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South Bend Ind. vs Tuscaloosa Ala: A Historic Breakdown

12/18/2012 03:48 pm ET | Updated Feb 17, 2013

As we inch closer to the grand showdown of the BCS national championship at Sun Life Stadium in Miami on January 7th, the statistical comparisons between the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame and the Alabama Crimson Tide have been coming thick and fast.

Most college football fans by now are probably well aware that no. 2 Alabama (12-1 overall) and no. 1 ranked Notre Dame (12-0) have met six times in their highly decorated histories, but haven't locked horns since 1987; with Notre Dame having won five of those clashes, two of them coming in bowl games, including one memorable shootout (a 24-23 Irish win in the 1973 Sugar Bowl) that decided who would be crowned national champions.

Similarly, not many need to be reminded that The Crimson Tide (winner of two national championships in the last three years) will be making its fifth BCS bowl appearance and fourth in the last five seasons under head coach Nick Saban, while Notre Dame will be making its first appearance in a championship game since 1988, when they defeated the third-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers in the Fiesta Bowl to claim their 11th national title. This will be ND's 32nd postseason bowl appearance (15-16 record) and its third straight bowl appearance under head coach Brian Kelly.

It's hardly front page news either that Alabama has won 14 national championships and played in more bowl games (59, including one vacated appearance) and earned more bowl wins (33, not including one vacated bowl victory) than any school in college football history; or that Saban is 4-1 in bowl games at Alabama, his lone loss coming in the 2009 Sugar Bowl against Utah.

So most of us are all too familiar with the celebrated records of these two elite football powerhouses, but how much do we really know about their home turfs, namely Tuscaloosa Ala. and South Bend Ind?

For starters, did you know that Tuscaloosa, of all places, might have more of a connection to the Vatican than the football rich Catholic university from South Bend, Ind? According to the Birmingham News, the Mercedes-Benz has delivered to the Vatican a new Popemobile, a vehicle that was built at the German automaker's Tuscaloosa County plant. According to the article, The M-Class was produced at the Alabama factory and converted into the Popemobile at the company's Sindelfingen plant in Germany.

We all know about Alabama and Notre Dame's distinguished football credentials, but how does Tuscaloosa and South Bend stack up in terms of patriotism to their country?

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The USS Tuscaloosa (CA-37), many might not know, was a New Orleans-class heavy cruiser of the U.S. Navy, originally launched in 1934 and was one of the best-known ships of the World War II Era, serving in the Atlantic, Pacific and Artic Oceans. In 1945, she transferred to the Pacific and assisted in shore bombardment of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, coming away with seven battle stars for her service in World War II.

Three times, historic records show, Tuscaloosa served as the Presidential Flagship transporting President Franklin Roosevelt during World War II. On one voyage FDR conceived the idea of the Lend-Lease plan; on another voyage aboard the Tuscaloosa, he visited Nassau where he hosted an onboard luncheon for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the former King Edward VIII and Mrs. Wallis Simpson. The USS Tuscaloosa, after a triumphant distinguished run, was decommissioned in 1946 and scrapped in 1959.

Similarly, no one can accuse South Bend of shirking its patriotic duty in times of great peril.

The Singer Manufacturing Company in South Bend, for example, was contracted to make wooden airplane parts, ammunition crates, and wooden buoys; and by 1944 built more than 500 gas tanks for the war effort. In addition, the Studebaker automotive plant based in South Bend fulfilled a number of government military contracts during World War II, including the building of almost 65,000 airplane engines, 63 789 Wright cyclone engines for flying fortress bombers and 197, 678 heavy duty military trucks.

While South Bend and Tuscaloosa might not exactly be considered the melting pots of America for the flood of immigrants entering their cities, as compared to Boston, New York and Chicago in the 19th and early 20th centuries, both cities nonetheless consisted of a mighty and prominent mix of foreign born inhabitants during this time period.

Tuscaloosa, boasts of a number of notable immigrants which had a profound impact on their community in the 19th and 20th centuries. The most prominent among them was Bernard Friedman, originally from Budapest, Hungary who landed in Tuscaloosa, beginning in 1870, amassing $300 in real estate and $600 in personal property while building a thriving retail and wholesale operation. Friedman additionally helped organize the first national bank in Tuscaloosa, as well as the Tuscaloosa Coal, Iron, and Land Company. He was a passionate advocate for public education and was influential in establishing Tuscaloosa's public school system.

