Thursday, December 27, 2012

When the LSU - Tulane game was a big deal

With conference realignment over the years or one of the two teams of a particular 'rivalry game' perpetually stuck in reverse, many season ending, or other rivalry games have gone by the wayside. Nebraska-Oklahoma, Texas Aggies -Texas, Penn State - Pittsburgh and Miami (Fla) - Florida no longer play one another on a yearly basis nor will hardly play at all anytime soon. And in long standing games that continue like the "Little Brown Jug" between Minnesota and Michigan and "the third Saturday in October" between Tennessee and Alabama, the Gophers and Vols haven't held up their end of the bargain of late somewhat diminishing the game on a national level. LSU and Tulane no longer play each year,either. Now, the Tigers and Wave really only resonated nationally perhaps in the 1930's and 1940's, if that. But for a brief period in the early 1970's, the game was played in front of some of the South's biggest crowds with as much intensity and drama as any rivalry type game. Few games, period, had the drama, big plays and big crowd as the 1972 game as the 40th anniversary of that early December classic takes place.
  The 1972 LSU-Tulane game had as much drama as any game and a bigger crowd than most

The Tigers and Green Wave each took different paths to the season ending game in '72. For starters, LSU was two years removed from being SEC Champion while Tulane had resigned from the conference following the 1965-1966 academic year. At the time of the decision for Tulane to leave the SEC, school and athletic officials felt the Wave simply couldn't compete anymore in the league after basically 'de-emphasizing' football after the 1949 season, oddly enough, a year Tulane won the SEC in football. State rival LSU also started dominating the series between the two as well.

Unlike their rival "up the river" Tulane has participated in the Rose Bowl, playing Southern Cal in '32

Up until 1950, Tulane was a legitimate "top twenty" program even with more universities and colleges fielding what would be considered "major college football" now. Tulane played in the Rose Bowl two years before the formation of the SEC and played in the inaugural Sugar Bowl and the 1940 Sugar Bowl,too.Tulane won SEC titles in 1934 and 1939 and led the SEC in attendance in 1948.Coach Henry Frnka's Wave was considered by many as a football factory and was The Sporting News' pre-season choice for number one in 1949. The 4th ranked Wave went to South Bend to face the number one ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish. That era's version of ESPN's College Gameday, legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice covered the game for his nationwide syndicated sports column. Even though it was only game four of the season, many felt the winner would be on track for the National Title. Notre Dame went on to crush Tulane, 46-7.While the Wave would go on to win the SEC with a 5-1 conference mark, that one loss was a season ending loss to LSU, 21-0, which propelled the Tigers to the Sugar Bowl over the Wave.Tulane football was never the same.

Tulane president Rufus Harris had long been an advocate of scaling back intercollegiate athletics. Oddly enough, it was Harris who hired Frnka. Frnka's early squads had as many as 100 scholarship athletes and finished 14th in the nation in 1948 including a 46-0 win at LSU. But even as Tulane was succeeding on the field and at the ticket box, Harris basically assumed after the loss to the Irish and being overlooked for the hometown Sugar Bowl that if this squad couldn't produce a national champion, no Tulane team could.In 1951 he began to limit football scholarships down to 75,reducing the coaching staff and coaching salaries. Scouting of opponents and future prospects was limited,too as well as making physical education, a popular major of many athletes, a minor only at the school effectively making academic requirements even more difficult. By the end of the 1950's, the once strong Tulane program had been reduced to mediocrity at best with losing seasons in from 1957-1959. Meanwhile, LSU won the National Title in 1958 and narrowly missed a second title in 1959.LSU's 1958 season included a 62-0 win against Tulane in New Orleans. And, the series record between LSU and Tulane widened at the end of the decade . After the '49 game, LSU led the series 24-18-5. Tulane failed to defeat LSU in the 1950's managing two ties and the series lead by the Tigers increased to 32-18-7.

As Tulane's program ended the 50's in a downward spiral, only a controversial missed two pt conversion vs Tennessee kept LSU from consecutive National Titles to end the decade.

LSU continued to distance themselves from Tulane winning an SEC title in 1961 and participating in 7 bowl games in the 1960's , including games in the Cotton, Sugar and Orange. Meanwhile, Tulane had more different head coaches in the 1960's than winning seasons. The Wave had three different coaches and only one winning season, a 5-4-1 mark in Jim Pittman's first season in 1966. Only a few of the Tulane-LSU skirmishes went undecided into the fourth quarter, the 1966 game and oddly enough, the 1967 game in which shortly before the game. What was unusual about the '67 game was LSU, which had the nation's toughest schedule, had just secured a Sugar Bowl bid with only a modest 5-3-1 mark.Still, LSU was only 10 points away from a perfect season and all four blemishes were traced to poor placekicking. The Tigers roared out to 28-0 lead before Tulane roared back to narrow the lead to 34-27.In fact, in the fourth Tulane drove into LSU territory for the tie or possible lead before LSU stopped the Wave and scored one more touchdown themselves for a 41-27 win and 6-3-1 mark allowing Sugar Bowl officials to exhale.

Wayne Francingues (10) almost rallied 3-7 Tulane to a stunning upset of Sugar Bowl bound LSU in 1967

Pittman's arrival and subsequent 5-4-1 mark coincided with Tulane's departure from the SEC. The Greenies' decision to limit its football fortunes in the 1950's made competing in the SEC virtually impossible . Tulane, the only private school in the SEC besides Vanderbilt, had more stringent enrollment requirements that the state schools with very limited deviation for potential athletes. Plus the rest of the league could award virtually unlimited scholarships while Tulane was restricted to self-imposed limited athletic scholarships. Tulane continued to win fewer and fewer SEC games and generally failed to compete as the Wave fell to 0-10-0 in 1962 and accumulated two more 62-0 losses to LSU in 1961 and 1965.1966 marked Tulane's first year as an independent swapping SEC juggernauts such as Alabama and Ole Miss for VPI and Cincinnati,among others. 1966 also marked the year the NFL awarded a franchise to the city of New Orleans, on "All Saints' Day" no less for the upstart Saints to begin play in 1967.
      New Orleans acquiring an NFL franchise along with leaving the SEC didn't help Tulane

The Saints would begin play in 1967 and play in Tulane Stadium until the new Louisiana Superdome would be completed,( a project that wound up taking about four years longer than expected). Tulane while having the ability to schedule opponents more formidable, also began losing local support to the Saints' franchise as only LSU would remain on Tulane's schedule year in and year out from the SEC's upper echelon. Meanwhile up Airline Highway and the few parts of new Interstate 10 that were completed, the Saints' emergence in New Orleans was basically a non-event. Along with the Sugar following the '67 season, LSU played in the inaugral Peach Bowl in 1968 and stayed home in 1969 with an outstanding 9-1 mark and #8 ranking. To this day many LSU fans feel misled by the Cotton Bowl during negotiations for the 1970 game and the Tigers chose to stay home than participate in seemingly lesser bowls as the Bluebonnet and Sun Bowls.

Charlie McClendon holds the first Peach Bowl trophy after a 31-27 win over Florida State in '68

Tulane and Jim Pittman were committed to make the Green Wave a competitive football team. Pittman was a valued assistant on Darrell Royal's Texas staff having followed Royal from Starkville and Pittman's alma mater, Mississippi State to Washington and then the Longhorns where he was on the staff of the 1963 National champions. While he did indeed want to be a head coach, he wanted assurance he'd be given a chance to win. Athletic director Rix Yard assured him he would. Tulane had relented somewhat on Dr. Harris' purge in the 1950's. And while Yard and other Tulane administrators didn't nor have any intention of making Green Wave athletics a model like Georgetown and Miami (Fla) did in the 1980's for athletes at a private school, Tulane did show more of a commitment to football. Pittman, a former Marine who fought at Iwo Jima and Okinawa was sold and hit the ground running recruiting and generating interest in the football program. Still, others were surprised he would take the job. Pittman, only 41 at the time of his hiring had already had two heart attacks. Many, including Royal, didn't think he'd want to take on the added stress of being a head coach.

      Tulane hired Jim Pittman to lead the Wave into its journey as a "Southern Independent"

Pittman, like LSU's McClendon was 'defense first' coach. After the successful '66 season, the Green Wave went back to its old ways with losing seasons in 1967, 1968 and 1969.In year five of the Jim Pittman era in 1970, he felt the Wave was a good, rugged football team ready to win. That was good in more ways than one as even with the luxury of scheduling teams more to their ability and not an SEC schedule, Tulane's 1970 schedule was brutal playing 5 teams that would play in bowl games in the newly expanded NCAA approved 11 game regular season. After a close loss to Texas Tech on the road, Tulane stunned the football world, at least in the South, with a 17-14 win over SEC foe Georgia. The Green Wave would take a 7-3 record into the season finale with LSU.

The Tigers were in the midst of a tremendous season themselves. After a last minute upset loss at home to the Texas Aggies following the shocking,unexpected death of teammate Butch Duhe' earlier in the week, LSU regrouped and entered the game 7-2 and was ranked 5th in the nation with the only blemish two weeks earlier in South Bend to then #1 Notre Dame, 3-0. After the game a sportswriter covering the game declared, "if Notre Dame is Number 1, LSU is number 1-A." For only the second time since 1950, the Tulane game wouldn't be the last regular season game for the Tigers as the Ole Miss game , originally scheduled for Halloween night, was moved back to December 5th for National television, the SEC title and an Orange Bowl berth.

