You are currently viewing Part II: Prairie View at Michigan State also history lesson for Spartans’ Generation Z players

Part II: Prairie View at Michigan State also history lesson for Spartans’ Generation Z players

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PHOTO: Billy Joe DuPree (left) of West Monroe, Louisiana, and Brad Van Pelt of Owosso, Michigan, were Duffy Daugherty’s last two team captains in 1972. DuPree rode the Underground Railroad as a freshman in 1968. The Spartans, unlike other schools, had a history of Black team captains dating to LeRoy Bolden in 1954.

PART I: Prairie View and Michigan State provide a game and a Duffy history lesson


The tumultuous 1960s was a time when many Americans outside the segregated South resisted the Civil Rights movement. That attitude contributed to Michigan State labeled derisively as “The Grambling of the North.”

But what do bigots know about the U.S. Constitution?

They mocked Michigan State for providing opportunities nationwide just as Grambling and other Historically Black Colleges and Universities did in the Jim Crow South.

This 1960s opportunity symbiosis will be recognized when Prairie View A&M is the first HBCU to play Michigan State on September 14 at Spartan Stadium.

Although Prairie View, which is located 44 miles from Houston, doesn’t have Grambling’s reputation for Black national titles and turning out NFL players or the late Eddie Robinson as a College Football Hall of Fame coach, the Panthers compete as Grambling’s rival in the historic Southwest Athletic Conference.

Prairie View has its own share of NFL players produced in the 1960s, including Pro Football Hall of Famer Ken Houston for the Houston Oilers and Super Bowl IV star Otis Taylor with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Anton Goff, Prairie View’s athletic director who spent time at Michigan State as football’s academic coordinator, 2001-04, said he wants the school’s players to understand the progress the Spartans led during the 1960s.

But a history lesson would serve the Spartans’ players, too.

They need to understand Michigan State is a singular story for leading college football integration. The Spartans stood apart when Daugherty ignored the unwritten quota limiting Black athletes to a half-dozen or so otherwise permeated college football until the late 1960s – after Michigan State played Notre Dame in the 1996 Game of the Century. A record TV audience saw the contrast in rosters – Michigan State’s 20 Black players compared to Notre Dame’s one, Alan Page.

In the same decade, Minnesota and USC followed the quota limitations while winning their national titles. Minnesota numbered only five in 1960, USC five in 1962 and USC seven in 1967. The smaller numbers compared to Michigan State explains why they didn’t call Minnesota “The Grambling of the North” or USC “The Grambling of the West.”

But the sports media’s 1960s custom of avoiding race resulted in Michigan State milestones ignored by college football lore. With time, the 1970 USC-Alabama game spread in pop culture to fill the gap. The myths have blurred the separation between Michigan State and other schools.

And in general, Generation Z needs to be reminded Jim Crow was recent history, not ancient. We still live in difficult times with implicit racism resulting in a step backward for every two forward.

In the 1960s, Michigan State fielded college football’s first fully integrated teams. Daugherty, the head coach from 1954 to 1972, combined Midwest-based roster with talent from the segregated South riding the Underground Railroad.

Michigan State won national titles in 1965 and 1966 with college football’s first fully integrated rosters under College Football Hall of Fame coach Duffy Daugherty.

At this same time Grambling State was winning Black national titles and sending players to the NFL in the 1960s to gain the highest profile among HBCU programs. The enlighten reporting of Dick Schapp, a National Sports Media Hall of Fame journalist, attracted attention other media outlets ignored.

In the 1960s, Daugherty took advantage of a unique network of southern Black high school coaches contacting him because they trusted him with their players. He recruited 44 Black players from the South between his first recruit, Clifton Roaf of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, in 1959, through his final recruiting class in 1972 with Charlie Baggett and Tyrone Willingham from North Carolina and Otto Smith of South Carolina.

The talent delivered ranged from the first Underground All-American, halfback Sherman Lewis in 1963 out of Louisville, Kentucky, and the last one, tight end Billy Joe DuPree in 1972 of West Monroe, Louisiana. In between were three College Football Hall of Famers as two-time All-Americans in 1965 and 1966 – George Webster, Anderson, S.C.; Bubba Smith, Beaumont, Texas; and Gene Washington, La Porte, Texas.

They were tipped off to Daugherty through his network of southern Black high school coaches who respected Michigan State as a place of opportunity. A coach at Lewis’ high school, duPont Manuel, called Daugherty, and a coach whose team played against DuPree’s high school, Richardson, told MSU assistant coach Vince Carillot about DuPree while Carillot was in Louisiana pursuing another player.

This was the pattern for all the Underground Railroad passengers, despite folklore that credits Alabama coach Bear Bryant for sending Daugherty players. Anyone repeating the myth doesn’t understand Bryant knew virtually nothing about Black players in the South in the 1960s and that to credit him has cost Daugherty his earned place in history.

DuPree, who arrived at Michigan State in the 1968 freshman class, also was an example of Daugherty’s influence on integration carrying over into the 1970s. In “RAYE OF LIGHT, Jimmy Raye, Duffy Daugherty the Integration of College Football and the 1965-66 Michigan State Spartans,” he told a story about his days with the Dallas Cowboys playing in celebrity golf tournaments when asked why he didn’t play for LSU.

On Page 142 he said, “I say, ‘Let’s take a little trip back in time, guys. There was something called segregation.’”

A timeline is always helps to understand segregation is recent history, not ancient.

LSU’s first varsity Black player wasn’t until the 1972, DuPree’s senior college season. DuPree signed with the Spartans in 1968.

LSU, Georgia and Mississippi were the last three Southeastern Conference schools to integrate. Alabama was the seventh of the 10 SEC schools in 1970, although Alabama coach Bear Bryant misleadingly receives credit in folklore as a leader.

Now, college coaches nationwide pursue high school talent from the South with its much larger population than a half-century ago. But there was a time when Michigan State and HBCUs were their primary avenues to education and the NFL


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Click here for the Kirkus Book Reviews of THE RIGHT THING TO DO

Click here for the Kirkus Book Review of BUBBA’S DAD

The Right Thing To Do was also endorsed by the Vanderbilt Sports and Society Initiative.

Below are links to click on to purchase my books focused.

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.


Click here to purchase The Right Thing To Do


The True Pioneers of College Football Integration in the 1960s

Foreword by Ruffin McNeill


Click here to purchase Raye of Light.


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

Foreword by Tony Dungy


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.


My next children’s book coming soon: How Duffy Put Hawaii on the Football Map


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