Photo: Duffy Daugherty with (L-R) Clinton Jones, Bob Apisa, Bubba Smith, Gene Washington and George Webster before the 1966 national championship season.
The late Duffy Daugherty, perched above Spartan Stadium for Michigan State’s spring game Saturday, must be chortling over news the Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference are upset with Big Ten satellite camps in the South.
Daugherty, of course, founded the original satellite camps 50-plus years ago with his famed Underground Railroad.
Texas didn’t want Houston-area black players Bubba Smith and Gene Washington for the color of their skin, so the progressive Daugherty brought them north to East Lansing. The same was true of George Webster of Anderson, S.C., when Clemson and South Carolina shunned him. Jimmy Raye of Fayetteville, N.C., was ignored by his home-state schools, North Carolina, N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest.
They were among the 44 passengers he brought north to East Lansing from 1959 through his final season, 1972. Daugherty's efforts recruiting the South are dismissed by some as merely about winning games with the seven southern African-American players that earned All-America or Big Ten honors. Most of the 44 players weren't stars, but they were grateful for the opportunity to escape the South.
The Underground Railroad evolved from Daugherty being invited to speak at clinics in the South in the late 1950s and his displeasure with learning black high school coach couldn’t attend. He subsequently staged his own clinics for their benefit.
Daugherty’s motivation was the coaching fraternity; he loved clinics. Roy Kramer, the retired SEC Commissioner as well as former Vanderbilt athletic director and Central Michigan head coach, commented on Daugherty's respect for high school coaches when he received the Duffy Daugherty Memorial Award in 2013. They knew each other when Kramer coached at East Lansing High in the early 1960s.
But an unexpected byproduct of Daugherty's southern clinics was black high school coaches started to send him players. The Underground Railroad was born.
As the 1960s progressed, Daugherty brought along combinations of assistant coaches to his southern clinics – Hank Bullough, Vince Carillot, Danny Boisture and Cal Stoll. One year Bullough and Boisture put on a three-day clinic at Alcorn A&M, a historically black college (now Alcorn State University) in Lorman, MS.
“Duffy decided if we’re going to be down there for the clinics we might as well be recruiting,” Bullough said. “In those days, the No. 1 guy for a high school kid was his coach. They listened to their high school coach about picking a college a heck of a lot. Duffy was a good with a lot of high school coaches because he treated them fair at clinics. That’s the type of person Duffy was. He wasn??t doing it just to gain an advantage. He wanted to give those clinics for the black coaches. He was a unique guy. Duffy was way ahead of people.”
Daugherty’s most prominent black stars from the South have transcended time.
Smith, Webster and Washington are College Football Hall of Famers. Clinton Jones of Cleveland, Ohio, joins them in December, making Michigan State only the third school with four Hall of Famers from the same class and the first black foursome.
Raye was the South’s first black quarterback to win a national title, leading the Spartans in 1966 when unwritten prejudices otherwise barred blacks from positions of intelligence and leadership. Raye was later a black pioneer college and NFL assistant coach a combined 41 years. He has been a mentor to many, including Tony Dungy. He’s now an NFL Senior Advisor.
Other Big Ten schools had a limited number of black players, most notably Murray Warmouth at Minnesota. Only Daugherty had contacts throughout the South and accepted enough players for a fully integrated roster. The only southern states not represented on his teams were Alabama, Tennessee and Maryland.
There has been a myth that Alabama coach Bear Bryant sent Daugherty players. That myth is debunked in "Raye of Light." Not only were none of MIchigan State's players from Alabama, Bryant was proven in court depositions to have little to no knowledge of black players in his state. He had been sued by Alabama's Afro-American Student Association for not recruiting black athletes to a student body that was integrated. Bryant once said he couldn't find any black athletes qualified academically and athletically.
When Daugherty crossed the Mason-Dixon Line to raid talent, schools in the SEC, ACC and the defunct Southwest Conference had yet to join the 20th century. SEC schools resisted integration the longest, with Daugherty’s final recruiting class in 1972 featuring more black freshmen from the South (six) than entire SEC varsity rosters in the early 70s. Alabama’s first integrated roster had only two black players in 1971. Georgia (three), LSU (one) and Mississippi (one) didn’t dress a varsity black player until 1972.
But times, economically and culturally, changed.
The population has shifted from the Midwest to the South. Now SEC rosters are dominated by black athletes from the South’s deep talent pool. Such changes forced Big Ten schools from the 1970s forward to fish Southern waters.
But Penn State head coach James Franklin, who left Vanderbilt of the SEC for State College, made an issue of satellite camps when he and his staff worked southern camps last year. New Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh is doing the same this year.
Adding to the ire in the South – where Big Ten bashing was a runaway sport until Ohio State won the national title last year -- is the fact that SEC and ACC schools are not permitted by rules to take part in such satellite camps.
However, it should be noted satellite camps and more extensive traveling camps are nothing new.
Former Michigan head coach Brady Hoke used traveling camps at Ball State and San Diego State to find talent and build his reputation for turning around programs that landed his dream job with the Wolverines from 2011 to 2014. His Ball State coaches traveled around the Indiana region and his SDSU coaches up and down California’s coast and through the San Joaquin Valley.
At San Diego State, he found virtually unknown quarterback Tyler Bray as a rising senior in the summer of 2009 from the San Joaquin’s isolated town of Kingsburg. Bray committed to the Aztecs before he shot up to a Rivals 4-star prospect.
When Rivals 4-star Jesse Scroggins picked USC over Tennessee, then-Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin flipped Bray from SDSU to the Volunteers. Bray also enrolled early, although ultimately Kiffin never coached him. Kiffin took the USC job, leaving the Californian behind in Knoxville.
But Kiffin’s recruiting ethics didn’t bother SEC folks then as much as satellite camps do now.
Daugherty might also be chortling over the irony of Franklin, an African-American, stirring the pot with SEC and ACC coaches. Duffy, after all, cleared the road for recruiting black athletes as a leader in the integration of college football.
Adding to the poetic justice is Raye, the quarterback Daugherty recruited from the South in 1964 and assistant coach he hired in 1971, helped pave the way for black coaches such as Franklin in both college and the NFL.