The 1970 LSU-Tulane game was the first meeting between the two when each was bowl bound

While LSU was all but assured a bowl bid regardless of how they fared vs the Wave and Rebels, the main suitor for the Green Wave for a bowl bid, the Liberty, let it be know Tulane would be selected provided they beat two touchdown favorite LSU. LSU won,26-14, but Liberty Bowl director Bud Dudley convinced the Bowl's committee to still select the Wave afterall after their gutty effort vs the Tigers. Tulane had become the first team to score a rushing touchdown all season on LSU as both the Tigers and Wave had outstanding defenses that season. Tulane's David Abercrombie's one yard run with 5:58 in the game was the first rushing touchdown allowed in 13 straight games. The following week LSU destroyed Ole Miss, 61-17 to win the SEC title and trip to the Orange Bowl to face #3 Nebraska.

Upon arrival in Memphis, Coach Pittman, David Abercrombie and QB Mike Walker are greeted by Miss Liberty Bowl, Linda Thompson. A native of Memphis, Miss Thompson would date Elvis after his breakup with Priscilla Presley eventually marrying Bruce Jenner

Tulane won its bowl over Big 8 foe Colorado (making its second straight Liberty Bowl), 17-3. LSU lost the Orange Bowl to  Big 8 power Nebraska, 17-12 as the New Year's Day finale turned into a game for the National Title for the Cornhuskers as number one Texas fell to Notre Dame in the Cotton and number two Ohio State fell to Jim Plunkett and the Stanford Indians in the Rose Bowl. LSU led 12-10 midway into the fourth quarter until Nebraska QB Jerry Tagge's one yard leap over LSU's valiant goal line stand gave the Huskers the lead and AP National Title.LSU finished the season ranked 7th in the nation while Tulane finished 17th, their first final ranking since 1950.

Jerry Tagge's (L) 4th quarter dive over LSU's goal line stand gave the Huskers the Orange Bowl title and AP National Title. Tulane's Pittman (R) is carried off the field after the Liberty Bowl win 

Tulane's unlikely success in 1970 did not go unnoticed outside of New Orleans. TCU hired Jim Pittman after the Liberty Bowl hoping to bring the Horned Frogs back to their winning ways of the 1950's and early 1960's(oddly enough, Pittman's departure after the Liberty marked what turned out to be the first of three Wave coaches to leave Tulane after a Liberty Bowl appearance with Larry Smith leaving for Arizona in 1979 and Tommy Bowden leaving for Clemson in 1998). This time the Green Wave looked to the 'family' and hired Bennie Ellender, a former Tulane quarterback who had just led Arkansas State to the "College Division" championship, the forerunner to "1-AA" football and now 'Football Championship Division', FBS. Charlie Mac remained at LSU and big things were expected from both the Tigers and Tulane in 1971. LSU started off ranked 9th while Tulane just narrowly missed the preseason top 20 (the polls didn't expand to 25 until 1989) making the "others receiving votes' which would have made them 22nd in today's poll.

LSU lost its season opener to Colorado, the same team Tulane closed the prior year with, 31-21 in Baton Rouge behind All-American candidate Charlie Davis.Tulane won its season opener but then lost three in a row.LSU regrouped winning its next 5 games and took a #11 ranking to Jackson to face Ole Miss.The Rebels were in somewhat of a transition as legendary coach Johnny Vaught had retired in part to health reasons and after leading Ole Miss on the field for three seasons, Archie Manning had graduated. Billy Kinard was the Rebs' new coach and Norris Weese (from the New Orleans suburb of Chalmette) was the new quarterback.The Tigers, who were without three time All-American Tommy Casanova were still two touchdown favorites as Ole Miss, while 5-2 had lost badly, 40-6 to Alabama and 38-7 to Georgia.Casanova had injured his hamstring earlier in the season and it sidelined him this week. However, Weese led Ole Miss to a 21-0 lead midway in the second quarter before LSU rallied to cut the lead to 24-22 but couldn't move the ball after recovering an onside kick with :19 left as the Rebels got their biggest win of the season.

Meanwhile that same evening, Tulane suffered two losses. Vanderbilt came to New Orleans and edged the Wave, 13-9.The Commodores' Jaime O'Rourke rushed for 187 yards on a still school record 35 carries, the first time Vandy had had a rusher rush for more than 100 yards in a game all season and the first since Mack Brown(Watson's little brother, who would transfer to Florida State before embarking on his coaching journey which of course included a stint at Tulane) rushed for 156 against Tampa the year before.Tulane's points came on a punt return and safety.While Vanderbilt and Tulane had a rivalry of sorts as small private schools playing big time football, the Wave and their faithful could handle a loss to Vandy. But as soon as the game was over, the PA announcer at Tulane Stadium announced to the crowd that just a little earlier in Waco during the TCU-Baylor game, former Tulane coach Jim Pittman dropped dead of a heart attack.Pittman was only 46 and the crowd was absolutely stunned and saddened at the death of the man who help bring Tulane football back to respectability.

Chris Dantin (32) ,along with Bert Jones and his cousin Andy Hamilton helped lead LSU to a big win over Notre Dame in Tiger Stadium before a primetime audience on ABC

Strangely, both Tulane and LSU played Notre Dame before the season finale against one another.The Wave played admirably in South Bend losing, 21-7. But the following week in Baton Rouge, LSU played its best game of the year in blistering the Irish, 28-8 in front a nationally televised primetime audience on ABC. Sports Illustrated featured the Notre Dame-LSU tilt and entitled the article "Irish Stew for LSU". The 20 point loss by Ara Parseghian was the Irish mentor's worse loss since his arrival at Notre Dame in the 1964 season.
Jimmy LeDoux catches one of the few passes not thrown to Andy Hamilton in LSU's 36-7 blowout of Tulane in 1971

With the win LSU officially accepted a Sun Bowl bid. Unlike the prior year, win or lose the LSU game would end Tulane's season. Tulane played as they were ready to end the season.LSU dominated the game from start to finish to win , 36-7. Andy Hamilton, the national player of the week after the Notre Dame game caught two touchdown passes. Tulane only registered one first down in the first half and that one was the result of a penalty. It was 29-0 before the Wave scored late in the third quarter. LSU rushed for 425 yards while Tulane only earned 261 yards in total, many of them in the fourth after McClendon began substituting freely. Tulane finished '71 at 3-8 while LSU's win over Johnny Majors' Iowa State Cyclones , 33-15 in the Sun Bowl gave the Tigers a final 9-3 mark and #11 ranking.

LSU downed Iowa State, 33-15 in the '71 Sun Bowl, the Cyclones' first bowl game. Johnny Majors'(middle) staff included Jackie Sherril, second from left and Jimmy Johnson, third from right

1972 promised big things for both teams. LSU felt poised to make a run not only for the SEC title, but the National Title as well. Tulane was looking to move past the 3-8 nightmare of '71 and shoot for another winning season and possible bowl bid. The Wave also was looking to end the string of losses to LSU which had reached 16 straight with 20 losses and two ties since their last win in the series in 1948. The 36-7 blowout gave LSU an overall series lead of 44-18-7.

McClendon addressed the assembled Sky-Writers' Tour (the SEC's forerunner to today's media circus known as "SEC Media Days".The Sky-Writers' Tour was a stop at each member school where the head coach and various players would address an assembled group of sportswriters and sportscasters who would fly from school to school) and discussed playing two quarterbacks, which in 1971 produced the SEC's leader in total offense. Playing multiple quarterbacks wasn't something new for Mac and with Bert Jones and Paul Lyons in 1972 he saw big things for his team."We're a little more than just fortunate to have two quarterbacks who work so well together,"he said."They compliment one another in the fact that they work hard to help each other and both move the football team very well."

Both Jones and Lyons spoke to the media and stressed the two quarterback system was good for the team,not a controversy.Jones spoke specifically about Lyons and said "if there is anyone that helps me more than Paul, I can't think of who he is.Day by day and step by step, we walk that road together and I think it helps the moral of the team because it really gives them two leaders." Lyons embraced the concept,too, kidding  that "if we used one quarterback,I'd be an unsung hero in the defensive backfield."

The Tigers' experience and schedule was looked upon as a plus.Whereas stars Tommy Casanova and Andy Hamilton had graduated, LSU had one of their deeper teams. Also seven of the 11 games would be in Baton Rouge in addition to a game at Rice in Houston, where LSU would be well represented  and of course the season finale in New Orleans vs Tulane. Only games vs Alabama in Birmingham and in Gainesville vs Florida were games where the Tigers would unequivocally be the "visitor".

After stating that of course the season opening game vs Pacific was first and foremost on everyone's mind several players said the Ole Miss game was the biggest on the schedule.Defensive star Lloyd Daniels went so far to proclaim if the Rebels and Tigers were both undefeated for the November 4th tilt,"the adrenalin could get to flowing like it did in the Notre Dame game last year." The respect and eagerness towards Ole Miss wasn't without merit. Heading into the 1972 season, the Rebels owned the nation's longest consectutive bowl streak.And, LSU's win in 1970 was the Tigers' lone win in the series since 1964.

