The last seven days have been kind to Alabama Crimson Tide sports and the University overall. Not only did men’s basketball, softball, gymnastics, mens, and womens tennis teams win, but key acknowledgments were also made for three people who positively impacted the University of Alabama.
The spring football A-Day game was announced for Saturday, Apr. 16. It will be free to the public again this year.
Alabama Crimson Tide football legends Wilbur Jackson and John Mitchell will be honored at the spring game. Both men changed Alabama Football forever in the early 1970s.
Much has been written about the Crimson Tide versus USC game in Birmingham on Sept. 12, 1970, when USC spanked the all-white Crimson Tide in Legion Field. Books and documentaries have told compelling stories about the game and the lead-up to it. Much of the legend, but not all, is true.
What is true, is that the Crimson Tide’s first African American, scholarship athlete, Wilbur Jackson was in the Legion Field stands. A year later, John Mitchell became the African American player to play in a Crimson Tide game.
Mitchell was a JUCO transfer. He was slated to play for USC, until Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant’s good friend, USC coach John McKay, carelessly mentioned Mitchell to Bryant. Bryant put the friendship aside long enough to persuade Mitchell and his family to forgo Los Angeles for Tuscaloosa.
Jackson and Mitchell had outstanding Crimson Tide careers. Jackson was All-SEC in 1973 and played in the NFL for nine seasons. He was No. 1 in the NCAA in average-yards-per-rush in 1972 and 1973.
John Mitchell was a 1972 All-American. He had a short NFL playing career, followed by a few years as a college coach. Since 1991 he has been an NFL assistant coach. From 1994 until today he has been in the Pittsburgh Steelers organization, becoming one of the NFL’s most respected coaches.
The University of Alabama has heroes and legends outside the world of sports as well. In early February, The University Board of Trustees decided to honor Autherine Lucy Foster by adding her name to Graves Hall.
Trustee Emeritus, John England Jr. stated,
Dr. Autherine Lucy Foster is a continuing testament to courage, tenacity and compassion. Her bravery opened the door for students of all races at The University of Alabama to achieve their dreams. We are honored to recognize her lasting legacy.
Sixty-six years ago Lucy became the first African American student at the University of Alabama. She was not well-received by many protestors, some of whom were Alabama students. Her admission led to riotous complaints and danger to her life. To quell the unrest, she was expelled from school. Years later she returned to earn a Masters Degree.
The recent honor to Lucy was tarnished by the fact the other name on the designated building had long been Bibb Graves, a former Grand Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan. Across the state and nation, the Board of Trustees were challenged for their unwise decision to dishonor Lucy by pairing her name with a prominent member of the KKK.
The good news is the Board of Trustees made a subsequent decision to remove the name of Graves from the building. It will now be Autherine Lucy Hall.
Despite the brief, well-intentioned, but misguided action by the Trustees, appropriate action was taken. The week became a good one to be associated with the Alabama Crimson Tide.
More, recent good Alabama Crimson Tide news was the new arena announcement. Remodeling Coleman would have been a mistake.