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Road to Roses: John Ralston and Black Football Players at Stanford

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Rose Bowl 1982

Fifty years ago on January 1, 1972, Coach John Ralston, Stanford head football coach from 1963-1971, led the football team to their second Rose Bowl win against the fourth-ranked Michigan Wolverines. This followed the extraordinary 1970 season which included a Pac-8 championship and a Rose Bowl victory over the first-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes on January 1, 1971. Much has been made of Ralston’s legendary leadership abilities which gave him the confidence to recruit, hire and mentor people who could become more successful than he was. Indeed his positive approach to life and empathetic leadership style created one of college football’s most enviable coaching trees–a key part of his legacy. Less well known is the leadership Coach Ralston exemplified in recruiting Black players without whom Stanford would never have achieved the football heights that it did. John Ralston revitalized and transformed the football culture at Stanford. How he did it is just as important as what he did. In this video we will hear from some of the players who helped change the face of Stanford football and in turn Stanford University. They will share their recollections of Coach Ralston and more importantly of their own experiences.

This program is moderated by Troy Clardy ’97. The panelists include Albert Wilburn '67, Gene Washington '69, and Hillary Shockley '72.

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Image credit: Rose Bowl, 1971. (Chuck Painter / Stanford News Service)