As many Spartan football fans know, former Michigan State Spartans Head Coach Hugh “Duffy” Daugherty was an instrumental figure in integrating the sport of college football. The Hall of Fame and four-time national championship-winning coach was the head man at MSU from 1954-1972, and oversaw one of the greatest eras, if not the greatest, in Michigan State football history. He did so while spearheading what was dubbed “The Underground Railroad” recruiting Black student-athletes out of the south where they were not allowed to play for major state schools.
Among the many famous players Daugherty recruited were Bubba Smith, Clint Jones, George Webster, and Gene Washington. Those four were all among the 1966 team that played Notre Dame in the infamous 10-10 tie, were all Black athletes recruited by Duffy, and are the only players to be drafted from the same team in the first eight off the board in an NFL Draft. That 1966 team, and so many other athletes during Duffy’s tenure, represent a special moment for both MSU football and the sport as a whole for so many reasons.
Among the many stories to be told includes that of Gene Washington. For Spartan fans, we can all tune into the Big Ten Network tonight to finally hear some of these stories courtesy of Maya Washington, Gene’s daughter. Ms. Washington has produced the documentary “Through the Banks of the Red Cedar.” It’s a documentary that tells of the trials and tribulations student-athletes like her father faced growing up and the opportunity Duffy Daugherty provided these talented individuals along with the success they achieved.
I had the privilege to watch the film in-person in Silver Spring, Maryland in 2018 and highly recommend either watching it tonight or setting your DVR/TiVo/etc. to record it so you can watch when able. For any Spartan fan, it is can’t miss film. For a window into the past many individuals like myself were not alive for, it is also a stark look at the reality of life in the United States at the time. Finally, it is also a story about football at Michigan State during one of its best eras and about some of its best football players in history. If you have time before it airs tonight, I would also encourage you to read the transcript or listen to the podcast interview Corn Nation had with Maya Washington about the film.
How To Watch
Date: Tuesday, Nov. 10 2020
Time: 8:00 PM ET
TV/Web/Mobile: Big Ten Network/FOX Sports app
Full Big Ten Network Press Release
Big Ten Network Airing Documentary About Integration of College Football
Running Water Entertainment’s “Through the Banks of the Red Cedar” will debut on Big Ten Network November 10th
MINNEAPOLIS, Oct. 27, 2020 — “Through the Banks of the Red Cedar” is a film about the first fully integrated college football team in America. Big Ten Network will air the award-winning film that highlights Michigan State University head football coach Duffy Daugherty’s innovative recruitment strategy: scouting the best Black football talent from the Jim Crow South to build a powerhouse football program that looked demographically closer to the teams we see on the field today than any other historically white institution in the 1960s. It was an unprecedented move that changed the sport of football and opened doors for athletes of all ethnic backgrounds today.
With the support of Michigan State University President John A. Hannah, Duffy Daugherty used segregation to his advantage in what sports writers have deemed the Underground Railroad of college football from the 1940s-1960s. It was a game-changing approach to recruiting that paid off for the Spartans at the peak of the Civil Rights Movement. The 1965 Spartans made an appearance in the Rose Bowl after an undefeated season, and the undefeated 1966 team played in the ‘Game of the Century’ against Notre Dame, which famously ended in a 10-10 tie. Daugherty’s Spartans won back-to-back Big Ten titles and were named National Champions two years in a row.
“Through the Banks of the Red Cedar” was truly a passion project for filmmaker Maya Washington. Her father, former Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Gene Washington, was recruited from La Porte, Texas, to play football for the Spartans on a track scholarship in 1963. Gene played alongside fellow College Football Hall of Famers Bubba Smith, George Webster, and Clinton Jones on the highly decorated 1965 and 1966 MSU football teams. They made history when all four Spartans were drafted in the first-round, within the top 8 picks, in the 1967 Draft.
“Making this film was not only an opportunity to illuminate the struggles that Black athletes in America faced in the ‘60s, it was also a journey to better appreciate the sacrifices my dad and so many others made for the sport. Anything Black athletes have achieved today is on the shoulders of the early pioneers from my dad’s generation and before,” said Maya Washington. “The impact that my father and his teammates had at Michigan State, and later with the Vikings, still lives on today.”
“The Michigan State football teams of the 1960s brought together individuals from different races to win National Championships. It’s something we take for granted today, but it was a groundbreaking strategy that has permanently changed college football,” said MSU athletic director Bill Beekman. “We’ve shown ‘Through the Banks of the Red Cedar’ to our team and used it to launch important discussions about race, both in sports and beyond. I’d encourage all football fans to watch this important film, not only to learn about our important history and the men who took a risk to change football, but also to spark further thought about race in America today.”
The award-winning film has been making its way through the festival circuit, first premiering at the Detroit Free Press Freep Film Festival, and it has been a go-to for universities and scholarly communities since 2018 as a catalyst for intergenerational conversations about race and sports. The Big Ten Network broadcast premiere of this film comes at a time when families in America are looking for ways to think deeply about racial justice and consider how what happened 50 years ago is still relevant today.
“The Big Ten Network is honored to present the broadcast premiere of ‘Through the Banks of the Red Cedar,’” said Bill Friedman, Senior Coordinating Producer of B1G Network Originals. “The story of Gene Washington and his trailblazing Michigan State teammates in the mid-1960’s is inspiring, and one that all fans of Big Ten football should know and appreciate. Their courage and unbreakable bond changed both the sport and society.”
Big Ten Network will debut “Through the Banks of the Red Cedar” on November 10 at 8:00 p.m. EST. The Network plans to air the film two more times before the end of 2020.