Russian born Abe Brown created Brown's Department Store in 1898, moving it to the southeast corner of University Boulevard and Greensboro Avenue in 1906. Other immigrants from Germany, included Carl Gantzhorn, editor of The Tuscaloosa Times, botanist Dr. Charles Mohr, land developer F. W. Monnish, Charles H. M. Yunker, merchant Herman Rosenau, and stonecutter William Dillman who helped construct the first locks on the Black Warrior River.

From 1870 on, South Bend contained a large Polish population. In 1901, the Polish settlement featured 11 groceries, 30 sample rooms, 15 meat markets, two bakeries, two confectioneries, eight barber shops, one clothing store, two drug stores and five tailor shops. After World War II, however, the ethnic dominance began to recede in northern Indiana. The Hungarian population had dropped to 1,987 as did the foreign-born Polish population, slipping to 2,209. The largest population increase was within the African-American community which leaped from 3,555 in 1940 to 8, 134 in 1950; and by 1960, foreign born Italians numbered 1,150. Since the 1980's, there's been a significant influx of Hispanics into the area and now claims the largest-growing population in South Bend.

Have you ever wondered exactly when the Universities of Alabama and Notre Dame unveiled their premiere institutions?

In 1827, Tuscaloosa, then the state's capital, was selected as the University of Alabama's home; and on April 18, 1831, the university swung open its doors for the first time. By May 28, 52 students had enrolled. Much like the rest of the Alabama, Tuscaloosa didn't see much fighting during the Civil War, but that didn't spare the city from being decimated. In April 1865, a week before Robert E. Lee's surrender at the Appomattox Court House, Maj. Gen. James H. Wilson's a Union cavalry laid siege to Tuscaloosa, looting much of the town, burning local industries, including the burning of the University campus, the biggest loss being the University's Rotunda (70 feet in diameter and 70 in height), which housed what was perhaps one of the finest libraries in the South. Today, only four buildings of the antebellum campus remain. In 1892, the University of Alabama's football team took to the field for the first time.

On a biting cold afternoon in 1842, Fr. Edward Sorin, a 28-year old French priest, and seven Catholic brothers first stepped foot on hallowed ground in South Bend that would become the University of Notre Dame du Lac (Our Lady of the Lake). On January 15, 1844, the University was officially chartered by the Indiana legislature; the university was later enlarged in 1866. Before establishing itself as one of the largest Catholic universities in the world, however, Notre Dame opened its doors as an orphanage to house and educate those children beyond the ages of 12 and 13. Notre Dame played its first football game against the University of Michigan in 1887.

While South Bend might have been free from the ravages of the Civil War, the university was dealt a horrific blow when on April 23, 1879, Notre Dame's main building, including its six-story dome structure built in 1865 was destroyed by fire. The fire extended to the adjacent St. Francis' Elderly Men's Home, the minim's's gymnasium, the infirmary and even the music hall. The rest of the school year was promptly cancelled. Rather than admit defeat and wallow in sorrow, Fr. Sorin simply refused to quit. Notre Dame's founder took this fire as a sign from God that something bigger needed to be built instead. The result was the building of the grand Golden Dome, the most recognizable symbol of the university today. The new building, believe it or not, was completed in time for the start of classes on September 8, 1879. Today, the Golden Dome is topped with a 19-foot tall 4,000-pound statue of Mary, the Mother of God, bringing the building to a towering height of 187 feet.

The University of Alabama's equivalent to the Golden Dome might be the Walk of Champions Plaza at the University Boulevard entrance to Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, which includes five bronze statues of Alabama football coaches. They all won national championships. They include: Wallace Wade (considered by many the greatest UA coach of them all), Frank Thomas (he played for Knute Rockne at ND), Paul W. Bryant (he played for Thomas at Alabama), Gene Stallings (he played for Bryant at Texas A&M), and Nick Saban.

At different times in their history, both Tuscaloosa and South Bend have been battered by crippling economic conditions and high unemployment.

Much like after the Civil War, Tuscaloosa suffered severe economic depression from the strong headwinds of the recession of the 1970's, particularly with the loss of large industries such as the foundry and the permanent closing of the paper mill. In addition to attempting to rebound from challenging economic conditions, Tuscaloosa was dealt yet another setback in 2011, when a massive storm struck the southeastern United States. More than 250 people were killed in Alabama, including 39 people in Tuscaloosa and the surrounding communities. Previously, much of Tuscaloosa's original structures were shattered by a ruthless tornado in the 1840's.

Slowly, however, Tuscaloosa rebounded, with the creation of a number of new light industries, including wire and screen manufacturing (Phifer) and video tape (JVC); so that by the 1990's, Tuscaloosa added lucrative new facilities such a Mercedes Benz assembly plant and their numerous suppliers, Spandex, steel (Nucor) and others. In addition, coal mining and natural gas (there are nearly 8000 coal bed methane wells in Tuscaloosa County) are major components of the local economy.

According to the most recent economic analysis, thanks to permanent fixtures like the UA, including visitors to sporting events coupled with fresh opportunities for business development, resulting from the April 27 (2011) tornado; the economy in Tuscaloosa has been injected with new life, which is expected to continue in subsequent years.

The remarkable resiliency demonstrated by inhabitants of Tuscaloosa is best summed up by Tuscaloosa resident and University of Alabama alum Jim Ezell, who told me: ``at least four times in its history, Tuscaloosa has suffered setbacks that would have destroyed or permanently crippled many communities: The loss of the state capital in 1847, the devastation from the Civil War in 1865, the loss of major industries in the 1970s, and the tornado of 2011.'' `` In every instance'', Ezells says,`` Tuscaloosa has come back stronger than before.''

Beginning with the closing of the Singer Manufacturing plant in 1955, followed by the Wilson shirt factory 1957, harsh economic times began to ripple through South Bend. The cruelest blow of all was the closing of the Studebaker automobile plant in 1963, which had employed 8,391 workers in South Bend. The last Studebaker automobile rolled off the assembly line on Friday, December 20, 1963. As a result of the plant closing, South Bend's unemployment rate soared from 2.4 percent in September 1963 to 9.1 percent in January 1964.

In recent years, a rebounding auto industry has helped sustain manufacturing payrolls in South Bend; this in addition to affordable housing, low cost of living and the University of Notre Dame's herculean efforts in attracting new business development (Notre Dame alone pumps $873 million annually into St. Joseph County)--South Bend has experienced a revitalization, though much work still needs to be done.

Though proud of its treasured history and heritage, Tuscaloosa and all of Alabama, for that matter, until well into the 20th century received national attention for all the wrong reasons, mostly dealing with its history of slavery in the antebellum south, desegregation in the 1950's and most infamously with Governor George Wallace blocking the doors of University of Alabama in 1963, in symbolic opposition to school integration imposed by the federal government.

South Bend, too, has undergone a long, checkered history of race relations.

By 1920, for example, The Ku Klux Klan had grown into a robust organization in South Bend, with a state membership numbering 240,000, making it the largest state organization in the nation. On January 1, 1924, three 20-foot crosses were burned in the middle of the city; which led to their the local charter being withdrawn in 1926 with their last act taking place on February 1928, when they burned a fiery cross in the 1100 block of Mishawaka Avenue. Other race problems in South Bend exploded during the tumultuous 1960's, when many African Americans were living near industrial centers and their poorly constructed homes began to deteriorate. When blacks tried to finder better living conditions in predominantly white neighborhoods, they were met with stiff resistance, many whites refusing to let them integrate into their neighborhoods for fear the value of their homes would plummet. In fact, only one banking institution in South Bend would reportedly support a ``fair housing'' ordinance, which would allow blacks to move into white neighborhoods.

And in the blistering summer of 1967 when race riots were breaking out from coast-to-coast; Indiana Gov. Roger D. Branigin was forced to call up 1,000 National Guardsmen to crush two consecutive nights of riots in South Bend, when angry black youths began trolling white neighborhoods throwing bricks and fire bombs and smashing windows.

On a more upbeat note, both Tuscaloosa and South Bend have a charming Marxist connection.

A young singing group, all brothers, calling themselves ``The Four Nightingales'' while touring the vaudeville circuits, performed in Tuscaloosa in 1908 or 1909. In the middle of their singing performance, they noticed a bug crawling across the stage. As if on cue, they all spontaneously stopped singing, dropped to their knees and began making bets over whether the bug was a beetle, a cockroach or a bed bug. The owner of the establishment wasn't amused by their antics and slammed the curtain down without paying them a dime. The four brothers would later be known as the Marx Brothers.

And in South Bend in 1947, Harpo Marx posed for a picture standing next to a Champion Coupe, one of Studebaker's best selling models; that very picture, by the way, can be seen today at the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend.

The University of Alabama and the University of Notre Dame can both thank some creative sports writers for coming up with their respective nicknames: The Crimson Tide and the Fighting Irish.

The name "Crimson Tide" is believed to have first been used by Hugh Roberts, former sports editor of the Birmingham Age-Herald in describing an Alabama-Auburn game played in Birmingham in 1907. Others claim Zipp Newman, former sports editor of the Birmingham News, more likely, popularized the name. And at Notre Dame, an article in a 1904 Milwaukee Sentinel refereed to Notre Dame's football team as a group of ``Fighting Irishman.'' That tag, however, never caught on until sportswriter Francis Wallace of The New York Daily News began regularly using ``Fighting Irish'' in his columns in the 1920's. According to the University of Notre Dame's home page, ``Fighting Irish'' was officially used as its nickname beginning in 1927.

And besides winning heaps of regular seasons games, bowl games, and national championships, students at the University of Alabama and the University of Notre Dame, away from the howling and loud cheers at their football stadiums, can usually be found locked in their dorm rooms or buried deep in the catacombs of the library-cracking the books.

70 percent of incoming freshmen at the University of Notre Dame were in the top five percent of their high school graduating classes, while its 98 percent retention rate between the freshman and sophomore years is among the highest in the country. In addition, Notre Dame's graduation rate of 96 percent is exceeded only by Harvard and Yale.

According to a university spokesperson, the University of Alabama students continue to win prestigious national awards. Three UA students were named Goldwater Scholars and one was named a Truman Scholar this spring, bringing UA's totals for the last 25 years to 37 Goldwater Scholars and eight Truman Scholars. The University of Alabama additionally has produced a total of 15 Rhodes Scholars and several Hollings Scholars.

The University of Alabama's fall 2012 freshman class, meanwhile, includes 239 National Merit Scholars, an increase of 32 percent over fall 2011. While 2012 rankings are not available yet, UA ranked second in the nation among public universities in the enrollment of National Merit Scholars in 2011 with 181 scholars in the freshman class.

Aside from the prestigious alumni from UA and ND, a number of high profiled personalities were either born or raised in Tuscaloosa and South Bend.

In Tuscaloosa, according to the research staff of the Tuscaloosa Public Library, they include: Dinah Washington, jazz singer, born Ruth Lee Jones in 1924; Deontay Wilder, the only American boxer to win a medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Willie D. Burton, Academy Winning sound producer for films such as ``Shawshank Redemption'' and ``The Green Mile'', DeWayne "D.J." White, professional basketball player drafted with the 29th pick of the 2008 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons and now playing with the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association; John Stallworth, Hall of Fame receiver with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Coleman Alexander Young, Former Mayor of Detroit, George Foster, former slugger with the Cincinnati Reds, Lurleen Wallace, former Governor of Alabama, and Robert Bentley, current governor of Alabama.

Famous personalities from South Bend, include: Schuyler Colfax who served as Speaker of the House during the Abraham Lincoln administration and was Vice-President under Ulysses S. Grant; Chad Everett (real name Raymon Lee Cramton) portrayed Dr. Joe Gannon on the TV series Medical Center, Sydney Pollack directed more than 21 films, including ``Jeremiah Johnson'', ``The Way We Were'', ``Three Days of the Condor'', ``Absence of Malice''; legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden; actress Vivica A. Fox, who appeared in the films ``Independence Day'', ``Set It Off'', ``Soul Food'', ``Why Do Fools Fall in Love'', and ``Kill Bill Volume 1'' ; NASCAR driver Ryan Newman, Nathan Gunn - award-winning baritone opera singer; John Gruden, former NFL head coach and now ESPN football analyst (attended high school in SB); and Alexander Toradze - pianist.

So if anyone was thinking of visiting Tuscaloosa and South Bend, is there anything worth seeing other than their outstanding football teams and stunning college campuses? The answer is a resounding yes.

According to Susan C. West, CEO of the Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports Commission, ``our art and culture is also one of our most valuable assets; we have numerous boutique galleries, including one of the largest American Art collections in the world.'' In addition, the Tuscaloosa Riverfront showcases the Tuscaloosa Amphitheatre, only a short walk to the downtown entertainment district. Other attractions include the historic architecture of the Jemison Mansion, the mellifluous sounds of the Tuscaloosa Symphony, to the sumptuous taste of tangy BBQ washed down with ice-cold sweet tea. The Kentuck Festival of the Arts, meanwhile, takes place in Northport, Alabama right across the Black Warrior River from Tuscaloosa. For the past 30 years it has featured the best in Southern art, craft and contemporary Folk Art, attracting over 30,000 people annually to the two day event.

