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Concessions—and Lies
John Underwood
September 08, 1969
Some coaches are ready to make extreme efforts to relate to the new breed of student-athletes—who are really athlete-students. Others are fed up with so-called appeasement and clamor for a return to discipline and authority. But almost everyone agrees it's high time the kids were told the truth
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September 08, 1969

Concessions—and Lies

Some coaches are ready to make extreme efforts to relate to the new breed of student-athletes—who are really athlete-students. Others are fed up with so-called appeasement and clamor for a return to discipline and authority. But almost everyone agrees it's high time the kids were told the truth

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Washington Basketball Coach Tex Winter sees that the black athlete is under extreme pressure from the Black Students Union and he is thereby faced with a dilemma. "He can allow the white athletic Establishment to impose normal team discipline on him," says Winter, "in which case he is likely to be ostracized by his peer black group, or he can refuse to accept these disciplines and gratify the desires of the BSU, jeopardizing his athletic career." The BSU, he claims, "pretends to stand for human rights while not hesitating to deprive black athletes of their right to compete. White coaches are going to have to do some reevaluating. The pressure from his own people is just beginning on the black athlete."

If that is the case, many coaches say the more ground you give, the less chance you have of surviving. 'We've learned, I think, that the answer is in a stronger stand," says Football Coach Bill Meek of Utah. "Pressure groups would eventually tell us who to schedule, how to coach, who to play at what position, the whole works."

"Sure the Negroes have grievances," says a Big Eight coach, "and we're working on them, but I'm tired of this crap about protesting."

"We've always got to understand them," says another coach. "Well, maybe I can't. I can't know what it's like to be a Negro. Or live in a ghetto. But that doesn't mean I don't try, and I sure think trying works two ways: they've got an obligation to understand me. I'm the one giving them the scholarship."

Although the figures may not show any meaningful proportions for a year or two because recruiting is still going on, there is evidence that coaches are shying away from black athletes.

Recruitment of Negroes is actually up at some schools—Missouri, Purdue, Washington—but there are signs: Cincinnati will have only two blacks on its basketball team; it had six in 1966. Toledo Basketball Coach Bob Nichols has gone from six in 1967 to one next year. Notre Dame Basketball Coach Johnny Dee, who often started four blacks last season, didn't recruit any this year.

"What's the sense?" says one Eastern coach, reflecting the opinion of many. "Life's too short. I don't need that kind of grief." Two Western Athletic Conference coaches admit there may be a diminishing of Negro recruitment, skimming the cream and leaving the so-so black athlete alone. A white player in Ohio told a coach he would come to his school only if the coach would guarantee there would be no Negroes on the team. He said he wanted "assurances against disruption." "And would you know it," said the coach, "that boy went to a school where he got that assurance." There is an almost cynical hardening of position by a few coaches. "Who needs 'em?" says one, whose school borders the Southwest.

This attitude is not shared by George Ireland, the head basketball coach and athletic director at Loyola of Chicago, but he is hardly surprised by it. Ireland has a history of dealing effectively with black athletes. His 1963 NCAA championship team was composed of four blacks and a white, and all five graduated.

"Make no mistake about it," he says, "the boy today is being coerced. He's under pressure. Make a mistake in your recruiting and you've got problems. I'll tell you what I tell a boy. I tell him, 'You're an individual. You're different because you're an athlete, and that means you're specially skilled. Unlike the others, you represent your school in public. I expect you to act like you're on a pedestal, be neat and clean, say 'yes, sir' and 'no, sir' and 'thank you.'

"But I have boys who give me trouble. Nobody's immune. It's a dangerous situation. I understand a lot of schools around this area have all but quit recruiting Negroes. I won't go along with it because that's quitting.

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