        "Detailed,cool,collected,serious, and straight forward" Tulane coach Bennie Ellender

Whereas it was indeed the SEC Sky-Writers' Tour, respected Tulane SID Bill Curl used his relationships with many media members and the proximity from New Orleans to Baton Rouge to arrange for Wave head coach Bennie Ellender to meet with many of the writers in Baton Rouge in town to visit LSU.Ellender described as 'detailed,cool,collected,serious and straight forward' felt more optimistic about Tulane's chances in 1972 as opposed to his first year in 1971. He was hired on Christmas Eve in 1970 and wasn't able to recruit like he had wanted to as well as introducing the team to a new system in the Spring didn't work as expected.But his second Spring training went much better with a veteran unit and everyone on the same page."Our defense took tremendous strides and began to jell as a solid unit and with a lot of pride." On offense Ellender was excited about senior Mike Walker's experience and freshman Jaime Garza. On defense, Joe Bullard, Mike Truax, Mike Mullen and freshman Mark Olivari drew raves from the head coach.

The Sky-Writers predicted Alabama to win the SEC with LSU and Tennessee close behind. The AP preseason poll was similar with Alabama preseason #7, LSU #11 and Tennessee #15, Ole Miss #16 and Georgia #17. Meanwhile, Sports Illustrated had LSU number one -- in the nation.LSU's games with Ole Miss and Alabama back to back looked huge, not just on the conference landscape,but nationally,too.

While LSU was SI's preseason #1 in 1972, Nebraska became a victim of the 'cover jinx'. The September 11 issue was released before the 'Huskers lost 20-17 to UCLA on Sept 9th

LSU won its opening game, 31-13 over Pacific , whose defense was led by CB Pete Carroll who earned All-West Coast Conference in '71 would again in '72. Carroll, of course coaches the Seattle Seahawks after a highly successful stent at Southern California. The Tigers won their next three games over  the Texas Aggies and Wisconsin at home and rather easily before escaping Rice 12-6 in a sloppy win in Houston.LSU entered SEC play the following week against surprising and now ninth ranked Auburn.

         LSU won the season opener in 1972 against Pacific and defensive star Pete Carroll

Auburn had started the season under the radar unranked and picked anywhere from 5th to 8th in the SEC.But after two uninspiring wins over Miss State and Chattanooga, the Tigers shocked then #4 Tennessee in Birmingham, 10-6, and held on with a goal line stand in the final minute to hold off #18 Ole Miss in Jackson, 19-13.Going into the Tennessee game, the Vols held the nation's longest winning streak, which was ten. After Auburn ended UT's streak, coincidentally Ole Miss had the longest winning streak.Now,for the third week Auburn would be playing the team with the longest winning streak in the nation, LSU, with an eight game winning streak.

     LSU's defense upended All-Big 10 Rufus "Roadrunner" Ferguson and Wisconsin, 27-7

Unlike the Vols and Rebels, the LSU Tigers winning streak continued after playing Auburn. LSU played its best game of the season in handing Auburn what turned out to be their only loss of the season, 35-7.The Bengal Tigers battered Auburn as badly as the score indicated leading 21-7 at halftime and 28-7 after three quarters. LSU outgained Auburn 477 yards to 211 and outrushed Auburn, 259 to 59 yards.LSU entered the month of November at 6-0 and 6th in the nation after a 10-0 win at home over Kentucky.

                     Bert Jones passed and ran all over Auburn in 1972 in the 35-7 blowout

Meanwhile down Airline Highway or the almost completed I-10 (the I-10 as they say in south Louisiana), the Green Wave started out the season a mere 3-4 heading into November. Tulane was trying to balance a tough schedule with teams of similar circumstances like Boston College, Pitt and Georgia Tech, while also playing some "big boys" like Georgia and Michigan.The Greenies started out the season 2-0 after a stunning win at home over then #16 Georgia, 24-13 on ABC regional television. The win over the Bulldogs, Tulane's second in three years put the Wave in the top 20 at #18 as they headed to "The Big House" to face defending Big 10 Champion and #8 Michigan.

Tulane wasn't up to the challenge in Ann Arbor. After taking over at midfield after forcing the Wave to punt on their opening possession, Michigan's Ed Shuttlesworth recorded the first of his three touchdowns as the Wolverines scored in just six plays.Just :41 later, Michigan "Wolfman" ,or middle linebacker Randy Logan, who would go on to have an 11 yr NFL career in Philadelphia, intercepted a Mike Walker pass and returned it 32 yards to give Michigan a quick 14-0 lead that Tulane couldn't overcome.Michigan won, 41-7 as Tulane avoided a shutout win Walker's back up,Steve Foley scored from the one.

 "Wolfman" Randy Logan returned a Walker interception 32 yds for a td and early 14-0 lead
As poorly as Tulane played in Ann Arbor it was still just one loss. After a 38-6 win over Pittsburgh (who would go 1-10 in '72 and then hire Iowa State's Johnny Majors), Tulane then headed to Miami to play the Hurricanes.While Miami had produced some good football teams in the 1950's and 1960's, in 1972 they were light years from what they would become in the early 1980's. Coaching the Hurricanes was Fran Curci , a former Miami QB in the late 1950's, who was in his second year at his alma mater after a successful stint at Tampa, which was proving to be quite a training ground for head coaches.Curci replaced interim coach Walt Kichefski, who took over for the rather successful Charlie Tate who abruptly quit after the second game of the 1970 season.

The game went back and forth with Miami leading 10-6 at halftime. Tulane seemed poised to win 21-17 after two touchdown passes by Mike Walker, who had come off the bench for Foley, the last one a 21 yard pass to Frank Anderson that bounced off two Hurricane defenders.Miami then came back and had a first down on the Tulane 18 yard line.Chuck Foreman, who would go on to an All-Pro career with the Vikings got two yards on first down. On second down, QB Ed Carney threw incomplete.Then Miami was whistled for illegal motion and things got confusing.Carney was sacked for an 11 yard loss and on the next play, the fourth in the series, Carney threw another incompletion.Tulane defenders and Miami offensive players both returned to the sidelines.However, the sideline markers and Orange Bowl scoreboard both showed 4th down was still to be played.

With Tulane and Miami both being "independents", the game was officiated by Southeastern Conference officials, who were as bad and inept in 1972 as they are in the 21st Century. As the officials instructed both the Tulane defense and the Miami offense to return to the field, the Tulane sidelines went rightfully upset motion with their fingers this would indeed be the fifth down. Ellender implored the officials on the field to consult with the official scorer in the pressbox. The officials on the field refused his request and signaled the ball for play.As one can imagine, on the next play or fifth down, Carney hit Witt Beckman for 32 yard touchdown pass. Mike Burke's conversion made the score in Miami's favor at 24-21 which was the final.
Now, unlike the more familiar or "infamous" Colorado and Missouri fifth down play in 1990, Miami wasn't on the goal line nor was this the final play of the game. The clock still showed :54 left to play.These two events factored prominently in Tulane having to live with the bad call. Wave AD Rix Yard said he was immediately going to notify the SEC, who provided the officials, but knew "there is no way to reverse the final score." The following day Tulane president Dr. Herbert E. Longenecker (who had to be groomed for academia once his birth certificate was signed) implored Miami to forfeit the game.After much "soul searching" by Miami university and athletic officials met but with the backing of the Dave Nelson,NCAA rules committee chairman, announced forfeiture would be inappropriate since Tulane indeed had almost a minute to score and change the outcome.

Longenecker maintained had the roles been reversed, Tulane would have forfeited. No one would ever know that for certain. What was certain was the hypocrisy demonstrated by "winning" coach Fran Curci. At the end of the 1971 season on the same field in Miami, Curci went absolutely crazy when Florida head coach Doug Dickey instructed his defense to allow Miami to score a late,meaningless touchdown in an eventual Gator 45-16 win, the infamous 'Florida Flop'.Dickey wanted to give record breaking senior quarterback John Reaves one last chance to break Jim Plunkett's all-time passing record of 7,546 yards.Curci was livid after the game and refused to shake Dickey's hand. Curci, among other things said afterwards,"it was the worst thing I've ever seen in football" and how Dickey "has no class". Now with an opportunity to display the sportsmanship that Curci felt Dickey lacked 10 months earlier, Curci all but blew off the matter.While admitting it "was unfortunate", he felt it was no big deal "and (Miami) won." He pointed to the controversial ending to the USA-USSR Gold Medal basketball game a month earlier as an example of just having to live with it and even added, acknowledging the official scorer in the pressbox's refusal to get involved,"maybe someone up there felt sorry for us and wanted to help us." While none of what Curci said may have been different from many other coaches, his nonchalance about the matter was unseemly considering how brutally he attacked Florida and Dickey's character and class a year earlier.

             Miami's Fran Curci used class and sportsmanship to fit his immediate situation

(If "Karma" is a football fan, 8 years later Karma wore a Tulane cap.Curci, now at Kentucky brought his struggling Wildcats to New Orleans to face Tulane in the Superdome.After the Wave blew 21-6 halftime lead, Kentucky rallied and took a 22-21 lead late in the fourth.Tulane couldn't move the ball and Kentucky was able to run out the lock except for the last :12. Tulane took over on their own 8 yard line. 1980 was the next to last season where pass interference was penalized at the spot of the infraction like the NFL is.Tulane QB Nickie Hall fired a pass to midfield looking for WR Marcus Anderson, who caught three first half touchdowns. The pass was incomplete but UK was flagged for pass interference placing the ball at the Wildcat 46. Now only :05 remained.Again, Hall threw to Anderson down to the Kentucky 4 and UK was flagged for pass interference as time expired.Of course, a game or half cannot end on a defensive penalty, so with no time left, Tulane's Vince Manalla booted a 21 yard field goal to give Tulane a 24-22 win over Curci and Kentucky.)

