— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) July 7, 2014
Former USC football and current Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll certainly headlines the Trojans’ 2015 athletic Hall of Fame class. One of only three head coaches ever to win both a college football and Super Bowl championship, Carroll has a significant piece of gridiron history.
But fellow Trojans football great and 2015 Hall of Fame inductee Jimmy Jones contributed to the sport’s history in his own meaningful way. The quarterback Jones led USC into Legion Field on Sept. 12, 1970, to face the Alabama Crimson Tide team, coached by legend Bear Bryant.
USC routed Alabama, 42-21, but Jones and his teammates did so much more.
“Sam Cunningham did more to integrate Alabama in 60 minutes that night than Martin Luther King had accomplished in 20 years,” former Alabama assistant coach Jerry Claiborne said, per the Los Angeles Times‘ 30-year anniversary feature on the historic game.
Jones and Cunningham powered USC’s all-black backfield. Cunningham rushed for two touchdowns that day, and Jones threw a scoring strike to running back Clarence Davis.
The drubbing Jones helped engineer was not only significant because Bryant fielded an all-white team; deeper meaning can be taken from the location.
Historical context might be different had the Crimson Tide visited Los Angeles. But in 1970, Birmingham was just seven years removed from one of the milestone moments in the Civil Rights Movement.
Dr. Martin Luther King led peaceful protests against segregation laws in the city. For their efforts, protesters were attacked with police dogs and fire hoses, at the direction of police chief Bull Connor.
“I don’t think any of us knew at the time how important the game was historically. The major thing was, we won the football game. For Americans to see that we accomplished this in the deep South, where blacks have been mistreated for a long time, was a major statement.”
With discussion of possible USC-Alabama meeting in the near-future, the 1970 USC-Alabama game has a renewed place in the college football spotlight.
And with Jimmy Jones set to be inducted into the USC Hall of Fame alongside Pete Carroll, Jones’ place in history should command some much-deserved attention.