Last month, sports figures from across the country came to Berkeley to honor the experiment they had been part of, the Oberlin Experiment, and the man behind it, Jack Scott. The co-founder of Northeastern University's Institute for the Study of Sport and Society, Scott shook up the sports world with his 1971 book The Athletic Revolution and with his insistence that college sports be open to all athletes—black, white, male, female. As Oberlin's athletic director from 1972 to '74, he put his principles into practice, hiring Cass Jackson, Pat Penn and Tommie Smith, the first black head coaches in football, basketball and track, respectively, at a predominantly white college. In 1974 Jackson led Oberlin to its last winning season this century.
Now, with Scott, 57, battling throat cancer, it was time to pay tribute to him and to those he had touched. At the Oct 30 dinner there was Smith, the 1968 Olympic 200-meter champion, whom Scott hired after he found Smith washing cars in San Jose. Former Oberlin president Robert Fuller called Smith's famed black-gloved gesture on the victory stand in Mexico City "perhaps the most memorable piece of performance art this century." NFL veteran Bernie Casey wondered how many others would have matched Smith's courage. "Could you have done it?" Casey asked. "Others had the opportunity but were paralyzed by fear." NFL alum George Sauer, an assistant under Jackson at Oberlin, read a tribute from Art Shell, the NFL's first black head coach: "Cass Jackson was the pioneer who opened the door for all of us."
At last Scott stood up. "The Oberlin experiment wasn't just about lofty humanistic ideals," he said. "Cass Jackson's winning season demonstrated that athletic excellence can be achieved while following those ideals."