and the Spartans. In his junior season in 1966, Raye was Michigan State’s first Black starting quarterback and the first Black quarterback from the South to win a national title. The Michigan State team with a progressive head coach, a pioneer black quarterback, and the first fully integrated roster in college football is the subject of this engrossing book by award-winning author Tom Shanahan.
The theme of college-football integration will continue with Tom’s next book, The Right Thing To Do, focusing on the broader topic of racial integration in the 1960s with in-depth looks at the true pioneers in the 1960s, both in the north and the south. It’s a magisterial overview of an important era in American history. Look for ordering details next week!