March 2, 2010
By JEFF MILLER
Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News
SMU owns a special place in the integration of college sports in Texas for its signing of Jerry LeVias as the Southwest Conference's first black scholarship football player in 1965. As Black History Month ends this weekend, it's worth noting the school's involvement in that area goes back almost two decades earlier.
As the 1947 Mustangs closed in on an SWC championship and their first berth in the Cotton Bowl Classic, coach Matty Bell stated publicly he wanted No. 3 SMU to play the highest-ranking opponent possible, No. 4 Penn State. It didn't matter to Bell that the Nittany Lions' varsity roster included two black players – two-way back Wally Triplett and end Dennie Hoggard, both juniors.
Never before had a black athlete played in a college football game in Texas against one of the state's segregated universities.
We have no objections ourselves," Bell told The Dallas Morning News. "After all, we're supposed to live in a democracy."
The trailblazing event between SMU (9-0-1) and Penn State (9-0) took place without any reported incidents and ended in a 13-13 tie before a capacity crowd of about 45,000. Triplett scored a touchdown for the game's final points, and Hoggard nearly made a winning catch on the final play.
"Penn State was responsible, along with SMU, for tearing down the bias in the '40s," said Triplett, 83, who lives in Detroit. Hoggard died in the 1980s.
SMU's Frank Payne Jr., the sophomore backup to sophomore All-America tailback Doak Walker, said the Mustangs had no issue with facing the black players.
"When it first came up, they said, 'Does anybody object?' " Payne recalled. "Nobody did, and that was the last I heard about it."
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