There was a steady clatter of dishes from a kitchen close by, and somewhere near a man and a woman were talking loudly and laughing, so that the listener had to lean forward to hear the soft words of the black athlete. The pair was sitting at a table last week in the rear of a downtown Syracuse restaurant. Outside a steady rain was washing the streets of the city, adding gloom to gloom. "Remember," the athlete was saying, "use my name and I'll deny I ever seen you. It's not that I'm afraid, it's because we are all in this together, and no matter how I feel as an individual, how any of us feel, we're stuck with this thing as a group no matter what happens." He rubbed his eyes and laughed, but it was a sad laugh. "And you know how it has to end. Too many angry things have been said for it to end any other way. It's too damn late for everybody, for the black players, for Ben Schwartzwalder, for the university. And it's only going to get worse."
Saturday night in Houston things couldn't have become much worse for Schwartzwalder. Playing without eight black players suspended for boycotting spring practice, Syracuse was blitzed by explosive Houston 42-15. There is no way of adding or subtracting points from the score with might-have-beens, but four of the missing eight were starters, and it had to hurt. And there is no way to judge how badly the remaining players were mentally affected. But it certainly didn't help.
In its simplest form this is the way the trouble at Syracuse began, publicly at least, the way it grew and the way it became too late for everyone.
1) Nine black players walk out on spring practice, protesting that Schwartzwalder has broken a promise to hire a black coach. Schwartzwalder says he never promised to hire one.
2) Dr. John E. Corbally Jr., the chancellor at Syracuse, attempts a reconciliation. He orders Schwartzwalder to hire a black coach and quickly. One is hired.
3) Schwartzwalder informs seven of the nine players that they are no longer members of the team. An eighth player elects to join them.
4) The players file a complaint, most of it based on racial discrimination, with the Human Rights Commission.
5) Corbally orders Schwartzwalder to outline terms to allow the players to return. The Syracuse alumni quickly point out to the chancellor that they are less than happy with his decision. Since they were already unhappy with him for closing the school early last year and for letting seniors graduate without taking final exams, he is somewhat shaken. (Alumni contributions had fallen sharply during the summer.) Terms are set, watered down by the administration and offered to the players, who reject them.
6) With an eye on the alumni Dr. Corbally says to hell with it and suspends the eight for the 1970 season.
But so much for simplicity. Where did it begin?