By Mike Goodson/Sports Correspondent
I’ve had a longtime hobby of collecting football programs, from the first high school games I attended to the rarer Rose Bowl programs that featured my beloved Alabama Crimson Tide.
The earliest high school games I attended usually were Emma Sansom against either Gadsden High or Etowah High during the early 1960s and included the annual “Charity Bowl” game played at Gadsden’s Murphree Stadium. These programs sold for 15 cents and later a quarter.
Over the years I somehow managed to hold on to some of these books, which featured the photos of players and coaches at the “Big Three” high schools of Etowah County.
When the Alabama High School Athletic Association instituted the current postseason system in the late 1960s, my collection grew to include high school playoff programs, which includes three state championship programs. While these programs are not that valuable, their sentimental worth far out-weighs their price tag.
During the early 1960s the semi-pro Gadsden Raiders played at both Murphree Stadium and the Etowah Bowl.
During the early 1990s, another team called the Alabama Raiders brought a championship to Gadsdden. Programs from these two teams, along with the Gadsden Generals and Alabama Avengers, today would sell for several dollars each.
During the 1970s, the City of Gadsden Police and Fire departments played an annual football game. This event always generated a lot of local interest and usually was well attended. A program or ticket stub from one of these games would hold a lot of interest for local football fans.
By the early 1970s, my program collection had begun to grow with more and more opportunities available to attend college football games.
For instance, I acquired programs from Tuscaloosa and Birmingham from University of Alabama home games.
Older University of Alabama and Auburn University football programs are in great demand. The Bacardi Bowl, played in Havana, Cuba which marked Auburn’s first bowl appearance, is extremely rare and would be priceless if a copy ever appeared at auction.
During the 1970s, when Coach Bear Bryant brought three national championships to Alabama, I set out to obtain a program from every game in which he coached, including programs from the University of Maryland, Carolina Naval Pre-Flight, Georgia Naval Pre-Flight, Kentucky, Texas A&M and Alabama. While at one time these programs sold for $5-$10, the prices have skyrocketed with the rise of the internet.
Two very popular University of Alabama programs include Bryant’s 315th win against Auburn (a win that broke Amos Alonzo Stagg’s record for career wins at that time) and Bryant’s final game as a head coach. This game was played in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis. The bulk of my Bryant collection was donated to the Paul “Bear” Bryant Museum in October of 1988.
Other programs of interest include older NCAA bowl programs. Many years ago I purchased the two Dixie Bowl programs from games that were played in 1947-1948 in Birmingham’s Legion Field. Copies of these programs recently sold on eBay for $800 each. The two programs that I owned were given to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in Birmingham.
Several other bowl games have been played in Alabama over the years, and the programs from these games are hot collectibles. The Blue-Gray Game was played in Montgomery’s Crampton Bowl for many years.
No longer in existence, this annual event was an all-star game played many times on Christmas Day.
Mobile’s Senior Bowl is played each January and brings hundreds of NFL scouts to Alabama each year.
Older Senior Bowl programs, especially autographed ones, are popular with collectors.
There have been other bowl games played in Birmingham over the years that have brought many major university football teams to Alabama, but the fact that Alabama or Auburn never playing in the games have detracted from the game’s popularity.