 At the end of the day, it was a loss for the Green Wave giving them a 3-2 mark. The next two games were road losses to West Virginia and Georgia Tech. The Mountaineers and Yellow Jackets each finished the season in bowl games,but still Tulane's record was now 3-4 entering November. At least the next three games would be winnable prior to the season finale vs LSU.

Controversy wasn't limited to Tulane. While the Wave got back on the right track with a win at home over Kentucky, 18-7, LSU entertained Ole Miss which at the time was still a big game in the nation's eyes.The Rebels who had earlier in the season had the college football's longest winning streak did have the longest consecutive bowl appearance streak going back to 1957. However, after back to back narrow losses in Jackson to Auburn and Georgia and stunning shutout loss to Florida in Oxford, the Rebels came to Baton Rouge 4-3 almost needing a win over LSU to keep the bowl streak alive as a trip to Knoxville to face the Vols loomed two weeks later.A 17 point underdog, this game came down to the wire and then some according to Ole Miss.

In a still talked about game, Ole Miss played LSU as if this were one of their classics in the late 50's and throughout the 1960's. After Steve Lavinghouse missed a field goal, LSU took over on their 20 trailing 16-10 with a little over 3:00 left.Needing a touchdown to win LSU marched downfield and reached the Ole Miss 10 with :04 after pass interference was called on the Rebels. Jones barely missed Jimmy LeDoux for the tying touchdown on what Ole Miss and many others felt was the final play.However, :01 showed and with a reprieve, Jones found Brad Davis for touchdown in the corner of the endzone and Rusty Jackson's conversion gave LSU an improbable if not controversial 17-16 win.(Ole Miss indeed missed a bowl for the first time in 15 yrs and wouldn't play in another until 1983.)

           Jones gets off his pass to Brad Davis with :01 left in the 1972 Ole Miss game

Next up was a trip to Legion Field to face second ranked Alabama in front a nationally televised audience.Oddly enough, in a sign of the times, this would be both teams' only regular season appearance on television.LSU , ranked sixth, not only took the field as an 11 point underdog but without the services of All-SEC receiver Gerald Keigley who was injured midweek in practice.But the Tigers were up for the task, at least in the first half scoring first on a Jones to LeDoux touchdown to go up 7-0 in the first. Alabama, in the second season of the wishbone offense, tied the game up midway in the second after a pass from Bogalusa, La's Terry Davis to Alabama's Wayne Wheeler as the two went to the lockerroom tied at 7.

But in the second half Alabama opened things up. While the running game got untracked, Davis again hit Wheeler for touchdown pass on the Tide's first drive of the third quarter to go up 14-7.After both teams went three and out on their next possession, Alabama recovered a fumbled LSU punt at the Tigers' 25 and on the next play Davis swept around the side for a 21-7 lead.LSU didn't roll over and scored on a Jones to Chuck Williamson pass to narrow the lead to 21-14 going into the fourth.The Tide scored again and then LSU drove to the Alabama five before fumbling. After exchanging punts, Alabama's Joe LaBue busted up the middle for 52 yards and an insurmountable 35-14 lead with three minutes left. Jones,who set LSU's single game passing record with 244 yards,scored on a three yard run with :56 left to make the final score Alabama 35-21. In winning the SEC for the second year in a row, Alabama rushed for 335 yards on 56 carries.

           Alabama's Terry Davis made the cover of SI after the win over then unbeaten LSU

Now 7-1 and ranked 8th, LSU still had two games before the Tulane game, both SEC games. The first was a lackluster home finale over Mississippi State, 28-14.The second game was a road trip to Gainesville vs Florida a week before the season finale in New Orleans vs Tulane. The game with the Gators turned out to be one of the oddest in LSU history. While the Tigers and Gators were slugging it out (literally), Tulane took the week off after recording back to back wins over squads who had trumped the Wave in 1971, Ohio University and Vanderbilt.The 21-7 win over the Commodores in Nashville gave the Wave its sixth win ensuring a winning season in year two under Bennie Ellender.  
   Tulane's Doug Bynum's (with ball) running and Steve Foley's passing led Tulane past Vandy

In Gainesville, LSU took the field wearing purple jerseys for the first time since a 10-7 win in Atlanta vs Georgia Tech in 1962.Fortunately for both teams, "Doug's Rug" the name given to the artificial surface at Florida Field had been installed a year early in Gator coach Doug Dickey's second year. Throughout the entire game it poured with the wind howling off an on.In a game where LSU missed a staggering seven field goals -- two in the game's final :33, LSU and Florida battled to a 3-3 tie.

Both teams had trouble with the elements and each fumbled at the other's goal line preventing touchdowns.Near the end of the first quarter, LSU's Jim Kadi fumbled going into the endzone and future Gator All-America Ralph Ortega recovered.A series later Gator All-Star Nat Moore took a screen pass from David Bowden and raced 79 yards downfield until he was chased down by LSU's Mike Williams at the LSU one.One play later Florida RB Andy Summers fumbled and LSU had it at the Tiger 2.

Florida's Nat Moore was tackled from behind at the LSU 1 by Mike Williams after a 79 yd run
Rusty Jackson and Juan Roca both attempted field goals during the game. Roca missed three field goals in the first half before connecting on a 45 yarder midway in the third to give LSU a 3-0 lead.The Tigers moved the ball fairly well getting over 300 total yards in the rain on the slick playing surface.But once LSU got close into Gator territory, Florida's defense rose up. LSU had 13 running plays inside the Gator 25. The Tigers' net gain was only 12 yards.And, 5 of the seven missed field goals were from inside the 25.Coach Mac would say after the game,"we came a long way not to prove anything.Florida had a gutty defense.We moved the ball well, but I've always said when you settle for field goals, you're in trouble."

Juan Roca missed three field goals in Gainesville, but made a 45 yarder to give LSU a 3-0 lead
Florida freshman kicker John Williams tied the game at 3 with a 35 yarder with 2:08 left. But LSU wasn't finished. Stalling out at the Florida 16, Rusty Jackson tried a 33 yard field goal with :33 that was blocked by Florida's Fred Abbott, but the blocked kick took a weird bounce touching a Gator and crossing the original line of scrimmage where it was recovered by LSU giving the Tigers one more chance.Two plays later, Jackson tried one more, this one from 22 yards that was wide right with :07 left.

But instead of taking a knee and just getting out, Florida tried one more pass, a heave by Bowden past midfield that was intercepted by LSU's Norm Hodgins. Hodgins, who attended Rummel HS outside of New Orleans had grown up a Tulane fan and dreamed of being a Greenie only to be told by Jim Pittman he wasn't good enough. LSU thought he was and Hodgins became a Tiger.Time expired as Hodgins was tackled at the Florida 35 and suddenly a free for all started with both benches empyting. Several different fistfights sprung up all around the field before coaches and officials could settle everyone down and send them to the lockerrooms.

So now 8-1-1 LSU and ranked 11th in the nation would take on 6-4 Tulane in the regular season finale at venerable Tulane Stadium in New Orleans. For the second time in three years the game would have both teams with winning records. Unlike 1970,however, Tulane would stay home win or lose as no bowl selected the Wave. Still, also unlike 1970, Tulane actually felt like victory could be achieved more so that heading into the '70 tilt. The 1970 Tigers were playing as well as anyone in the nation at the end of the season. Now all of the sudden the Tigers in 1972 had only won one of its prior games. There was certainly no shame in losing at Alabama, but the Tide did rush for over 300 yards. And, LSU had chance after chance to have defeated Florida the prior week as attempting eight field goals demonstrates, but the young Gators were still two years away from being an SEC contender so the 3-3 tie gave LSU pause and Tulane hope.

For the first time in years Tulane fans in uptown New Orleans and in small river parish towns felt hopeful they'd be the one getting to ride in the wheelbarrow for the first time since 1948 as a number of Tiger fans felt a little nervous that they'd be the ones pushing . The wheelbarrow rides between LSU and Tulane fans went way back where the fan of the winning team would get a ride from his buddy of the opposing school . There were fewer and fewer Tulane fans around who had ever gotten a ride from an LSU fan.

Earlier during the week of the game, various "All-Star" squads were selected and both LSU and Tulane were well represented. The Tigers featured John Wood, Gerald Keigley (who would go on to make All-SEC in the Spring as a member of LSU's baseball team), Brad Boyd,Mike Williams, Rusty Jackson, Tyler Lafauci, Warren Capone and Bert Jones. In addition to 'all-conference', Capone and Jones were named to various first team All-American squads.

LSU's Warren Capone, along with Bert Jones, made All-American as well as All-SEC in 1972
While Tulane was an independent, due to the large number of independents at the time such as Miami, Florida State, South Carolina, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Memphis State among others, an "All-South Independent" squad was selected . In fact the team was headlined by Tampa's John Matuscak. The Green Wave members of the team were Charles Hall, Mike Mullen, Mike Truax,Mike Koesling, Lee Gibson and DB George Ewing. Ewing, while not on offense scored five touchdowns for Tulane in 1972, three on pass interceptions and two on punt returns.

      Tulane's Charles Hall made "All-South Independent" in 1972 as well as in '73 and '74

LSU took the field with a berth in the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl vs Tennessee later that month and as a 10 point favorite. Both teams would take the field in front of 85,372, the largest crowd to see a game at Tulane Stadium or the Deep South. The attendance that night topped the crowds at Super Bowl IV and Super Bowl VI ,both played at Tulane Stadium. The crowd that night was also the largest crowd ever to witness a college football game at night at the time --anywhere.

