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.