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Turning of the Tide: How One Game Changed the South [Hardcover]

By Don Yaeger (Author), Sam Cunningham (Author) & John Papadakis (Author)
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Item description for Turning of the Tide: How One Game Changed the South by Don Yaeger, Sam Cunningham & John Papadakis...

Tells the electrifying story of the game that broke down the last racial division in college football.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Center Street
Pages   272
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.9" Width: 6.2" Height: 0.8"
Weight:   0.8 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Sep 30, 2006
ISBN  1931722943  
ISBN13  9781931722940  

Availability  0 units.

More About Don Yaeger, Sam Cunningham & John Papadakis

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John Wooden is the most successful coach in NCAA history, having led the UCLA Bruins to 665 victories and ten championships in the years leading up to 1975. Since his retirement, he has become a mentor to dozens of athletes, journalists, and writers, and the author of eight books.

Don Yaeger is the author or coauthor of sixteen books, including Never Die Easy, with Walter Payton, and Running for My Life, with Warrick Dunn.

Don Yaeger currently resides in Tallahassee, in the state of Florida.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Special Groups > African American Studies
2Books > Subjects > Sports > Football (American) > College & University
3Books > Subjects > Sports > Football (American) > General
4Books > Subjects > Sports > General
5Books > Subjects > Sports > Miscellaneous > History of Sports

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Reviews - What do customers think about Turning of the Tide: How One Game Changed the South?

Turning of The Tide - Pretty good book :)  Jan 25, 2008
I thought that Turning the Tide was a very good book. It was about a game in 1970 featuring USC and Alabama. USC was a fully integrated football team and Alabama consisted of all white players. The Alabama coach, Bear Bryant, beleived in integration, but the school policies wouldn't allow it. When the teams got a chance to choose who they would be playing in the season opener, Bear stratagized. Bryant asked the coach of USC, John McKay, if the fully integrated Trojans would take on the Alabama Tide for their season opener.

When USC dominated the Tide 42-21, all of Alabama realized it was time to get some black players. The person who helped influence this choice was Sam Cunningham. A running back for USC, who ran for more than 100 yards in the game, and was African-American.

Once Alabama was integrated, they had great records in their later years, winning many national championships. This truly showed that the color of a person's skin was not a measure of talent. If a school really wanted to win, they would do whatever was neccessary. Having talented players on your team, black or white, was a great way to do this. Once the South took action and integrated, other schools in the area followed.

This made an impact on football teams everywhere, but it more greatly influenced the world as it is today. It showed all colors could act as equals, even when outsiders conceived blacks as inferior. I guess you could say Sam Cunningham could be grouped with other leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks because they all helped to create racial equality.

Football, as well as any sport, brings people together, no matter their skin color. This book was a story about how totally different people could come together and play as team. It showed the true beginning of integration in football. I really enjoyed this book and I hope you get a chance to read it.
Fight On! But not with this  Sep 16, 2007
I'm a dedicated USC fan - I just watched the Trojans drub Nebraska 49-31 in Lincoln - but I was aggravated beyond measure by TURNING OF THE TIDE: HOW ONE GAME CHANGED THE SOUTH.

By the mid-1960s, Division 1-A college football had integrated Blacks into their varsity programs except in the Deep South represented by the Southeast Conference. It wasn't until 1966 that the University of Kentucky and Vanderbilt broke the color barrier, followed by Tennessee in 1967, the University of Florida in 1969, Auburn and Mississippi State in 1970, Alabama and Georgia in 1971, and LSU and the University of Mississippi in 1972.

Alabama's varsity squad had yet to integrate in 1970, though Wilbur Jackson, the Tide's first Black signee, had been added to its freshman team that year. On September 12, at Coach Bear Bryant's invitation, Bryant's pal, Coach John McKay of USC, brought his Trojans to Birmingham, where they trounced the Tide 42-21 in front of the home crowd. All of USC's touchdowns were scored by Black players, led most famously by Sam "Bam" Cunningham's 135 rushing yards on only 12 carries.

The premise of TURNING OF THE TIDE is that this one game changed college football in the South for all time by demonstrating that Black players could excel on the gridiron and that unintegrated teams needed to cross the color barrier in order to stay competitive with the rest of the nation. Author Don Yeager, writing with Sam Cunningham and the latter's teammate, defensive linebacker John Papadakis, infers that Coach Bryant set his inferior Alabama team up for the fall knowing that a USC win would fast track fan, alumni, and school administration acceptance of much needed (and otherwise inevitable) integration. (And, of course, the SEC schools would miss out on the growing revenue from game telecasts and bowl bids if they didn't fall into line with the rest of the country on race relations. Is it all about money, you think?) Bryant, of course, never admitted to such a Machiavellian plot.

Whether you agree with the book's premise or not - perhaps the subsequent success of SEC teams, and Alabama in particular, during the 70s and 80s, with an ever growing number of Black players, would've happened anyway - the message, repeated ad nauseam, is diluted by the clumsiness of the writing and the atrociousness of the editing. It's a story that could have been more succinctly told in a 50-page pamphlet; it dragged out to an excruciating 252 pages. Midway through, I was counting page numbers until the end.

The structure of the narrative has an almost stream of consciousness flavor; it's all over the place with lots of filler. Pre-1970s segregation at SEC schools. The migration of southern Black players to the North and West. The early coaching careers of Bryant and McKay and the handshake agreement between the two coaches at Los Angeles airport that set up the Big Game. The pre-game jitters of the USC players at the prospect of being confronted by racial violence. The postgame myths. The background of the first player (Jackson) to make the Tide varsity squad. Alabama's domination of the game in the 1970s. The racial tensions on the USC teams of the period. Football in the South, mid-West and West after 1970. And, irrelevantly (though I admire the man enormously), the USC coaching career of the current incumbent, Pete Carroll. The narrative is filled with personal interviews that made this reader's eyes glaze over. Is it necessary to know how many times a particular player is elected captain of the team, described in his own words?