          LSU's Charlie McClendon and Tulane's Bennie Ellender meet prior to kickoff
The game quickly became a defensive struggle. At halftime, Tulane led 3-0 on a 40 yard Lee Gibson field goal.But in the third quarter LSU started to move the ball. However, LSU's offensive emergence in the game was due mainly to reserve quarterback Paul Lyons' scrambling instead of Bert Jones' passing. Tulane's defense stymied Jones holding him to only 5 of 13 passing for 63 yards and sacking him six times.Late in the quarter Jones had to leave the game because of an injured right shoulder.Going back to what McClendon had told the media at the LSU Sky-Writers' stop about how "fortunate" LSU was to have two able quarterbacks, Lyons responded to the challenge head on as LSU took over on the Tiger 38.Tulane knew Jones didn't want to run and now they'd have to stop Lyons' who was more of a scrambler than passer. The Tigers tied the game at 3 late in the third on a Rusty Jackson 29 yard field goal.
  Lyons (16), shown at Wisconsin in '71 was able to spread Tulane's defense after Jones' injury

While LSU started moving the ball some in the second half, the Tigers' defense kept Tulane at bay. Lyons meanwhile continued to move the Tigers.He had perhaps the biggest play of the game midway in the fourth quarter on a 44 yard run. The drive stalled at the Wave 26 but Juan Roca, who made LSU's lone field goal out of eight tries a week earlier in Gainesville, connected on a 43 yard field goal to break the tie and give LSU a 6-3 lead.After stopping Tulane again, Lyons led LSU on one more tried that ended at the Tulane 19. Rusty Jackson booted a 36 yard field goal to give LSU a 9-3 lead with only one minute left in the game, seemingly salting the game away.
                  Steve Foley almost pulled the '72 LSU-Tulane game out, but LSU hung on

But Tulane wasn't quite done after returning the kickoff to their 25. Behind Steve Foley, who had replaced senior Mike Walker after the Michigan loss as starting quarterback, suddenly got hot.Foley was one of three Foley brothers on the Tulane team.Older brothers Rob, a center, and Mike, a wide receiver were already on scholarship when Ellender got word about the Foley still in HS at New Orleans' Jesuit.Ellender was impressed, but the Wave was out of scholarships for the 1971 season.Tulane team doctor Ken Saer and two other area doctors agreed to fund a one-year scholarship with the tacit understanding with AD Yard that the scholarship was indeed for Steve Foley.Yard complied and in 1972 Steve was awarded an athletic scholarship.Sports Illustrated did a feature article on Tulane and the Foley Boys in October of '72.

After having accomplished basically nothing since the first half, all of the sudden in less than :40, Foley had Tulane at the LSU 45 after three straight completions. With the clock winding down and Tulane out of timeouts, Foley, a scrambler in his own right, ran for 40 yards to the Tiger 5 yard line scooting out of bounds to stop the clock with :05 in the game.All of the sudden Tulane was 5 yards away from beating LSU for the first time since 1948. On the other side of the ball, the Tigers ,who were in the hunt for the National Title just three weeks earlier were 5 yards away from not only not winning the national championship, but being the team that finally lost to Tulane -- all in less than a month.

Here was the ball game. While just a month earlier LSU itself had indeed proven that two plays could be run in four seconds, it was a safe bet that with :05 left, Tulane in all likelihood had one play. First down at the LSU 5 yard line, :05 and LSU ahead 9-3 and no timeouts left for the Green Wave.A week earlier LSU CB Mike Williams made what turned out to be a game saving tackle on the LSU 1. All season All-American LB Warren Capone had made huge plays.Someone needed to step up for LSU after Tulane had moved 70 yards in less than a minute.From the 5 it would be quite a gamble to try a running play with so little time left. Also, with not much room to work that close to the endzone and LSU having a fine secondary a pass would have to be almost perfect.Foley dropped back and found FB Bill Huber,who slipped out of the backfield, alone at the LSU 2. As time expired, Huber,who had only one reception all season prior to this play, spun to the corner of the endzone. All that was between the 235 blocking back and the endzone was LSU saftey Frank Racine.

                    Frank Racine (17) was in the right place at the right time for LSU vs Tulane

Racine only weighed 185 pounds, giving up 50 to Huber. But as the two collided as Huber headed to the corner of the endzone on the LSU 2, Racine corralled Huber and was able to wrestle him down just inside the LSU 1 yardline. It was close, Huber himself later saying only six inches separated him from the goal,but LSU had held on for dear life. LSU won 9-3 to finish the regular season 9-1-1 while Tulane fell to 6-5. The largest crowd to watch a game in the Deep South as well as witness a night kickoff anywhere got its money's worth.

The Tigers and Tulane have met only five times since 1996 and while "talk" of other games continue, nothing is on the horizon. Tulane did finally break the streak the following year in '73 and won three out of four from 1979 to 1982.After a fight to finish in 1987 with LSU winning 41-36 before 70,000, the attendance in New Orleans dwindled more and more and Tulane became an automatic win again for LSU, the game lost its luster all the way around. But for one night in 1972 it was as good and big as any game going.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

"Pioneers" blazed a trail in downtown Atlanta 40 yrs ago this month

Anniversary dates by decade are more times than not interesting and worth noting. If an event took place on a big stage its even more eventful. September 9th marked the 40th anniversary of the first college football game played by major Southern programs where both team's starting quarterback was black. The game was played on the campus of Georgia Tech in downtown Atlanta. While Grant Field is rarely mentioned as an iconic stadium, certainly Atlanta is well known for Civil Rights issues, and big sporting events in general having hosted the 1996 Olympics, Super Bowls and Final Fours. So, although certainly unplanned, it was somewhat fitting that Tennessee and Condredge Holloway came to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech led by senior Eddie McAshan to kickoff not only each team's 1972 season, but ABC's college football '72 television schedule.
         Gainesville, FL native Eddie McAshan, Georgia Tech's first black football player

In 2012 an SEC game, or an SEC-ACC matchup with both teams quarterbacks being black would be almost a non-event. Sure, the Kentucky-Vanderbilt game in 2011 with both head coaches, Joker Phillips of UK and James Franklin of Vandy got some attention for being the first SEC game where both coaches were black . But the issue of black players being a big deal hasn't been a big deal since the early to mid 1970's. And, the position of quarterback was an even bigger deal. Quarterbacks have, and always will be put under the microscope. McAshan himself was Georgia Tech's first black football player, period signing with the Yellow Jackets in 1969. Tennessee's first varsity black football player was Lester McClain in 1968, a year after the SEC first black football player, Nat Northington at Kentucky. So two black starting quarterbacks in a game with SEC giant Tennessee and former SEC member Georgia Tech was a pretty big deal in the fall of 1972. But while the two players at the center (or in their case, behind the center) while cognizant of their roles in history, they were simply good football players leading good football teams.

Tennessee's first black player, WR Lester McClain who played varsity from 1968 to 1970

Not only were they good football players, but they excelled in other sports in high school. Many felt McAshan (pronounced 'Mc SHAN') was a better basketball player than football player. Holloway was a phenomenal high school athlete who not only was a star in football, but baseball and basketball,too.In McAshan's case whereas he did prefer basketball to football, the only scholarship offers he received from "major" colleges were football scholarships from the hometown Florida Gators, Miami and of course, Georgia Tech. McAshan's girlfriend at the time was a journalism student at Florida and the Gators hoped that would also entice him to be a Gator. But the Gators made it clear he would probably be a backup QB and then groomed to be a starter. Florida had just signed a high profile QB John Reaves who would indeed start all three years he was eligible (freshman couldn't play varsity sports until the fall of '72) 1969-1971 and did have a tremendous career. Miami at the time, while a good program, was nothing like the flashy dominating teams it fielded in the 1980's and 1990's. The Hurricanes had a "run first" offense and McAshan didn't want to just hand the ball off on offense.

The SEC's first black varsity football player, Nat Northington with Kentucky in 1967

But Tech head coach Bud Carson, following in the footsteps of Georgia Tech legend Bobby Dodd took the advice of his recruiting coordinator, Jack Thompson, and assured McAshan that he wanted him to play quarterback and to throw the football. That and the fact that Atlanta had already become a mecca for black professionals and the media was 'pro-integration' helped McAshan decide to attend Georgia Tech.

This wouldn't be McAshan's first time to be a first involving football. He had already been one of the first blacks to enroll at Gainesville High School. And, while at Gainesvile High he had become the first black quarterback at a mostly all-white high school. During his playing career in high school, McAshan noticed how when he would come to the sidelines, there would be two, sometimes three large, dour white men in suits who were always near him on the sidelines. Just a naive 16 and then 17 year old, he figured they were college recruiters. Later he found out they were there for his protection in the event someone tried to harm him -- or worse. Fortunately their services were never actually called upon nor was this practice implemented in Atlanta.

Ann-Margret (left) visited Bud Carson and the Yellow Jackets in 1970 while filming a movie in Atlanta with Joe Namath. Its not known if she asked for McAshan's autograph after his three touchdown passes three days earier in the win over Miami

Georgia Tech was in the process of having its third straight losing season when McAshan arrived on campus in the fall of 1969 for his freshman season. Carson's first two teams in 1967 and 1968 each finished 4-6-0.The '69 edition of the Yellow Jackets also went 4-6-0 but unlike the '68 version which ended with an embarrassing 47-8 loss to hated Georgia, the 1969 Jackets upset the Sun Bowl bound Bulldogs, 6-0 to conclude the season and carry over some positive momentum into the off season.

