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The Missing Ring: How Bear Bryant and the 1966 Alabama Crimson Tide Were Denied College Football's Most Elusive Prize Hardcover – August 22, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

During the turbulent battles over issues such as civil rights and Vietnam in the mid-1960s, the University of Alabama's Crimson Tide football team, led by legendary coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, had its own cause—becoming the first team in modern college history to win the national championship for three straight years. In this solid if somewhat overlong study of the Tide's quest, Dunnavant expands upon his earlier Bryant biography, Coach, to explore how national politics and collegiate sports inevitably collided. While the bulk of the book delivers insightful profiles of the team's working-class players and fast-paced looks at the team's unbeaten season, it also convincingly argues that Alabama's image as reflecting "establishment America" was skewed by "the poisonous climate" of Gov. George Wallace's segregationist policies. But in a provocative account of a late-season meeting with Notre Dame, Dunnavant names his story's true villains: Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian, who, as Dunnavant sees it, played for a tie, sitting "on the ball to avoid a turnover" instead of playing to win—"the most cynical act in college football history"—and the sportswriters who voted "media darling" Notre Dame the national champion over a team from "a state seen by many Americans as a national pariah." (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

This book fortunately is more than its title would imply, being a deeper, broader portrait of the celebrated but flawed University of Alabama football teams coached by Bear Bryant in the mid-1960s. While author Dunnavant, who has already written a full biography of Bryant (Coach, 1996), ostensibly focuses on that 1967 team--a group that was undefeated but was, controversially, segregated--he reveals the sheer willfulness that marked Bryant's teams over the coach's 25-season tenure. The author also places that 1967 season into rich historical context, which saw the state of Alabama and its governor, George Wallace, vainly leading the fight nationwide against civil rights. Dunnavant too readily excuses Bryant, who abided the segregation, for his role in that system. But he makes clear that segregation probably cost the undefeated Tide the 1967 championship to Notre Dame, which tied one game that season by letting the clock run out rather than having the valor to go for the win. Alan Moores
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1st edition (August 22, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312336837
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312336837
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.3 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,512,159 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Mike Hall on September 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I am a member of the 1966 Alabama football team.

I strongly recommend reading this book. The author is to be commended for his accurate account of the factual information presented. For me, the book iterated 40 year old memories of the '66 season in a manner that seemed as though they happened yesterday. Once I started reading the book, I could not put it down.

Keith Dunnavant's research and presentation of the story is complete and impeccable. He brought a ball club from a FOOTNOTE to the SPOTLIGHT!!

Mike Hall
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. SHARP on May 30, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book's subtitle is "How Bear Bryant and the 1966 Alabama Crimson Tide Were Denied College Football's Most Elusive Prize." The Tide were the defending back-to-back national champions in 1966. They were ranked first in both polls as the season began. They finished the season undefeated and untied - yet managed to end up ranked third behind Notre Dame and Michigan State, who had played each other to a 10-10 tie in the regular season. This book was intended to explore why that took place.

Dunnavant posits two reasons. The first is the most common argument: Notre Dame has been the most popular team in the country since the Jazz Age and routinely places higher in the polls than schools with superior records because they are the darlings of predominantly northern and eastern sportswriters. Irish head coach Ara Parseghian decided to play to preserve the tie against MSU - to sit on the ball with two minutes left to play - rather than fight for the win. His detractors claim this is because he knew they would be treated well by the pollsters in spite of the decision. He was right.

The second argument is that the season occured during the height of the civil rights movement and there was a media bias against the still-segregated Crimson Tide team and against the entire state of Alabama, the bastion of Bull Connor and George Wallace. He believes the team fell from first place simply because of politics even before Parseghian's Machiavellian move.

Virtually no one who wears Crimson will argue with the first point. Many who were not alive at the time might not have considered the second but it makes sense given the climate of 1966. All that could have been covered in a book half this size.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By John Matlock on November 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
We like to think of sports as being something pure and simple, but of course it isn't. From Hitler determined to show the world the superiority of the Aryan race (and being foiled by Jessee Owens) to the boycotts of the Summer Olympics by the United States in 1980 and by the Soviet Union in 1984, real world politics has intruded into the sports arena.

In this book Mr. Dunnavant writes about the 1966 Alabama Crimson Tide coached by Bear Bryant and having arguably the best football team in the country. Despite having an undefeated season, they were not awarded the national championship.

The reason, according to Mr. Dunnavant was that the university got caught up in the integration battles of the time. Alabama had an all-white segregated team. And they were denied the championship. True? Quite possibly. Fair? Depends upon your point of view. You have to ask, if you were an African-American how would you have voted. And I note that in the pictures in the middle of the book there is not one of George Wallace refusing to admit negro (the word at the time) students to the university.

A fascinating book looking at that time in our history through a different set of glasses.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Gilbert Huey on September 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Does a #3 ranked football team from 40 years ago deserve an entire book devoted to it? Absolutely! Any college football fan who is old enough to remember the 1966 season knows the story. Paul Bear Bryant's Crimson Tide of Alabama had won National Championships in 1961, 1964, and 1965. The Tide entered the 1966 season with the chance to become the first college football team to win three consecutive National Championships. This was not to be, however. By late October Notre Dame was ranked #1 and Michigan State #2. The two teams played to a 10-10 tie on November 19, 1966, in what was billed as the game of the century. The tie delighted Alabama fans, but amazingly neither team dropped in the polls. Notre Dame and Michigan State finished their seasons with no loses and one tie. Meanwhile, Alabama, led by quarterback Kenny Stabler and a defense that was almost impossible to score upon, completed a perfect season and defeated a good Nebraska team 34-7 in the Sugar Bowl. In the end Alabama's perfect record (the only perfect record that year) was not good enough. Alabama placed third in the final polls.

The Missing Ring is the story of the 1966 season, the year that haunts Alabama fans to this day. The book is not a diatribe about not winning a championship. Author Keith Dunnavant tells us how Coach Bryant molded a group of young men into one of the most dominant college football teams of all time. Along the way Dunnavant exposes some truths that will cause the politically correct crowd to squirm uncomfortably in their faux-leather recliners. Alabama was not awarded the National Championship for a variety of reasons, none of which had anything to do with football.

We will never know if Notre Dame and Michigan State were better teams than Alabama.
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