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The University of Alabama

Author Explains What UA’s Gridiron Success Means for the South

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — An old joke says college football fans want a university that its football team can be proud of. But things are different at The University of Alabama: there have been times, a historian said, when the success of the Crimson Tide really has been a touchstone for those in the South who felt downtrodden or overlooked.

The University’s historical (and current) achievements on the gridiron are the subject of a talk by Dr. Randy Roberts, an American historian. “Five Reasons Why Alabama Football Matters to History” explores the Crimson Tide’s success during bleak economic and political climates in the South, and why those on-the-field victories were so important to Southern culture.

“It’s not as easy to understand now, but—especially in the 1920s—Alabama really was ‘Dixie’s football pride,’” said Roberts, who serves as distinguished professor of history at Purdue University. “That was a period of time where people in the South felt marginalized and looked down upon. The fact that Alabama was the best team in the country was looked at as vindication for the South.”

The talk is at 6 p.m. in room 205 of the Gorgas Library on Nov. 7—two days before the top-ranked Tide takes on LSU.

Roberts’ talk is in support of his latest book, “Rising Tide: Bear Bryant, Joe Namath, and Dixie’s Last Quarter,” a look at the impressive run of the Crimson Tide through the turbulent climate of the 1960s.

“The book explores what football meant to Alabama and the South in general in a very difficult time, when so much of the South felt under attack,” Roberts said. “It also explores the relationship between Namath and Bryant, and the difficulties each man faced.”

Roberts says his work “puts popular culture into the context of history.” The volume on the Tide took about three years to put together, and it is published by Twelve, a division of Hachette Book Group.

“We’re really happy to have Dr. Roberts come and talk about his book,” said UA’s Dr. Joshua Rothman, director of the Frances S. Summersell Center for the Study of the South. “College football, of course, provides a great deal of insight into the culture and history of the South, and Dr. Roberts has a history of writing excellent books about sports.”

Roberts has written multiple books about boxing and football, as well as a biography of John Wayne. He will be signing copies of his book on the Quad during the tailgate prior to the LSU game.

His appearance is sponsored by the Summersell Center for the Study of the South and co-sponsored by the department of American studies.

UA’s Summersell Center for the Study of the South is part of the College of Arts and Sciences, the University’s largest division and the largest liberal arts college in the state. Students from the College have won numerous national awards including Rhodes Scholarships, Goldwater Scholarships, Truman Scholarships and memberships on the USA Today Academic All American Team.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.