The kick-off of this year's college football season at AT&T Stadium in Arlington also brings to light a pivotal moment in American history.
The highlight is #1 University of Alabama against #20 University of Southern California. But there’s a lot more than school pride at stake. The game has a lesson in history.
When USC and Alabama take the field on Saturday, people will see two diverse teams. But that wasn’t the case when the two teams met in 1970 in a game that helped change history.
And while Saturday’s first matchup between the two teams in 31 years will be exciting for football fans, it was a game between them in 1970 that is said to have changed history.
The story is profiled in the book “One Night, Two Teams: Alabama vs. USC and the Game That Changed a Nation.”
The author of the book, Steven Travers, will be in Dallas this weekend for the game.
“Bear Bryant wanted to integrate his program. He needed a way to do it seamlessly,” the author and USC historian said. “Once Governor Wallace was no longer in office, he now had the political opportunity to do it.”
One of the players written about in the book was Dave Brown.
“Two iconic coaches: our coach, John McKay, one of best ever at USC and Paul Bear Bryant,” Brown said. “They had gotten together and set the game up in advance."
Brown says he could tell blacks in Alabama were proud when they saw the black players on the USC sideline. But there is one reaction he never forgot.
“All of a sudden, this little boy, 7 or 8, he looked at his mom and said, ‘Gee mom, they sure have a lot of "N"s on this team,’” Brown recalled. “It was shocking to hear that."
When the Trojans took the field, an all-white team looked back.
“We had more athleticism,” said Brown. “We were faster and stronger. We had a great night."
The Trojans ran away with the game, winning 42-21. Bryant was the losing coach, but his plan worked.
“Having something of a demonstration of what an integrated well-coached team would look like,” said Travers. “And he wanted his fans to say, ‘I want us to look like that.’"
Alabama integrated the next year and proceeded to beat USC 17-10.
Brown now teaches high school history and includes the part he saw first-hand.
“It is possible for people to work together. They just got to find a way,” said Brown. “By the grace of God, I think that’s the message people need to know now. And that was the message that was displayed back in 1970 in that game.”
It is said that Sam "Bam" Cunningham did more to integrate Alabama in 60 minutes than Martin Luther King did in 20 years. Whether you believe that or not, it's a reminder a game can sometimes be much more than that.
Travers’ book concludes that Coach Bryant and Coach McKay were two of the unsung heroes of the civil rights movement.