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A different lens to view Hagemann leaving Michigan State for Mississippi

PHOTO: DeeDee Hagemann drives against Iowa’s Gabbie Marshall.

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By TOM SHANAHAN

Let me make this clear: I’m not criticizing DeeDee Hagemann, Michigan State’s former women’s basketball star from Detroit Edison Public School Academy.

If Hagemann thinks she is better off transferring to Mississippi, more power to her. Maybe her move is as simple as NIL dollars. If so, she’s a modern college athlete.

But I wonder if she knows she’s riding MIchigan State’s Underground Railroad in reverse. Shortly after her commitment, a viral video on social media shows Ole Miss White male students mocking a Black woman student with “monkey” noises.

If Hagemann doesn’t know the history she left behind, I blame Michigan State:

— 1) Failing to fully grasp its own history featuring Duffy Daugherty’s Underground Railroad teams as a singular story in college football integration.

— 2 ) Cycling through another class of students and athletes without them understanding Michigan State cleared a Civil Rights path for Black athletes and Black coaches.

— 3) Failing to utilize the simplest of teaching tool available – airing on campus a Sports Emmy Award documentary by NFL 360/NFL Network: The Indelible Legacy of Jimmy Raye.

Again, not understanding Michigan State’s history isn’t her fault. Don’t misinterpret me, jumping to conclusions. I’m not criticizing her move to Mississippi. My beef is Michigan State doesn’t teach its students and athletes this proud history and that makes her part of another cycle of students and athletes who didn’t learn it.

Daugherty stood alone in the 1960s when he fielded the nation’s first fully integrated teams. His rosters included the Underground Railroad, with 44 players escaping segregation in the South from 1959 to his final season, 1972. Most prominent were College Football Hall of Famers George Webster of South Carolina and Bubba Smith and Gene Washington of Texas.

But since the sports media avoided race in the 1960s, the Spartans’ full history wasn’t told in real time. With no institutional memory to fall back on, successive presidents, athletic directors and coaches came and went unaware of the history of this great land-grant university.

Other schools teach their history, but the school that started it all doesn’t.

Critical race theory and Black historiography have been politicized, but the terms simply mean how history was told or wasn’t told.

I can confidently state the above from more than a decade of researching and writing two books, “RAYE OF LIGHT, Jimmy Raye, Duffy Daugherty, the Integration of College Football and the 1965-66 MIchigan State Spartans” and now my new book, “THE RIGHT THING TO DO, The True Pioneers of College Football Integration in the 1960s.” Also, the story is told in my children’s book, “BUBBA’S DAD, DUFFY AND COLLEGE FOOTBALL’S UNDERGROUND RAILROAD.”

There are no other two books that better explain college football integration was a fait accompli by 1970. Most books celebrate the false narrative of Bear Bryant launching college football integration when he scheduled the 1970 USC-Alabama game. In reality, Bryant dragged his feet into the 1970s, but he’s a sacred cow in the national media.

Long before the 70s, Daugherty ignored the unwritten quota limiting Black athletes to a half-dozen or so that other schools followed. That separated him from Big Ten schools and others, including USC, that followed the quota limitations.

Daugherty gave undersized Black players opportunities same as White players. One of Daugherty’s undersized Black recruits was Eric Marshall, who rode the Underground Railroad from then-segregated Oxford, Mississippi – home of the University of Mississippi.

In 1962, as Marshall prepared to leave for Michigan State, he watched from his family home’s front yard as U.S. Army trucks rumbled down the street in the middle of the night. President John F. Kennedy sent troops to quell riots on the Mississippi campus. Racists tried to block the admission of James Meredith, a U.S. Air Force veteran, as the school’s first Black student.

