Friday, February 17, 2006

Football - Making Alumni Proud

Everytime I see this story I have to re-post it. It is such a great historical story of Georgia Tech student pride and it makes me honored to be an alum.

Though college and professional football today are as integrated as any big city, the gridiron wasn't always that way. Bob Grier was the only black player on Pitt's team that season, and only a few northern universities fielded integrated football squads.

It was an unwritten rule that all-white football teams from southern schools would not risk being defeated by teams with black players, which is probably what Georgia Gov. Marvin Griffin feared when Pitt took on Georgia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.

Before the game, Griffin issued a public statement as ill-informed and bizarre as the institution of segregation itself, claiming "the South stood at Armageddon," and swearing to not "make the slightest concession to the enemy in this dark and lamentable hour of need."

Grier's white teammates had already gone on record supporting their teammate, promising to skip the Sugar Bowl appearance altogether if Grier, a star fullback and linebacker, could not play.

And in one of the more inspiring and unexpected moments of the whole civil rights era, Grier watched as thousands of white students at Georgia Tech took up his cause. In the days before the game, they staged protest marches in support of Grier, burning Griffin in effigy and at one point nearly storming his residence before being turned away by Georgia National Guardsmen.

"It was incredible to see all this support and when we finally went down to play, the white players from Georgia Tech let me stay with them because the hotels where the visiting teams stayed didn't allow blacks. I'll never forget how nice people were to me," said Grier, who served in the Air Force before returning to Pittsburgh in 1966.

Though Pitt lost the 1956 Sugar Bowl because of a controversial pass interference call against Grier, a look at any college football roster today shows that it was Grier and his teammates who really won that day.

So while we're all whining and complaining about how we can't run a motion offense in the half-court set, let's remember our brothers and how they were really making a difference.