Whereas Carson was following a legend and some tough times had been expected, the grace period had expired on The Flats, a nickname for Grant Field, Tech's home stadium.Bud Carson needed to win in 1970 and his recruit from Gainesville could help him now that he would be a varsity player (freshmen were ineligible to play 'varsity' until 1972). Eddie McAshan would indeed start at quarterback for Georgia Tech in the '70 season opener vs South Carolina getting the nod over senior Jack Williams. McAshan would become not only Georgia Tech's first black scholarship athlete but the first starting quarterback for a large Southern university at quarterback.

McAshan's start vs the Gamecocks while the 'first' in the South, was still not that much later than other black quarterbacks starting a game at big time programs around the nation.While its always easy to lambaste anything Southern when it pertains to social,especially racial issues only ten seasons earlier did a black quarterback lead a team to the National title, Minnesota's Sandy Stephens. That certainly isn't a knock at "the black athlete" only that it took 91 years since the first college football game for a black QB to lead a team to a National Title, hardly and indictment of the South. And,even in 1970 few teams were starting a black quarterback, most noticeably 1970 pre-season #3 Southern California with Jimmy Jones.

On the same day McAshan started at QB for Tech, in Birmingham, Sam Cunningham and Southern California QB Jimmy Jones ran and passed all over Alabama 42-21

Nonetheless, McAshan being the first black, or "Negro quarterback" as many wire service articles stated for a major Southern program was a big deal. Oddly enough on September 12, 1970 as McAshan would lead the Yellow Jackets to a 23-20 win over the defending Atlantic Coast Conference champion South Carolina Gamecocks, 160 miles to the West off I-20, Southern California led by the aforementioned Jimmy Jones at QB and Sam Cunningham would pummel Alabama 42-21 at Legion Field in a much celebrated game involving an all-black backfield having its way basically with an all-white team later that evening.McAshan made the most of his start completing 20 of 38 passes for 202 yards before a sellout crowd at Grant Field. With McAshan's passing and a bruising running game led by Rob Healy and a defense anchored by All-American Roch Perdoni, big things were soon expected of 'Southern Independent' Georgia Tech.

An original member of the SEC, Tech left the conference following the 1963-1964 academic year due to a variety of reasons, mainly the SEC refusing Bobby Dodd's request that member schools be allowed to have more than 140 athletes on scholarship. Dodd,also Tech's athletic director, honored his threat from the SEC's annual meeting in Atlanta and Georgia Tech became an independent. This was a regrettable decision on Tech's part as they applied and were denied readmission to the SEC in 1973 and would join the ACC in all sports in 1978 after playing basketball in the Metro Conference in the mid 70's. However, Tech's period as an "independent" or Southern Independent as usually referred to in the media was not as seemingly unusual as it is now. Among others joining Georgia Tech in the 'Southern Independent' ranks were Miami(Fla), Florida State, Tulane (which also left the SEC in the mid 1960's), Memphis State and starting in 1971 would be South Carolina.

       Jet Magazine followed McAshan during the '70 season and was on the cover in October

As Georgia Tech got ready for the season, the significance of McAshan being not only the first black scholarship athlete at Tech, but quarterback at that, was certainly acknowledged around campus and in Atlanta. But it wasn't anything extraordinary, at least in the Atlanta media. However, Jet Magazine, a prominent black periodical did indeed think McAshan being the first black quarterback of a "white" college team in the South was a big deal. A reporter and photographer came to Atlanta in early October and followed McAshan around prior to the game versus Tennessee. McAshan made the cover a few weeks later with the October 22nd issue.

With the win in McAshan's first start at QB over South Carolina, Georgia Tech entered the AP top 20 rankings for the first time since the 1967 pre-season rankings.Tech won its first four games before losing to Tennessee and Auburn (both whom would finish ranked in the top 10) as the offense sputtered and the Jackets fell out of the polls.Georgia Tech won its next three games but the offense struggled somewhat and in game 10 vs then #1 Notre Dame, McAshan was replaced at quarterback by senior Jack Williams. The Yellow Jackets took the cold, wet, windy field in South Bend a three touchdown underdog. McAshan came off the bench in the third quarter and hooked up with Larry Studdard on a 66 yard touchdown pass to give Georgia Tech a 7-3 lead going into the fourth quarter. Notre Dame came back to score and take the lead and hold on for a 10-7 win. Even with the loss, Tech's valiant effort was recognized nationwide and the Yellow Jackets re-entered the polls.

Senior Jack Williams started at quarterback in the last two regular season games of the 1970 season vs Notre Dame and Georgia, as well as the Sun Bowl

After an open date Georgia Tech headed to Athens to take on hated Georgia. Tech had already secured a berth in the Sun Bowl opposite Texas Tech. But a win by the Bulldogs would put them in the Liberty Bowl, so more was riding on this game than usual. Williams started again and as in Atlanta the prior year, Tech downed Georgia again, this time 17-7 knocking the Bulldogs out of bowl contention as they fell to 5-5. The 1970 Georgia Tech season concluded in El Paso with a 17-9 win over Texas Tech behind Williams at QB in his last game as the Yellow Jackets finished 13th in the nation.

With Williams' graduation, 1971 was McAshan's team. On the heels of the fine 1970 season and the return of the exciting McAshan at quarterback, the Yellow Jackets started the season ranked 17th in the nation.For the second year in a row Tech would open with South Carolina this time in Columbia and also as the Gamecocks' first opponent as an independent after leaving the ACC three months earlier. On the night that ABC nationally televised their first game between two historic black colleges, Grambling and Morgan State, South Carolina downed the Yellow Jackets, 24-7. The firepower Tech showed through much of 1970 was missing as Georgia Tech only crossed midfield three times and their lone score was an interception return.

After struggling on offense vs Tennessee, Carson played 3 QB's the following week vs Auburn

The Jackets continued to struggle on offense.While their defense played valiantly in Knoxville vs top ten Tennessee in a 10-6 loss, the Georgia Tech offense was miserable. After managing less than 200 total yards, the Jackets lone score came on a 19 yard drive set up by a blocked punt with 1:19 left in the game.The following week Bud Carson shook things up a little bit on offense. Whereas McAshan started at quarterback, two other QB's got quality playing time as well. Tommy Turrentine took over on Tech's third drive and led the Yellow Jackets to a td and 7-0 lead which Tech would carry into the 4th quarter before a record crowd of 60,204 at Grant Field. Then heavily favored Auburn behind eventual Heisman winner Pat Sullivan took over and the Tigers took a 28-7 lead. After Turrnetine twisted an ankle, Jack O'Neil directed the Jackets briefly before giving way to McAshan. McAshan made the most of his return and directed Georgia Tech on a 66 yard drive to narrow the lead to 28-14 before Auburn added one more score to win 31-14.

Now 2-4, Tech headed to New Orleans to face a less formidable foe in the Tulane Green Wave.McAshan played a tremendous game , in front of a regionally televised audience, throwing for 189 yards on 16 of 26 passing and ran for 38 yards as the Jackets ended their losing streak and downed Tulane, 24-16.With the win Tech seemed to regain its footing and the win over the Wave would be the first of four straight. A winning record was secured with a 12-6 win over Florida State, who was headed to the inaugural Fiesta Bowl.

The win over the Seminoles and four game winning streak also put Georgia Tech in the hometown Peach Bowl after negotiations with Air Force fell apart and some arm twisting by Tech officials and Tech players ,many of whom reportedly weren't too enthusiastic about playing an additional game and down the street,at that (having turned down a bowl bid in this era wouldn't have been that uncommon as Notre Dame after returning to bowls after a 45 year hiatus declined a bid in 1971 after two straight Cotton Bowls). But first Georgia Tech had to face top 10 Georgia in a game moved to Thanksgiving Night for ABC television.

Georgia vs Georgia Tech followed the epic Nebraska-Oklahoma Thanksgiving 1971 game and was just, if not more dramatic

For the first time since 1966 in Bobby Dodd's last meeting with Georgia as Tech's head coach, both teams would be headed to a post season bowl game.Georgia was 9-1 and ranked #8 with only a loss to #5 Auburn. Vince Dooley's Bulldogs were headed to the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville to face North Carolina who was coached by Dooley's brother,Bill. Earlier that day on ABC, #1 Nebraska held off #2 Oklahoma 35-31 in a 'Game of the Century' ,which truly lived up to its name. While the game later that evening in Atlanta wouldn't have the national importance, it was every bit as dramatic as the game in Norman earlier in the day.

Against one of the best defenses in the nation, one that had given up only 88 points in 10 games, McAshan played one of his finest games as Georgia Tech's quarterback. A two touchdown underdog, McAshan led Tech to a 14-0 lead at the end of one period. Georgia, behind QB Andy Johnson and RB Jimmy Poulis cut the lead to 14-7 and later scored a TD after a Tech field goal to trail 17-14, seemingly with the momentum as well.

Early in the fourth quarter, Georgia finally took the lead at 21-17. But it took only 5 plays for McAshan to lead Tech back to the lead aided by a 35 yard pass to Mike Oven. With 10:30 left Georgia Tech led, 24-21.Two possession later, Georgia marched to the Tech 18 for a first down behind 5 straight running plays. On 4th and one, Dooley passed on a tying field goal and went for the first at the Georgia Tech 9.Andy Johnson was sacked for a 4 yard loss and Tech took over at their 13 with 3:38 left.Tech couldn't move and after 52 yd punt,the Dogs took over at their 35 with 1:29 left.On second down Johnson rushed for 22 yards to the Tech 43. After three incompletions, Georgia had fourth and 10 at the Tech 43 with :57 left. On fourth, with ample time Johnson hit his tight end Mike Greene for a first down to the Tech 25 with :48 left.Four plays later Georgia used its last time out at the Tech one with :18 left. On third down,Poulis barely cleared the goal line and Georgia had eked out a heart stopping 28-24 win.

