I must begin this column by putting all the readers on high alert because this is not, nor do I intend it to be, a Black History moment. This piece is strictly dedicated to Black sports reality. On June 11, 2023, author Debra Bell posted an article on usnews.com titled: “George Wallace Stood in a Doorway at the University of Alabama 50 Years Ago Today.” The following quote is an excerpt from the article.
“In January of 1963, following his election as Governor of Alabama, George Wallace famously stated in his inaugural address: ‘segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.’ The staunch conservative demonstrated his loyalty to the cause on June 11, 1963, when black students Vivian Malone and James A. Hood showed up at the University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa to attend class. In what historians often refer to as the ‘Stand in the Schoolhouse Door,’ the governor literally stood in the doorway as federal authorities tried to allow the students to enter.”
On September 12, 1970, USC fullback Sam Cunningham and the USC Trojans routed the University of Alabama at Legion Field in Birmingham by the score of 42-21. The following year Alabama Head Coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant, featured two Black players, junior college transfer John Mitchell and Wilbur Jackson. According to Mike Puma’s biography of Bryant on ESPN.com “By 1973, one-third of Alabama’s starters were Black. That same year, Alabama went 9-0-1 and won its third national championship.”
Segregation forever, yeah right. Alabama admitted Black players under “diluted” scholarships knowing that educating these athletes was at the very bottom of their list of priorities. It would take decades before the University of Alabama would tailor their student body admission policies for racial inclusion.
Since the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abe Lincoln, young men of color and their families could no longer “legally” be expected to provide free labor in the cotton fields, the new modus operandi shifted to obtaining cost-free labor from the football fields. The NCAA became the new “overseer” making and supervising laws to penalize young athletes for receiving such petty allowances as a free meal, a plane ticket, or a lousy T-shirt. However, the NCAA refused to acknowledge and address the “unsportsmanlike conduct” of many of the “ethnically insensitive” and even blatantly racist policies that have at times and in many cases continued to govern college football. On October 15, 2018, the college portal transfer program was officially launched, ending the decades-old tradition of a college athlete being forced to sit out a year before being permitted to transfer to another school. However, coaches were allowed to resign and accept higher-paid and more lucrative positions at other colleges and universities without even the blink of an eye. On June 30, 2021, ESPN staff writer Dan Murphy posted the following on espn.com. “The doors to a new era of college sports officially opened Thursday. For the first time, all NCAA athletes are now able to make money from a wide variety of business ventures without losing their eligibility. A mixture of state laws and NCAA rule changes have removed prohibitions that prevented athletes from selling the rights to their names, images and likenesses (NIL). The transformative shift comes after more than a decade of legal, political, and public pressure to give athletes access to a bigger piece of the billions of dollars generated by college sports each year.”
What about a piece of the “Vegas Pie?” Ya know, “FanDuel” and the remainder of the numbers runners.
That means less than five years ago, if a college athlete accepted a plane ticket to go home for the holidays, that athlete could be punished or even expelled from that university. That policy was and has always been a crock. Please allow me to explain why.
Recently, Texas A&M Coach Jimbo Fisher was awarded a $77 million buyout for his “lack of performance” as the head coach. It was also reported on cnn.com that: “When Fisher was first named head football coach at Texas A&M in 2017, the university said he had agreed to a 10-year contract worth $75 million, adding no ‘state-appropriated funds’ would be used toward his salary. The finances behind the decision to fire the coach are ‘monumental,’ Ross Bjork, Texas A&M director of athletics, said during a news conference. ‘As the contract states, there is a buyout provision in coach Fisher’s contract and those details will be worked out,’ Bjork continued on saying: ‘We will use unrestricted contributions within the 12th Man Foundation for the first one-time payments and the athletic department will fund the annual payments for the remaining portion by growing our revenues and adjusting our annual operating budget accordingly.’ 12th Man Foundation may appear to be a not-for-profit organization. This is not the case.”
This next scenario is not a fantasy but a stark reality. Jimbo Fisher is being paid for not doing his job, whereas walk-on players must earn their scholarships. This man is being paid to sit in the back of his mansion by the pool, sipping on mint juleps, while checking his bank account and watching the interest grow on that $77 million. A lot of folks are screaming at the top of their lungs about welfare reform. How about corporate welfare reform? Who is going to emancipate our children from this indentured servant athletic system? Well, I guess we are going to have to wait and see.