TALLADEGA, Alabama (WIAT) – In early 2021, Talladega College may have a better idea of ââwhether to bring football back after its team disbanded 80 years ago.
In May, one of Alabama’s oldest historically black colleges announced it would conduct a feasibility study to determine whether or not to revive its football program. This week, Talladega College’s public relations director Paisley Boston confirmed that the study would likely be completed by January, echoing President Lisa Long’s recent comments to Alabama Press Center.
At one point, Talladega College had one of the best football teams among historically black colleges and universities in the country. According to Edwin Bancroft Henderson’s 1939 book, âThe Negro in SportThe school started its team in 1894, at the same time as other colleges like Howard, Tuskegee and the University of Atlanta started them.
âGreat teams and spectacular players have been developed in Tuskegee, Morehouse, Fisk, Atlanta, Meharry, Talladega, Knoxville, West Virginia State and Wilberforce,â Henderson wrote.
While rivalries like Lincoln-Howard and Shaw-Union were generally in the national spotlight, Talladega College drew considerable crowds, especially against Tuskegee. In November 1921, over 3,000 people came to Rickwood Field to watch Talladega beat Tuskegee 38-7.
“Officials and regular fans have said the game is best played on the field this season, white or colored,” wrote a reporter in The New York era.
In 1920 and 1921, the Pittsburgh Courier selected Talladega College as the best black college football team in the country. Both teams were led by Jubie Bragg, who became Florida A&M University’s first football head coach.
However, World War II ultimately resulted in the demise of the Talladega College team. In âFootball at Historically Black Colleges and Universities in Texas,â Robert Christopher Fink wrote that the war, draft and economic uncertainties have sparked many concerns that have caused schools to put their programs aside. Talladega College’s last football season dates back to 1941.
âAt the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic conference, four of fifteen schools canceled their teams,â Fisk wrote. “LeMoyne, Fisk, Talladega and Fort Valley State felt that the demands of the war on manpower and educational services made football impractical.”
Al-Tony Gilmore, a National Education Association historian emeritus who has written extensively on HBCU athletics and is working with the National Museum of African American History and Culture to produce an HBCU sports exhibit, said that at their peak, teams like Talladega College were a source of great pride for the black community.
âIt created an alternative to white America’s celebration of sport,â said Gilmore, whose grandmother attended Talladega College.
While officials at the institution did not indicate what the study found, Gilmore said there are many factors to building a team, ranging from finding a conference to attend, as well as money to set up the program.
âIt costs Talladega as much to travel and play Miles College or Stillman as it does Auburn to play in Alabama,â he said.
Still, some are optimistic that bringing football back to Talladega College would be a good thing.
“The possibility of adding football would only enhance our athletic program and bring new opportunities to the campus, the community and the overall college experience of our students,” athletic director Kevin Herod said in a statement in last May.