Next up would be the 9-2 Ole Miss Rebels in the Peach Bowl at Atlanta Stadium. The Peach Bowl's first three games were at Tech's Grant Field, so at least Georgia Tech would play in another venue. Oddly enough, even though Georgia Tech and Ole Miss were original members of the Southeastern Conference, this would only be the clubs' third meeting, with one of those being in the 1953 Sugar Bowl. This also had the makings of a big game for Tech head coach, Bud Carson. After the fine 9-3 record in 1970, the Tech administration and faithful expected to see the Yellow Jackets return to national prominence. When that didn't happen in 1971, the whispers started in September with a home upset loss to Army and only got louder the week of the Georgia game,and even with a valiant effort in a losing cause, the talk didn't end -- at least to others besides Carson. Carson felt he was in the dark as administrators were not committal one way or another discussing his future on The Flats.

Bad weather plagued the early Peach Bowls and in 1971 it rained on Bud Carson's parade in more ways than one

If the Peach Bowl was to save Carson's job, then his tenure was effectively over midway in the second quarter.In a torrential downpour which turned Atlanta Stadium's field into mud,Tech had five first half turnovers, three fumbles and two interceptions as Ole Miss behind QB Norris Weese and running back Greg Ainsworth led 38-0. Ole Miss scored four touchdowns in the second as the Rebels passed and ran with equal ease before McAshan led Tech on a drive before halftime to cut the lead to 38-6.

Tech settled down somewhat in the second and actually limited Ole Miss to just one Cloyce Hinton field goal. Georgia Tech outscored Ole Miss 12-3 in the second. Carson said that he "was proud of the second half effort. This is what I expected the whole game." While McAshan did lead Tech to two scores, Ole Miss called off the charges and fumbled a punt giving the Yellow Jackets a scoring drive from the Ole Miss 25. When it was over, Ole Miss had won 41-18.Bud Carson's tenure at Georgia Tech was over,too. Two weeks later he was dismissed as a bitter Carson maintained they never gave him a reason .

Iowa State's Johnny Majors looked to be whom Tech would select, as coach for 1972 but Majors pulled his name at the last minute. Oddly enough, his last game at Iowa State would be against Georgia Tech in the '72 Liberty Bowl. Tech's win gave the Cyclones a final 5-6-1 record.

So now Georgia Tech was looking for a new coach, only their fifth since 1904. Under Bobby Dodd and his predecessor Bill Alexander, Tech was viewed as a top tier program.Carson's Sun Bowl win was the school's 13th win , the NCAA record for most bowl wins at the time. But being an independent in a town with an NFL team was proving to be challenging, something Tech wasn't quite ready to acknowledge yet. After former Tech great and Arkansas head coach Frank Broyles made it clear he wasn't interested in leaving Fayetteville, Tech turned to former Tennessee All-American Johnny Majors who had just led perennial doormat Iowa State to its first bowl game ever. In fact reports surfaced that AD Bobby Dodd and offered and Majors had taken the job.At the last minute, Majors removed his name from consideration.

So Tech turned to Bill Fulcher, who had played for Dodd at Georgia Tech in the mid 1950's. Fulcher had just completed his first season as Tampa's head coach and had gone 6-5 in the Spartans' transition season from 'college divison', similar to Division 1-AA or today's 'Football Championship Subdivision' to 'major college'. McAshan would head into his senior year on the cusp of breaking every Georgia Tech passing record.

For Tennessee's Condredge Holloway getting to the 1972 Georgia Tech game in Atlanta was almost about which sport he wanted to play as opposed to being the "pioneer" that he was.Holloway was ,and remains, not only one of the Big Orange's finest athletes, but the SEC's as well.As a senior at Huntsville, AL's Lee High School, Holloway could have signed scholarship offers in not only football, but baseball and basketball,too. UCLA's John Wooden , in the midst of five straight NCAA titles,sent him a recruiting letter.Not only was Holloway offered scholarship offers in baseball, the Montreal Expos drafted him as the fourth pick in the first round of the Major League Baseball 1971 draft.

John Wooden, holding UCLA's fourth straight NCAA title trophy after downing Jacksonville for the 1970 title sent Holloway a recruiting letter about playing for the Bruins

Among the colleges that offered Holloway scholarships in football with the understanding he could play baseball ,too, were home state Alabama and Auburn, Georgia Tech,Georgia , Arizona State (where Reggie Jackson signed to play both sports in the mid 1960's) ,Vanderbilt and of course,Tennessee. Holloway played quarterback in high school and wanted to play quarterback in college, along with playing baseball. His first choices were home state Alabama and neighboring Tennessee. The Tide had signed their first black scholarship football player, Wilbur Jackson in 1970 and would also have a black junior college transfer, John Mitchell enroll in the fall of 1971. Bear Bryant indeed offered Holloway a football scholarship as well as the assurance he could play baseball,too.So did in-state rival Auburn and Shug Jordan.

But this was the Spring of 1971, not 2011, or even 1991. Holloway wanted and expected to play quarterback at whatever college he signed scholarship players. But Bryant let Holloway know right away that he felt a lot of Alabama supporters wouldn't be quite receptive to the notion of a black quarterback and would put Holloway at either receiver or defensive back. Even today its not uncommon for a high school quarterback to go on to college program and play another position. But there was no denying this suggestion of playing another position was due to race. To Bryant's credit he was honest with Holloway. Many coaches even in 2012 will tell a recruit anything he wants to hear to get him to commit or sign.Bryant could have easily 'assured' Holloway he could be a quarterback only to later shift him to another position.Jordan and Auburn basically did the same thing.

Shug and Bear both wanted Holloway to play football and baseball, just not quarterback

Tennessee's first black player, Lester McClain was the first black to receive measurable playing time in the SEC lettering in 1968 and starting several games on Tennessee's 1969 SEC Championship team along with Jackie Walker, who started at linebacker on that '69 team and would go on to be the SEC's first black All-American in 1971.Bill Battle, fresh off an 11-1-0 record in his first year as the Vols' head coach in 1970,and on Tennessee's staff in McClain's sophomore year, assured Holloway he would be given every opportunity to play quarterback for the Big Orange in addition to playing baseball as Holloway indeed signed with the Vols.And, heading into the 1971 football season, it could be argued that Tennessee's football program was in better shape than the Tide's. Tennessee had just won their fourth straight game over Alabama, a 24-0 win which was Bryant's worst loss at Alabama at the time. The Vols had also won the SEC in 1967 in addition to '69 and had finished 4th in the nation in 1970 with a Sugar Bowl win. Alabama had gone 6-5-1 in 1970 and finished the season unranked. In fact, the Vols would start the 1971 season ranked 8th in the nation and Alabama would start out ranked 16th.

Holloway's Lee HS coach Keith Wilson watches as Condredge and UT coach Bill Battle greet one another on a recruiting visit in 1971

But the pursuit of Holloway's signature wasn't over before he would set foot in Knoxville in the fall of 1971. In June of '71 the Montreal Expos of Major League Baseball drafted Holloway fourth overall in the first round. Holloway was drafted ahead of other such notables in the same draft as Frank Tanana, Rick Rhoden and Hall of Fame member Jim Rice. The Expos offered Holloway $80,000 (which is comparable to $465,000 in 2012 dollars) to sign with them and play shortstop. Condredge thought he'd hit a home run so speak, however he was only 17. Enter Condredge's mother, Dorothy.

Mrs. Holloway herself was a 'pioneer' of sorts, going to work at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville in 1962. In doing so, Mrs. Holloway became the first black employee of NASA. She wanted her son to receive a college education. Under Alabama law, Condredge couldn't sign a contract due to his age and his mother refused to co-sign wanting him to attend college in Knoxville.But now, it was the Expos' turn to get back into the contest for his services.Montreal had previously suggested to young Holloway that he take his mother to court in an effort to force her to co-sign his contract. He wisely declined that questionable advise, later saying,"how do you win that one? If you win, you lose and if you lose you lose."

Baseball super scout Mel Didier, then with Montreal relentlessly pursued Holloway up until the day before he enrolled at Tennessee

Knowing full well that once Condredge set foot on the UT campus that he'd be off limits for at least three years, Montreal went all out with one last pitch and promise. Montreal scout Mel Didier knew a thing or two about developing young talent as he signed and helped develop Andre Dawson, Dave Henderson and Ralph Garr ,all All-Stars at one point in their MLB careers so having seen something special in Holloway as a short stop, he wasn't giving up easily.The day before Tennessee football players were to report to the campus in early August of 1971, the Expos put in writing that if Holloway signed with them, he would start at shortstop that evening making him the youngest black player to start a Major League Baseball game. Also, Didier showed up at the Hollloway home with a suitcase of money estimated to be anywhere from $80,000 to $100,000.Vol assistant Ray Trail, who had all but moved to Huntsville in pursuit of Holloway, was there,too.Didier said, "I can give you this money legitimately, Tennessee can't do that." By this stage Holloway was put off by the attempt to buy his loyalty and turned to Trail and said,"Coach,I'm ready to go to Tennessee."