Marshall’s career as a backup quarterback overlapped with Jimmy Raye of then-segregated Fayetteville, N.C. Raye was the South’s first Black quarterback to win a national title. Although Marshall played little, his presence meant Daugherty numbered two Black quarterbacks during an era other schools turned Black quarterbacks in to running backs and receivers. In those days, the prevailing opinion outside of East Lansing was a Black man wasn’t enough to play quarterback are able to command respect to lead White teammates.

Raye and Marshall both graduated and established a new family trajectory for their children. Raye has been honored by the Pro Football Hall of Fame with its NFL Awards of Excellence for his pioneering career as a Black coach and offensive coordinator. Marshall served as a Lieutenant in Vietnam, leading a mixed platoon that included White southerners. Marshall, recognizing he was treated better in than the Army than outside the base, remained in th Army and retired a Lt. Colonel. He was later a principal at a San Francisco high school.

I understand times change. In fact, Marshall’s daughter earned three degrees at Mississippi — Bachlor’s, Master’s and PH.D. Again: My point is criticizing Michigan State’s failure to teach its history, not with Hagemann. I’m sure I can’t make that point enough times for some readers jumping to other conclusions.

Raye and Marshall have fascinating stories to tell through their Michigan State experiences escaping segregation. Younger Americans, Black and White alike, don’t understand segregation is recent history, not ancient. How can we know where we’re headed – many states have circled back to challenge diversity laws and rules — if we don’t know where we’ve been?

And now, a similar Underground Railroad in reverse story — the curious case of Mark Ingram II.

Ingram II was a double Michigan State legacy with a grandfather, Art Johnson (1956-58), and father, Mark Ingram Sr. (1983-86), who played for the Spartans. Ingram II is from Grand Blanc, Michigan, and it has been never sufficiently explained how he showed up as a freshman in Tuscaloosa driving an expensive automobile. At the time, his father was in prison for money laundering.

When I researched Raye of Light, Ingram II played for the New Orleans Saints. I wondered how much he knew about Michigan State’s history when he committed to Alabama. One of his grandfather’s friends at Michigan State was Ernest Green, the Civil Rights icon known for the Little Rock Nine. Johnson and Green lived in Shaw Hall.

I requested an interview with Ingam II through the Saints’ communications office. I explained it was about his family history in football. I didn’t say anything about the mysterious car (and I didn’t plan to bring it up, either).

The Saints were cooperative – and that’s not a given in the 21st-century NFL — but Ingram II declined to do the interview.

So in the spring of 2024, we’re back to this sad reality: We can add DeeDee Hageman to the list of Spartans who came and went without understanding their alma mater’s proud history of leadership.

Bubba Smith, George Webster, Charlie Thornhill and others are long gone. With the surviving 1965-66 national championship team players approaching their 80s, we’re another year and another administration closer to losing our history for good.

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Follow me on Twitter @shanny4055

Below are links to click to purchase my books.

My books tell the true story of college football integration in the 1960s and address the myths and fiction that allowed a false narrative surrounding the 1970 USC-Alabama game to usurp the credit from the true pioneers. As I said when I spoke at the National Sports Media Association book festival, no two books provide an accurate portrayal more than RAYE OF LIGHT and THE RIGHT THING TO DO.

I’ll put my facts up against anybody, anytime, anywhere. Watch here.

Click here for my story on the 1962 Rose Bowl and Segregation awarded first place by the Football Writers Association of America. I tell untold stories on Michigan State’s leading role and the true pioneers of college football integration. Click here to read the summary as a first-place story.

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Click here to purchase The Right Thing To Do

THE RIGHT THING TO DO

The True Pioneers of College Football Integration in the 1960s

Foreword by Ruffin McNeill

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Click here to purchase Raye of Light.

RAYE OF LIGHT

Jimmy Raye, Duffy Daugherty, the 1ntegration of College Football and the 1965-66 Michigan State Spartans

Foreword by Tony Dungy

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Click here to purchase my children’s book, Bubba’s Dad, Duffy and College Football’s Underground Railroad

The book for now is only a Kindle version on Amazon. Print and audio platforms available soon.

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