TURNING OF THE TIDE devotes only a couple of paragraphs to the September 12 game itself. A woefully inadequate photo section is all about USC with shots of (in order presented) the Trojan's Black quarterback Jimmy Jones, John McKay, Sam Cunningham, the 1970 USC team, Cunningham in action against the Tide's defense, John Papadakis in uniform, Cunningham in action again (against the Buckeyes?), and, finally, John McKay again as depicted in the "Crimson Tide Illustrated" on Game Day over a listing of both teams' starting line-ups. Where's the picture of Bear Bryant, the canny wizard who ostensibly set the whole scenario up, or the 1970 Tide team photo, or shots of Wilbur Jackson and John Mitchell, the first two Blacks to play for the Bear?

The underlying theme of the book is, of course, how racial fairness triumphed against prejudice. But the author and his helpers beat it into the synthetic turf to the point that I suspected an underlying agenda. At one point, they quoted human rights activist Richard Lapchick:

"(In) the Division 1-A schools ... the graduation rate for African-American male students as a whole is only 40 percent, in comparison to the 61 percent graduation rate for white male students - this gap remains scandalous at 21 percent ... Race remains a persistent academic issue, reflected in the continuing gap between graduation rates for white and African-American student-athletes. The significant gap between rates for white and African-American football players has to continue to receive scrutiny. One of the benefits of examining graduation rates is that it focuses attention on the fact that too many of our predominantly white campuses are not welcoming places for students of color, regardless of whether they are athletes."

Ignoring for the moment that the situation defined by the quote above has nothing to do with the mass team integrations in the SEC supposedly caused by the heralded Tide-USC match-up of 1970, what are the colleges and universities to do? Perhaps award willy-nilly B.S. degrees in Phys Ed to all athletes - Black, White, or Yellow - who make the various sport varsities. (And let's not forget that many college football stars choose to join the NFL after their junior year to get the immediate gratification of the big paycheck at the expense of foregoing graduation. Can you blame them?) Hey, the public elementary schools are already promoting to the next grade those who are otherwise flunking; "no student left behind" is the PC mantra of the times. It'll hurt their self-esteem, boo-hoo, poor babies. Why not extend the easy pass to public universities and colleges also? Oh, puhleeeze!

OK, I'm done with my rant against this overblown, self-important volume.

As an aside, in USC's stomp of the Cornhuskers just completed, one of the latest in a long line of Black Trojan running backs, Stafon Johnson, gained 144 yards and one TD in only 11 carries. Sam Cunningham who? Fight On!
For God's Sake, It Was Just A Game!  Apr 8, 2007
Although a hard core Bama fan, I do like and appreciate other teams. Like most fans I have favorites and I have teams I cannot stand. USC is one of those other teams I generally root for unless they are playing Bama or if their loss could benefit Bama. I especially like USC as they have had considerable success against one team I cannot stand, Notre Dame.

I do appreciate the Trojans but I cannot say I really enjoyed what happened in the 1970 game in Birmingham. My biggest memory was my dad coming down to my room and finding me in the closet -- crying. He kind of figured the game was not going well without even asking the score.

My first negative against this book is that it just droned on and on and on about the social significance of this game. Yaeger and his co-authors spend the first half hashing over southern football before 1970 and the second half of the book over the changes in southern football after 1970. But, to me, he never made a good case as to why this one particular game changed everything.

Yes, I realize there were Bama fans in 1970 who were not enthused about the athletic program being integrated. But the vast majority of Bama fans, and fans of other southern athletic programs, already knew it was going to happen. It was inevitable when black students started attending the University of Alabama in 1963. It was inevitable when high schools started to integrate in Alabama. Maybe not everybody was happy but most people were willing to accept it and hope for the best.

While trying to emphasize how this one game made a difference the authors continuously undermined their own case. Black players had made their appearances at SEC schools before 1970. Not many but a few. There had even been blacks who tried out but for various reasons left without playing. Wendell Hudson had already signed on the Tide's basketball program and was doing his part to restore respectability to Bama basketball. By the time of the USC game Bama had already signed its first black football player, Wilber Jackson.

Integration was coming. And growing up in Alabama at that time the main thing that I remembered was there was nothing to remember. Most of the venom and anger and hatred had already been used up and there was no noticeable controversy about black players wearing crimson uniforms. After a couple of sub-par seasons most Bama fans did not care what color the player was so long as he could play.

Integration of the Alabama football program would have happened when it did and how it did even if the USC - Alabama game had not been played in 1970. Yaeger is right when he says that within Alabama most people today still do not see the significance of the game. And I would maintain that the reason for not seeing the significance is there was no significance.
Couldn't put it down  Jan 10, 2007
I couldn't put this work down on the integrated USC and segregated Alabama football game in 1970 and its impact upon race relations and acceptance of integration in the south. Yes, given to hyperbole and repetition to make it book length rather than a lengthy essay--the book's thesis is sound and provocative.
Turning of the Tide  Jan 10, 2007
The book was very well prsented and gave a lot of insight of things that I was not aware of. Great book for not only the sports enthusist but the impact the Alabama vs USC had on intergration of an institution that opened up athletics for Blacks in major southern institutions. I did not think The Bear gave it a considerable thought.

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