Integration Of UT, Others Did Hurt HBCU Schools In Texas

By Gregory Moore
Updated: December 29, 2005

SAN ANTONIO – Ask anyone in the African American community about the University of Texas and the year of 1969, and they will probably tell you the stories of how UT was one of the most prejudiced colleges in the country; at least on the football field. But maybe we should ask Julius Whittier what he thinks of UT and their chances for winning another national title.

See, Whittier would know first hand about integration of UT’s football program because he was a sophomore on the football team that won its second national title in 1970. So when Jan. 4th rolls around next week, most of us will be watching two football programs that are prominent with African American playmakers yet Whittier remembers all too well what Texas was like in 1970.

Whittier recalls that only one player on the 1970 roster wanted to room with him at that time. Now maybe when kids of this generation start to read about how the integration of sports wasn’t some overnight process but a process that was done at a radical ascent, maybe they would not take their opportunities so lightly. Putting Mr. Whittier on a side burner for the moment, let’s look at how a movie called “Glory Road” shocked the college basketball ranks in the 1960s.

Don Haskins was a young coach who came out to West Texas to a little school named Texas Western College. We now know the school as University of Texas El Paso. Haskins has coached some big time players and nobody was any bigger than that of Tim Hardaway. However “Glory Road” is the story of how Haskins and his small school upset Adolph Rupp and the rest of college basketball nation in 1966 by dispelling the myth that Black kids couldn’t play at an elite level.

As great as these two milestones are, the fact remains that for many years trying to get Blacks to play for any school in the Southwest Conference was a hard issue for any coach wanting to make social change. I have had many individuals tell me that Oklahoma was more acceptable to integration both on the field and off for Black athletes.

The life for many who wanted a college sports acumen from the Black community was limited to going to schools like Prairie View A&M, Texas Southern, Wiley, Paul Quinn and many other Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). It was these institutions that afforded Blacks the chance to participate at a collegiate level during an era that didn’t seem to want to admit that athletes of all color were needed to make champions of their programs.

But as many will tell you, with integration of SWC schools, a change at the HBCU level was also being felt. Kids who were once not accepted saw their younger brothers and sisters all of sudden go to these schools. While the older siblings may have become graduates of PV and TSU, amongst others, the numbers of Black athletes going to the all black schools began dwindling sharply.

If many don’t believe what is being said, just talk to anyone who is affiliated with any HBCU and they will tell you just how hard it is to get kids to go to a school like Dillard, Grambling or Southern versus going to the more established NCAA powerhouses. It’s a fight that has been going on ever since Whittier became the first Black to letter in football during that historic time.

So while you are watching the best college football teams next week, think about Julius Whittier and what he endured at Texas in 1970. Think about what Don Haskins did a few years prior to that during the NCAA Final Four and remember those many other pioneers who helped integrate college athletics.

But don’t forget about the struggle that is now ongoing for many HBCU athletic programs. While struggle may have ended, another one is besieging a segment of the populous and very little is being done to help stabilize a vital part of that community.

BIG 12 NOT A WEAK CONFERENCE The scuttlebutt going around these days is that the Big 12 is a weak conference compared to the Pac 10. Of the eight schools that are bowl eligible in the Big 12, three of them are ranked in the BCS rankings; Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Both conferences have three teams listed in that same Top 25.

The Pac-10 has five teams in Bowl games this year while the Big 12 have eight teams. So who is actually the weak conference? Well if you really wanted to split hairs by sheer numbers, you would have to say that the Pac 10 is that conference.

Let’s not kid ourselves about what conference is better. The Big 12 is no weaker than the Pac 10 when it comes to putting quality football programs on the field of battle. USC and Texas can be formidable opponents for anyone in the Big 10, ACC or SEC conferences.

To say those schools from the other mentioned are better than schools from the Pac 10 or Big 12 is nothing short of ignorant thinking. The only way to settle this type of argument would be to actually have a playoff system. But that is an argument for another day and another time.

What many dissenters of the Big 12 need to realize is that this conference has a history that is a little deeper than the Pac 10. The Pac 10 has never truly been known for being a ‘powerhouse’ football conference in the ‘modern’ era of college football. And just what is the modern era?

From 1993 to the present day. Since the BCS formulation, the Big 12 has had five teams in the national title game. The conference has been represented five of the six times in this game? A weak conference? I think not.

ALAMO BOWL STILL A BARGAIN FOR COLLEGE FANS This year’s MasterCard Alamo Bowl game had Nebraska vs. Michigan in a game that highlighted two offensive quadrants that the national audience may not have seen before. But where does it rank as far as being a college fan’s experience. In speaking with many who are a part of this bowl game, many officials pointed out that the game is a favorite for teams who are invited because many are coming from cold climates.

San Antonio’s weather is an ideal selling point because of the fact that when the game is played; temperatures are usually in the low to mid 70s. What that means is that when fans are walking from their hotel rooms to the facility, they are not baking on a scorching heat sauna nor are they bundled up like Eskimos.

“It’s the ideal game because fans from both conferences travel well and love the near tropical climate of the Alamo City,” one official said earlier this week.

Now the people who are responsible for putting this game on are going to be in negotiations with their title sponsor to try and make this game better and better each year. It would seem that right now both sides are happy with the results but that it will be imperative for MasterCard and the Alamo Bowl staff to get a deal done that is beneficial for everyone concerned.

You add to this equation that ESPN loves the ratings that they get from this game and you can easily understand why this is one of the bargain bowl games for college fans.