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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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"And that's why the Negro should be told, just like the white, if he's listening to these troublemakers: 'Don't risk your life, don't listen to a guy raising hair. Ten years from now, when you've got a wife and a couple of kids, where's this guy going to be? Will he be there to pay for the groceries? What's it going to be like in the real world if the only notice you get is for making trouble?' "

Talking to black football coaches one night in a Chicago hotel room, a white scout for a professional team got the distinct impression that they (the coaches) were disdainful of white coaches who allow their programs to totter because of misdirected compassion. They suggested that such coaches often didn't realize they were being put on or put down by the demands of black athletes.

The most famous black coach in America is Jake Gaither, head football coach and athletic director at Florida A&M. His teams always win (his record, including the Orange Blossom Classic, is 195-35-4 since 1945) and 39 graduates have been on pro rosters for one or more years, 22 in the last six years. Players hang on his words, administrators seek him out, alumni worship at his feet. Other coaches, white and black, flock to hear him speak at clinics.

Here is what he has to say about today's problems:

"The coaching profession is right up there with ministers for the concern and influence they have on others. Coaches try to do what a lot of mamas and papas haven't done or won't do. You won't see anybody try harder than coaches. Coaches are changing all the time, and a lot of them have changed on the subject of race.

"But you've got to remember this, no matter who you are or where you're coaching. You're dealing with a new breed of young people today. I began to see it three or four years ago. Kids who didn't have anything better to do than rebel against discipline, rebel against the Establishment, rebel against the status quo. Kids with their hands out, kids who want everything on a silver platter.

"I don't know the 'why' of it. Maybe it's because they're the products of parents who didn't know the dignity of hard work, didn't know what it meant to grow up collecting bottles and bones to buy candy. My daddy could talk to me about hard work. I used to collect bottles to buy raisins. I loved raisins.

"Anyway, about three years ago I suddenly realized we had a problem. We've always had a tradition at A&M, a spirit that passed on from team to team, from squad member to squad member—an attitude about training, a pride about winning. We lost this one game, and anytime we lose it's an unusual thing. I looked around the locker room and realized it: they didn't care. They lacked pride. They'd lost, and they didn't care.

"Well, you can't be democratic and run a football team. If you do, you might build character but you won't win. I say you might build character, because you may not, either. The way I always felt, winning builds more character, because to win you have to learn what it takes, what it means to sacrifice, to be disciplined. To have a goal.

"So I started weeding 'em out. We got rid of the troublemakers, and I told my coaches, 'start looking 'em over more carefully, be very careful with your screening, do more counseling, be alert for this thing.' "

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