By Charles Hallman
Another black eye for Black college football?
First we shockingly learned of the horrific locker-room conditions that ultimately forced the Grambling football players to stop playing for at least a few days. Then the Winston-Salem starting quarterback recently gets jumped on while in the bathroom at a league-sponsored luncheon, allegedly assaulted by a member of the other team. This forced Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) officials to cancel not only the championship football game, but the scheduled Winston-Salem-Virginia State volleyball match as well that weekend.
“I didn’t believe it — I thought it was a joke,” admits Terrill Battle, Winston-Salem alumnus, Class of ’92.
“It was an act of terrorism on a small scale,” adds longtime Black college sports announcer-commentator Mark Gray.
Rather than extolling the positives of HBCU football this season, proudly reporting such storylines as Alabama State junior running back Isaiah Crowell’s 1,000-plus yards rushing season, these black-eye stories have grabbed the headlines. “[Such] knuckleheaded behavior — a beat-down of a competitor — speaks volumes about your character,” states Gray. “They may not be realizing the ramifications of their actions. You got to stop making excuses for these kids.”
Says Battle, who was teammates with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith and played for the late legendary men’s basketball coach Clarence “Big House” Gaines, “Even when I was in school, us and that school [Virginia State] had a huge rivalry going. [However] you can be competitive on the field and want to play a school, a team at its strength, verses trying to disrupt things.”
The MSR sought CIAA media contact Sharon Goldmacher for comment but received no response by press time.
Black college football has a rich tradition. It’s as traditional as the Army-Navy game, the Michigan-Ohio State game, or the Gophers playing each fall for an axe or a pig. Although I’m not an HBCU grad, I too am bothered by the WSSU quarterback getting bum-rushed in the bathroom.
Even more so, however, I’m bothered that some are so quick to grab their broad brush and begin painting all Black college football as a bastion of badly behaving players. Or some sports yakker who, instead of decrying the Grambling players’ subjection to unsanitary conditions, uses the still unresolved problem as a point for jokes.
“I think that’s unfair, because people need to understand what an HBCU is all about and know that there is more [to it] than a few knuckleheads doing something they should not be doing,” surmises Battle.
“It’s a strange kind of season,” notes Gray. “After 20-plus years of doing this…I don’t know what kind of season it’s setting, because we’ve had these two big-time incidents — separate and totally unequal. One was a health crisis, but what happened to Winston-Salem is ignorance.”
Finally, the broadcaster says he hopes the December 7 SWAC championship game “will be something [positive] we can talk about — compelling match-ups —that I’m hoping will produce some defining moments.”
HBCU football “is the most fun you can have with your clothes on,” declares Gray. “[But] there are some things off the field that needs to be cleaned up.”
Gophers sign Black gymnast
Jalon Stephens of Shreveport, La. was one of six recruits who signed with the Gophers men’s gymnastics team for 2015, school officials announced last week.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To see more stories by Charles Hallman stories click HERE