The present plan of the disbarred Negro trackmen is to show up on the campus at registration time next fall, just like the other undergraduates. "We're gonna lay our $87 on the table," Beamon says, "and register for class. That's the fee for residents of the state of Texas, and we're gonna say, 'Here we are, we Texans, and we're paying our own way.' " (Their plan has a flaw: most of them probably cannot qualify as Texas residents.)
"We're not gonna run away from what's being shoved in our face here," says Nichols. "We'll scrape, scrounge and borrow, but we're coming back. Next year at registration time they're gonna find out damn fast who the 'house niggers' are."
As for Coach Vandenburg, he remained inflexible on the subject, but one could see that underneath he had been shattered by what had happened. Vandenburg is an earnest young man from Cicero, Ill., and he works harder than any of his runners to bring athletic recognition to the University of Texas at El Paso. This was only his second year on the campus, and he was all primed to win the NCAA track-and-field championship, a tremendous accomplishment.
"Look what happened," he says. "Look what this thing did to the track team. We lost the world indoor record holder in the long jump, the school record holder in the hurdle, the school record holder in the quarter mile, the freshman hurdle champion, a couple of outstanding intermediate runners, a fine long-jump and triple-jump man—and not one of them seniors. We had aspirations of winning the NCAA championship this year. At least we'd have been second or third. Track and Field News picked us third, three points behind second place. Now we're not gonna win anything except a few dual meets. It kills us!"
Wayne Vandenburg, himself only four or five years older than most of his athletes, squares his shoulders and raises his voice. "O.K., it's over now," he says. "Next year's another year."
So it is, for better or for worse, but it is doubtful that it will be merely another year of the status quo at UTEP, or at any American college that recruits black athletes. College administrations, college coaches and college student bodies will all be hearing loud and clear, the words of Bob Beamon, who is not a bad poet for a world champion:
How many days of sadness must I spend....