Once and for all Holloway was a Tennessee Volunteer. His freshman class would be part of the last entering freshmen that would be ineligible to play varsity sports. While he couldn't play for the 'Big Orange' in '71 there were 'freshman teams' that played an abbreviated schedule. Also, freshman could practice with the varsity so there was still a lot of football for Holloway and his fellow freshmen.Holloway, who was actually 5' 9" and weighed 155 was listed in various Volunteer media guides as 5' 11" and weighing 171. Regardless of what his measurements truly were, he was big enough to lead the Vol freshman to an unbeaten 5-0 mark including a 51-13 win over in-state Vanderbilt and a 30-13 win over the Notre Dame freshman team before 31,300 the largest crowd to ever witness a Vol freshman game. The 'Baby Irish' were led by Tom Clements, who would lead the Irish to the 1973 National Title as well as be a teammate of Holloway in the CFL. (Also on the Irish' freshman team was Gerry DiNardo, a tackle, who of course would coach at Vanderbilt and then LSU.) Holloway was also talented enough to emulate Auburn Split End Terry Beasley on the scout team as the varsity Vols prepared for the explosive Auburn passing game led by Pat Sullivan and record setting Beasley.

After scrapping the famed 'Single Wing' in 1964, Tennessee had had several talented quarterbacks leading the Vols to big wins and big bowl games such as Dewey Warren, Bubba Wyche and Bobby Scott. However, even with a fine 10-2 mark ending in a Liberty Bowl win, quarterback was maybe one of Tennessee's less effective positions. During the '71 campaign, the Vols used four different quarterbacks, Dennis Chadwick, Chip Howard, Phil Pierce and Jim Maxwell. They all had their moments with Chadwick starting the season, Pierce leading the Vols on a 99 yard drive vs Florida and Maxwell securing the starting role after Tennessee's mid season loss to Alabama. However, Chadwick would be the lone returner of the quartet in 1972 and he had been moved to flanker in spring training.

Tennessee's 1971 season ended with a 10-2 mark and win over Arkansas in the Liberty Bowl as head coach Bill Battle is led off the field by Jackie Walker (52), the SEC's first black All-American and hoisted by Andy Bennett (22) on the right and captain Phil Fulmer (65)

As the '72 season neared, the "Sky-Writers", the forerunner to today's 'SEC Media Days' descended on Knoxville in mid-August. The assembled writers from across the Southeast heard Battle heap a great deal of praise on Holloway, but cautiously added, "he hasn't lined up versus Georgia Tech or Penn State yet," the Big Orange's first two opponents. Still, Battle's optimism over Holloway wasn't deterred. "He'll (Holloway) be a fine quarterback. He's extremely poised and has a strong arm. He also shows a lot of leadership qualities,which we like for a quarterback to do, and he's every bit as fine a young man as he is quarterback."

Holloway was the apparent starter coming out of Spring and as fall camp started. Ed McDougal, also a sophomore, was listed as second team slightly ahead of Gary Valbuena, a junior college transfer from California. Valbuena was being counted on by the Vol staff to be a prominent figure at QB once he learned the Vols' offense. McDougal and Valbuena were similar type quarterbacks, both 'dropback' quarterbacks as opposed to Holloway who was more of a sprint out, or roll out type quarterback who also could utilize his speed more than the backups. At the very least, the Vol staff felt the contrasting style of new quarterbacks would give opposing defensive coaches something to be concerned about.

            Holloway was set to start at quarterback in 1972 over JC transfer Gary Valbuena

Now that Holloway was set to start at quarterback for the Vols in the season opener, the media started to pick up on the 'race' angle, noting the Tennessee-Georgia Tech game would indeed be the first time a black had started at quarterback in the SEC. But the attention was more acknowledgement than anything. ABC's press release discussing their '72 TV package didn't address it at all. The brief article only stated ," ABC-TV begins its 1972 telecasts of NCAA football games on Saturday, Sept 9 when Tennessee visits Georgia Tech, in the 31st meeting of these powerful teams." That was fine with Holloway, who many years later said the last thing on his mind as kickoff approached was being the first SEC black QB. He said what concerned him was reading Tech's defenses, zone or man to man and the fact the game was on national television.And, as Holloway said later this was happenstance. Mississippi State's Melvin Barkum, also a sophomore black quarterback, would start later that evening in Jackson against Auburn.

A few hours later and a two states away off I-20 after Holloway and the Vols left atop Atlanta with a big win, another black QB Melvin Barkum led Mississippi State against Auburn and James Owens (43 in white), the Tigers' first black football player

The day of the game there was mention of the novelty and 'firstness' of the quarterback matchup in an AP article talking about the 'big games' of the day. After stating basic facts such as Tennessee being a 6 point favorite and a crowd of around 52,000 expected at Grant Field for the nationally televised game, the article stated," it will mark the first time for black quarterbacks to start for both teams in a major college game in the South, with sophomore Condredge Holloway handling the Vol attack and veteran senior Eddie McAshan directing Tech."

The article went on to quote Holloway trying to downplay the magnitude of the event."I'll have enough trouble just worrying about the game.I don't feel like I have to go out and prove anything for my race.I'm just a Tennessee Volunteer."  And before breaking down Nebraska-UCLA, Southern Cal-Arkansas and other big games of the opening weekend, the article noted how excited the Vol fans were about their new quarterback and how "brilliant" McAshan was in the Spring with Fulcher's new offense and how productive he had been in his first two years under Bud Carson.

Once the game kicked off, it left a lot to be desired, especially from the Georgia Tech perspective.Tennessee led 6-3 at halftime as sophomore barefoot kicker Ricky Townsend booted a 28 and 39 yard field goal and Cam Bonifay booted a 22 yarder for the Yellow Jackets. But the second half was all Big Orange as they erupted for four touchdowns, twice scoring two times in less than two minutes. The Vols' defense, the team's hallmark over the last few years provided the spark as Holloway had a modest debut, but McAshan struggled throwing three interceptions and Tech fumbled seven times, losing five of them.The Vols had two interceptions and lost three turnovers in a sloppy game, but Tennessee's turnovers weren't as disastrous as Georgia Tech's were.

     McAshan being harrassed by the Vol defense in the 'historic' 1972 Tennessee-Tech game

Georgia Tech's lone score was set up by a Holloway interception, memorable in and of itself. Midway in the second quarter as Tennessee moved into Yellow Jacket territory, Holloway threw a poor pass into the flat that was picked off at the Tech 31 by Georgia Tech's Mike McKenzie who appeared to have clear sailing for a 69 yard interception return. To Holloway's credit, he didn't give up on the play. As he recalled later,"everyone in the stadium thought it was going to be a touchdown, but I knew if I didn't catch him I was probably going to be a defensive back the next week." And,he did. Despite having to run halfway across the field, Holloway brought McKenzie down at the Vol 6 yard line. After gaining only one yard on three plays, Tech settled for Bonifay's field goal. Years later Holloway joked about his touchdown saving tackle as the "best play of my career."

(Oddly enough McAshan had a play in his sophomore year in the Tennessee-Georgia Tech game in Atlanta that displayed his amazing talent,but in a play without offensive results like Holloway's.After struggling in most of the 1970 game, McAshan led Tech on a drive to the Vol 20.As he dropped back a Tennessee cornerback blitzed pinning McAshan's throwing arm to his side. Without hesitation, McAshan somehow,someway was able to get the ball into his left hand and tossed a perfect pass into the endzone, where it was dropped by the startled receiver.)

Tennessee took control midway in the third quarter. After an interception at the Tech 41, Tennessee back-up running back Bill Rudder scored from the 7 for UT's first td . One minute later after recovering a Tech fumble at the Yellow Jacket 16, Rudder again was in on a Vol touchdown.This time Rudder threw for a score on a halfback pass to Chip Howard, ironically one of Tennessee's four quarterbacks in 1971 and now a receiver, who made a fingertip catch in the endzone for a commanding 20-3 lead.

In the final stanza, the Vols again capitalized on Yellow Jacket turnovers. After recovering a fumble near midfield, backup quarterback Valbuena hit Emmon Love for a 20 yard touchdown pass. Less than a minute later, Tennessee intercepted McAshan for the third time setting up one more score, this time a one yard run by Haskell Stanback with :06 in the game to end the scoring in Tennessee's 34-3 win, the most lopsided in the 31 game series.

Sports Illustrated in their weekly recap of that day's college football games had the Tennessee-Georgia Tech game as one of the games they highlighted. SI mentioned the Holloway-McAshan angle with "the game was historic for another reason (the lopsided margin of victory was acknowledged): for the first time in major Southern college football both opposing quarterbacks were black." Also, as he told the media after the game, Battle's quote about Holloway's future was in SI's article,"people have yet to see some of the things Condredge Holloway can do" and according to SI,Battle was 'sounding an ominous chord for future opponents.' (The biggest event of the college football world that day was actually UCLA's stunning 20-17 win over top ranked and two time defending champion Nebraska.)

Holloway (7) in one of the many attempts by Tennessee over the years with white jerseys,    scampering vs Vanderbilt in the Vols' 30-10 win in the 1972 season finale
Battle's remarks turned out to be as clairvoyant as ominous as Holloway turned in a stellar career in football and baseball making him one of UT's most revered players even today. McAshan finished his career holding many Tech passing records ,but his career at Georgia Tech ended on a controversial note. Over time McAshan and Georgia Tech have patched things up. But 40 years ago the two 'pioneers' helped blaze a trail for what college football in the South is today.