History on the line for USC and Alabama

first_imgThis upcoming Saturday the Trojan football team will face its most significant litmus test in years in Arlington, Texas. Opening up against the Alabama Crimson Tide, USC has a chance to see how they measure up with the best of the best.Tal Volk | Daily TrojanTides of change · A football game between USC and Alabama in 1970 was pivotal in the desegregation of the Alabama football team. Now, one of the biggest controversies facing college football players is compensation.Twelve years ago, USC was in Alabama’s position. Coming off of a national title, they started the season against Virginia Tech at another NFL stadium. USC beat Virginia Tech in a closely fought battle. Though the Hokies lost, their valiant effort set the stage for a successful 10-win season and a Sugar Bowl appearance.While no Trojan fan is looking for moral victories against Alabama, the game offers a template for success, win or lose. With that being said, USC is certainly more talented than that Virginia Tech team and has the ability to beat Alabama. With strong line play on both sides of the ball, USC can win on Saturday.It seems the best way to beat the Crimson Tide is to turn the game into a shootout with exceptional performances from a quarterback or tailback. Ole Miss, Oklahoma and Ohio State have all demonstrated the controlled and measured game plan it takes to outscore the imposing Tide.It will be a tall task for redshirt junior quarterback Max Browne in his debut as a starter, just as facing off against Auburn was for former Heisman trophy winner Matt Leinart. With a stellar offensive line and a stable of great running backs and receivers, it’s possible that Browne can recreate history 12 years later and beat another excellent SEC foe.While this game is a national headline of two storied programs facing off in the newly minted cathedral of football, its implications will probably be limited to the college football landscape. This was not the case 46 years ago, when USC faced off against the Tide in Alabama in 1970. That game reverberated well beyond the confines of the gridiron, catalyzing a monumental shift in race relations for the Alabama football team.In that game, USC brought an all-black starting backfield into Alabama and pummeled the all-white Tide team, winning 42-21. Led by fullback Sam “Bam” Cunningham, the Trojans were too big and too fast for the Crimson Tide. Many attribute that game as the seminal moment and tipping point for coach Paul “Bear” Bryant of Alabama integrating his football team.In Alabama, this was a monumental step for race relations. In a place where football is a religion to many, such a significant shift transcended the sport and echoed across the social stratosphere.Last semester, I had the pleasure of watching the documentary that chronicles this event in Professor Jeff Fellenzer’s Sports, Business and Media course. In addition, we also heard from some of the key figures in that game: Cunningham, as well as former linebacker John Papadakis. I was stunned and amazed by the sheer magnitude of impact that one game had on an entire culture.Sitting in that class, I also thought about how this year’s game could have been a platform for players to initiate progress in a different realm. While not nearly as pernicious or widespread as segregation, the exploitation of college football players is a serious issue.Last year, sports agent and lawyer Donald Yee, wrote an op-ed before the college football championship. He suggested that if players were to boycott the game, they could instigate cascading effects of social and economic change. He even referenced the 1970 game between USC and Alabama as evidence of the power sports have to accelerate progress in society.Obviously, his advice was not implemented before that game, nor will a boycott probably take place on Saturday. The incentives are not just there for the majority of players who are fringe NFL prospects at best. There are too many tangible immediate reasons not to boycott, with potential remote benefits too far in the future for players to justify such a move.While a game like Saturday’s, and many in the upcoming future, provides the perfect platform for such a courageous act, boycotting would deprive many players of an opportunity for national exposure.I’m uncertain about a definitive solution to fix this exploitation of college football players. I’m not solely talking about college sports as a whole, or even including basketball. Football alone generates millions of dollars for cable networks, conferences, schools and, of course, the NCAA. Players put their bodies and futures on the line for entertainment and don’t even receive a fraction of the proceeds. I don’t have the solution, but if you get enough of the brightest minds in the sport together, I’m sure something can be worked out.I understand the need for amateurism in some sports, but NCAA football is not an amateur sport. If I was a star player at USC and generating millions of dollars for the school, I would be irate that I didn’t receive monetary compensation. A scholarship and stipend is great, but there needs to be more.It probably won’t be Saturday, but sometime soon, a player or players will take the brave stand to sacrifice for the future of their sport. I don’t think I could do it if I was a player, but there are those out there with the conviction and fortitude to bring awareness and scrutiny toward this issue. Much like how the Missouri football team last year served as the tipping point for change, so too can a team ruin a national broadcast and hit the bottom line of the networks and the conferences.This college football season, I hope for two things: For USC to beat Alabama and start a run toward the playoff and for someone or some team to catalyze a new progressive era. It may not change social institutions like the USC-Alabama game did 46 years ago, but such an action would have a profound impact and ripple across the college football landscape for years to come.Jake Davidson is a senior majoring in accounting. His column, “Davidson’s Direction,” runs Mondays.last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *