1963: Bear Bryant Sues the Post for a Football-Violence Article

In 1962, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s sports editor was growing concerned about the rising level of violence in college sports. In response, he wrote “College Football Is Going Berserk” for the Post. Its publication was the beginning of a long and costly battle for the magazine.

After citing the number of deaths that had occurred in college games, sports writer Furman Bisher concluded that the game was definitely getting rough. “It seems to me that the effort to knock an opponent senseless has become more and more obvious in coaching intent.”

In his story, he paid particular attention to the University of Alabama’s team, then coached by Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant.

He never said Bryant encouraged or condoned violence, but the implication was there. And Bryant thought the inference was strong enough to be considered libel. On January 4, 1963, he launched a $500,000 suit against the Post.

This lawsuit was still pending when the Post published another exposé on college football. In “The Story of a College Football Fix,” which appeared in March 1963, the Post charged that James Wallace ‘Wally’ Butts, Jr.—the University of Georgia’s athletic director, and recently demoted football coach—had given away game secrets to Bryant that affected the outcome of a Georgia-Alabama game. From this sprang another lawsuit against the Post. This time, Bear Bryant and Wally Butts both sued the Post for libel, each man asking for $10 million in damages.

Click here to read the full 1962 Post article “College Football Is Going Berserk” (October 20, 1962).

Coming Up: Curtis Publishing Company vs. Butts