Turning Tide

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

Don Yeager calls it a “tipping point” – a moment that takes things to the next level.

In Alabama football, that moment came in a game against the University of Southern California in 1970.

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That pivotal game is the subject of Yeager’s latest book, “Turning of the Tide: How One Game Changed the South,” which was released last week.

He was in Selma Tuesday night to talk about the story behind the book and to answer questions at the Selma Quarterback Club’s second meeting of the season at the Carl C. Morgan Convention center.

This is the 12th book Yeager has authored.

“I’ve probably never been involved in a better story,” Yeager said. “Ironically, the game took place 36 years ago tonight – Sept. 12, 1970.”

John McKay, coach of the USC Trojans, and Paul Bear Bryant had developed a friendship.

When given the opportunity to add a game to the schedule, Bryant picked USC, a fully-integrated team with an African American starting quarterback at a time when the University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide had an all-white roster.

Yeager said that choice is one of the great mysteries of the game.

“Did Bear set this game up knowing he might lose it? Maybe you can lose a game and win the war,” he said.

The final score of the game was 42-21 in favor of USC.

“The game itself was really not that special,” Yeager said, adding that both Alabama and USC went on to play “pretty poorly” the rest of the season.

But that “tipping point” caused a significant shift in recruiting and opened the door for African-American players at Alabama.

The next Selma Quarterback Club meeting will be held Sept. 19 and features John Hannah, an All-American offensive lineman at the University of Alabama and member of the NFL Hall of Fame.