When Bear Bryant ordered University of Alabama freshman Joe Namath to climb up the coach's tower high atop the practice field in 1961, it signaled a partnership that launched a new era in college football.
It was apparently the first time that Bryant had allowed anyone — player, coach or visiting dignitary — to join him in his private sanctuary. Randy Roberts and Ed Krzemienski describe the ensuing meeting, in which Namath could barely understand a word the coach spoke, as a clash of cultures: "North and South, young and old, brash and conservative."
Despite their differences, the hard-nosed coach and his free-spirited quarterback would combine to put the Crimson Tide on a path to becoming not only a successful college team but also a source of pride to people in Alabama and throughout the South.
Their years together fueled the growing popularity of college football and coincided with the unfolding of the civil rights struggle that emerged as the defining news story of the early 1960s. "Rising Tide" weaves the two elements in an informative and entertaining narrative with broad appeal.