The impact of that fateful fall day in 1970 in Birmingham, Ala., hit the black college football powers quickly and hard. Southern Cal, with six black players from the Birmingham area, had just crunched all-white Alabama, 42-21. It was the impetus for the major southern schools to forget color and recruit football players.
It also put major black college football into a tailspin from which it is only now recovering. The white schools got almost all the good black players luring them with big crowds, television appearances, bowl games and better exposure to the pro scouts. The black schools were left with second-grade athletes and academic underachievers.
When Rudy Hubbard quit as assistant coach at Ohio State to take over the helm at Florida A&M in 1974, he was appalled at what he saw:
"A lot of the players were academically unsound," he said. "I can't prove it, but I think they waited to see who couldn't qualify for a Division I school and then signed him. It's hard to work with these academic underachievers in putting in a program.
"They didn't flunk out of school, but they struggled. It was obvious they weren't going to graduate and it was also obvious they weren't going to make the quick decision we needed out on the field. Yes, you could say they were tramp athletes."
Hubbard feels he has reversed the situation at Florida A&M and, throughout the South and Southwest, coaches at other major black powers have adapted to the harder work and new recruiting techniques now needed in what was once their exclusive market.
Nevertheless, the majority of the black schools - those that cannot show potential recruits several alumni in the National Football League - are hurting and will continue to hurt.Even some of the former powers, such as Morgan State, suffered badly.
Earl Banks, the former football coach who is now athletic director at the Baltimore school, faced the competition from white schools long before his brethren in the Deep South. To Banks, Morgan'd drop in status is purely a matter of dollars and cents.
The 1976 Morgan State football program generated $45,000, far from the annual $100,000 payday of the Grambling-Morgan State rivalry of th epast. Morgan's annual budget for football scholarships is $65,000.
"The thing with us is that we don't have the amount of money in scholarships to entice them to come to school," Banks said. "And the state won't allow us to use state funds on athletics. We have a new coach, and he's working every day to get us back. It's tough."
John Merritt and Joe Gilliam Sr., his No. 1 assistant at Tennessee State, transcended integration as well as any black coaches.
"We tried to attack it in every way we knew how," said Gilliam, who has been at Tennessee State 14 years. "We began to recruit youngsters without football backgrounds, like Ed (Too Tall) Jones. He was a basketball player.
"We recruited youngsters who were not heavily recruited. And we recruited players with certain physical characteristics to train and mold them.
"That program takes five years. We redshirt the player a year. We figure to get two years out of him. It'll take us three years to train him and get his body built up."
Gilliam's favorite example of this type of player is Cleveland Elam, the 260-pound defensive tackle of the San Francisco 49ers. When Elam arrived as a freshman in Nashville, he weighed 205 pounds.
"But you could look at his girth and see you could build him up," Gilliam said. They did.
Hard work is needed most to keep up. At Prairie View A&M, the alma mater of such NFL standouts as Ken Houston and Otis Taylor, football coach Hoover Wright recalled his monopoly when he arrived 17 yers ago.
"If a good black wanted to go to (a state) school in Texas, this is where he had to go," said Wright. "When you have a corner on the market, you get a bit lazy. It's a problem for us because we got behind in the upkeep of our facilities."
Wright, in his third stint as Prairie View coach, in the same conference as Grambling, Jackson State, Alcora A&M and Southern, saw the school reach its competitive nadir with an 0-10 record in 1973.
Prairie View now recruits nationally and posted a 6-5 record last season, its first winning year in a decade. Money is another problem here, too, because Texas schools cannot use state funds for athletics.
"You've got to use student fees and gate receipts," Wright said. "And we don't have those big crowds like A&M and the University of Texas."