If by some bizarre set of circumstances, you never as much as step foot on the Notre Dame campus while visiting South Bend, you won't be disappointed with the diverse mix of other forms of entertainment, beginning with the Potawatomi Zoo, originally opened in 1902 and is Indiana's oldest. There's also the Studebaker National Museum collection, which includes an 1835 Conestoga Wagon, personally made by the Studebaker family, the last vehicle produced by the Studebaker Corp, the 1966 Cruiser, and on loan to the Museum, the 1935 Commander Roadster, which was used in the 1985 motion picture, ``The Color Purple. ''

And if you're a baseball fan, you'll want to stop by the North Central Indiana Center for History, which houses artifacts from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League; the league existed from 1943 to 1954. The South Bend Blue Sox was only one of two teams (the other was the Rockford Ill. Peaches) that stayed in their home cities for the entire 12 years they were in existence.

Other attractions in South Bend include: The Morris Performing Arts Center, a spectacular historic landmark, originally built in 1921 as a vaudeville house. Through the 20s, 30s and 40s, guest artists such as Amos and Andy, Houdini, Imogene Coco and Ol' Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra performed there; it also hosted the world premiere of ``Knute Rockne: All-American'' starring Ronald Reagan, Rudy Vallee, Bob Hope and Kate Smith in 1940. The theatre was renovated in the late 1990s and opened in 2000 with a sparkling new, state-of-the-art stage, which now showcases national Broadway tours, concerts, symphony, comedians, dance and family shows.

Not to be overlooked either is that South Bend is the home of the nationally acclaimed College Football Hall of Fame and the HealthWorks! Kids' Museum, a one-of-a-kind place that merges the best of both worlds from children's museums and health education centers. And for your chic shopping needs, Mishawaka's Grape Road/Main Street shopping corridor is the second largest retail center in the state with more than 120 stores to explore.

-Bill Lucey
WPLucey@gmail.com
December 18, 2012


Tuscaloosa By the Numbers:

6 percent: Foreign born population (2011)

37 percent were naturalized U.S. citizens of the foreign born population, and 48 percent entered the country before the year 2000. 52 percent of the foreign born entered the country in 2000 or later.

$34,724: Median income of households in Tuscaloosa city, Alabama

26 percent of households had income below $15,000 a year and 5 percent had income over $150,000 or more.

28 percent: Residents in poverty (2011).

41 percent of related children under 18 were below the poverty level, compared with 7 percent of people 65 years old and over.

20 percent of all families and 46 percent of families with a female householder and no husband present had incomes below the poverty level.

92,000: Total population (2011) - 51,000 (55 percent) females and 41,000 (45 percent) males.

26.6 years: Median age.

16 percent of the population was under 18 years and 11 percent was 65 years and older.

$1,240: Median monthly housing costs for mortgaged owners nonmortgaged owners $399, and renters.

$774. 47 percent of owners with mortgages, 19 percent of owners without mortgages, and 59 percent of renters in Tuscaloosa city, Alabama spent 30 percent or more of household income on housing.

South Bend By the Numbers:

7 percent: Foreign born. Of the foreign born population, 38 percent were naturalized U.S. citizens, and 68 percent entered the country before the year 2000. 33 percent of the foreign born entered the country in 2000 or later.

Among people at least five years old living in South Bend city, Indiana in 2011, 12 percent spoke a language other than English at home. Of those speaking a language other than English at home, 70 percent spoke Spanish and 30 percent spoke some other language; 38 percent reported that they did not speak English "very well."

$31,927: Median income of households in South Bend city, Indiana.

23 percent of households had income below $15,000 a year and 3 percent had income over $150,000 or more.

33 percent of people were in poverty (2011) 53 percent of related children under 18 were below the poverty level, compared with 11 percent of people 65 years old and over.

27 percent of all families and 54 percent of families with a female householder and no husband present had incomes below the poverty level.

101,000: Total Population (2011), South Bend city, Indiana - 52,000 (51 percent) females and 50,000 (49 percent) males.

35.3 years: Median age 26 percent of the population was under 18 years and 14 percent was 65 years and older.

For people reporting one race alone, 65 percent were White; 29 percent were Black or African American; less than 0.5 percent were American Indian and Alaska Native; 1 percent were Asian; less than 0.5 percent were Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, and 4 percent were some other race.

$858: Median monthly housing costs for mortgaged owners, nonmortgaged owners $313, and renters.

$674. 29 percent of owners with mortgages, 14 percent of owners without mortgages, and 64 percent of renters in South Bend city, Indiana spent 30 percent or more of household income on housing.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau: American Fact Finder

This article was cross-posted from The Morning Delivery