"It started several years ago when a black student was beaten by a white football player. Then a short time later there were two vacancies on the coaching staff. We asked that they hire a black to fill one of them. They didn't. They promised us a black coach for spring training, and what did we get? We got Floyd Little for three days, and he wound up by blasting all the black athletes on the squad. So we walked out. At the time that is all we wanted: a black coach. Then the outsiders came, and everything got away from us. We didn't need them—the Floyd Littles, the Jimmy Browns, the others. It's pretty sad. The team has a black coach with no blacks to coach."
A few miles away, in his office at the university, Schwartzwalder was frowning at a story in the Sept. 16 Syracuse Post-Standard. The eight-column headline across the front page read: SCHWARTZWALDER QUIZZED ON BLACK ISSUE. He is a short muscular man, with a square bulldog jaw and white closely cropped hair. The years, 61 of them, have left a slight bulge at the waistline, but the rest is granite. As a major in the 82nd Airborne during World War II, three times he jumped into combat, and for it they gave him the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, four battle stars and a presidential unit citation. And a Purple Heart. And he can be as tough now as he was then, but he seldom feels the need.
Schwartzwalder jerked a thumb at the paper and growled, "Nobody wants to talk about football anymore. All they want to talk about is that. Some young kid I never saw before came into my office today. He asked me about that. I told him that I didn't talk to Communists, draft dodgers, flag burners or people trying to destroy our country." The hard slash of mouth dissolved into a soft smile. "He assured me he was none of those things, so I sat down and talked with him. I don't know what's happening anymore. I'm not supposed to be a football coach, I'm supposed to be a sociologist or something."
For Schwartzwalder the trouble began two years ago, after the fight between the player and the black student. "Every witness there said the student jumped the player with a club," said Schwartzwalder. "He just picked the wrong guy to jump." Still, the student filed racial charges against the football team with the Human Rights Commission. The university, shaken, ordered Schwartzwalder to speak to his players on racism.
"When he started talking about it I was stunned," said Paul Paolisso, now a senior quarterback. "My mouth fell open. Most of the other guys reacted the same way."
"It was a very big mistake," growled Schwartzwalder. At least it sounded as though he were growling. He has a voice like two bricks being rubbed together, and you can never really tell. "Before the talk the team was a unit. After that it was two groups: one black, one white. If I had known what was going to happen I would have refused to hold that stupid meeting."
The real trouble started when Syracuse brought in Little, the famed black alumnus, as a temporary coach. He left after three days saying he thought the blacks were bitter and that he'd never known the coaches to mistreat anyone. Four days later the blacks began their boycott. Chancellor Corbally stepped in, telling Schwartzwalder that he was in command of the football situation and, after repeated meetings with the black players during the ensuing weeks, that Schwartzwalder had better hire a black coach.
Schwartzwalder found his man in Carlmon Jones, a freshly graduated lineman out of Florida A&M and highly recommended by Jake Gaither, his coach. Schwartzwalder hired Jones, then called in his black players and told seven of them they were off the team. Another, Greg Allen, quit after the first reporting date this fall, saying that if the others couldn't play, then neither would he. Two stayed with the team—Robin Griffin, a starting defensive back, and Ronald Page, a sophomore back sidelined by a knee injury.
It was ironic that Syracuse should be playing Houston in its first game, happy-go-lucky Houston with, ah, how many blacks on the team?
"Heck, I don't know," said Ted Nance, the Cougars' sports publicist. "I don't think any of the coaches could tell you either unless we checked over the roster. It's something nobody thinks about around here."