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Must-see TV: HBO's 'Breaking the Huddle'

HBO’s Breaking the Huddle: The Integration of College Football premieres Tuesday night.

The 60-minute documentary (9 p.m., HBO) uses old black-and-white film to take a poignant look at integration as it existed in this country — both on the football field, and off.

If you’re a student of college football in need of a quick history lesson in the Civil Rights Movement of the late ’50s and early ’60s, this film is for you. It parallels these two events in a powerful manner.

Alabama football became “The Pride of South” during the turbulent ’60s, as Paul “Bear” Bryant racked up three national championships with all-white teams.

The pressure grew from both school and state leaders to keep ’Bama segregated. And arguably the two biggest icons in the state at the time were Gov. George Wallace and Bryant, although Bryant kept his distance.

Suggested one historical contributor to the story: “You don’t want to wrestle with a pig. Because you’ll get dirty and the pig will enjoy it.”

A local point of interest is the effect on integration of the Southwest Conference in the mid-’60s by SMU coach Hayden Fry of Odessa, and Beaumont native Jerry LeVias.

Every bit as much as ’Bama football was the last bastion of college-football segregation in the Deep South, LeVias became the SWC’s first black scholarship player/superstar.

Take your pick. Both terms work.

And so does this film. Breaking the Huddle will appear frequently on HBO through Jan. 12.

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