Was it Tubby Smith’s fault?


Gophers miss 2014 NCAA Basketball Tournament


A year ago this month, the Minnesota Gophers Men’s Basketball team played in the NCAA Basketball tournament. The African American Head Coach, Tubby Smith, had retooled the team. It was on the move again. But even when 15-1, Star Tribune started a series of negative, anti-Tubby columns.

To his credit, Sid Hartman didn’t agree (writing the day before Smith was fired that it would be a “big mistake by the Gophers”). Coach Smith went deep into the tournament last year, losing only in the third round, the “Sweet 16,” three games from the championship. Next day: fired.

The century-long peculiar smell in the UM athletic culture raised the bar so high so that if he didn’t win the National Championship he would no longer be UM Men’s Head Basketball Coach.

For those who know the University of Minnesota history with Black coaches, this was not surprising. In 1951, Head Basketball Coach Ozzie Cowles said no African American would ever step on his court of competition. His teams played slow, “control basketball.” There are still those slow at acknowledging either civil rights or Blacks as Minnesota team’s head coaches.

When the great All American Quarterback, Sandy Stephens arrived in 1959 as a UM freshman, and was designated by Mississippi-born Head Football Coach Murray Warmath as the next QB, replacing Smokin’ Joe Salem, White alumni and the White media in MN put up a howl. They hadn’t won a championship in nearly 30 years.

Sandy Stephens, along with fellow Black All Americans Bobby Bell, Carl Eller, Bill Munsey, and Judge Dixon, put up with the hatred and venom directed towards them. They led the U to a Rose Bowl win and its last national football championship. None, now for over 50 years.

Four years later, the greatest trio of basketball players ever to select UM basketball — all African Americans — Lou Hudson, Archie Clark, and Don Yates, led the Gophers to three successive winning seasons. The constant besides winning: criticizing and attacking Black players.

The culture: There were too many “shadows” on the court. Five years later, Brewer, Turner, Young, and Taylor came to the Gopher basketball program. The White media in this city said there was too much racial imbalance on the basketball court. How to balance? White coach.

And then there was Clem Haskins, brought here to rejuvenate and breathe life back into UM men’s basketball — also forced out. When Lou Holtz left he told Clem that these folks don’t want a winning program — football or basketball — if Blacks are given starting and star roles. And soon, Clem Haskins was sent on his way.

Little has changed. A decade later, when Tubby Smith came here from Kentucky and turned around a basketball program that had fallen on hard times, he too, despite winning, was told to move on (in one of the most cowardly displays in big-time sports).

Tubby’s replacement was not negatively critiqued by the White media, so, in the final analysis, the dark shadow of Raymond “Red” Presley, a friend of mine who was the legendary UM three-sport athlete not always allowed to play, continues to speak volumes about a culture that really doesn’t want too many Blacks, and certainly doesn’t want them in positions of power and leadership, and that never wants to refer to them as heroes.

It’s why, other than hockey, the U of M will have a hard time winning championships. The late, great Bobby Marshall stated in 1903 about how difficult it was to be a Negro in the culture of Golden Gopher Sports. It still is.

Stay tuned.


For Ron’s hosted radio and TV show’s broadcast times, solution papers, books and archives, go to www.TheMinneapolisStory.com. To order his books go to Beacon on the Hill Press. 


9 Comments on “Was it Tubby Smith’s fault?”

  1. Ron Edwards is the only one here who is a racist and ignores the fact that Clem was brought down by academic scandal and Tubby didn’t live up to his salary nor did he have a single winning big ten season. Tubby also never made it past the second round in the NCAA tournament. Mr. Edwards conveniently ignores facts to push his racist agenda.

  2. This has to be dumbest article ever written. I will agree that minnesota has not been great in football and basketball over the years, but to say it is because of the treatment of black coaches is idiotic. Haskins had one of the best cheating systems in place, and Tubby couldn’t go 500 in the conference. He won one game in the NCAA, not the sweet 16 as you stated. Glen Mason was let go with the same type of record, didn’t know he was black, because that’s the only time it happens according to you. There are enough problems with equality without you writing trash like this. Yes it was Tubby’s fault, just like it was the white coach before and the white coach now if he doesn’t win.

  3. Ron Edwards is a racist man. This article is unnecessary. Clem cheated, Tubby fell short of expectations.

    The Gophers team looks better off after Year 1 with Pitino and I watch every game. I am also black.

  4. This article is completely inaccurate. Clem left 12 years after Holtz left after one of the biggest academic fraud cases in NCAA history. The guy is still revered in Minnesota. Why are you such a race baiter? So much for that content of character thing, something which you lack. Tubby never had a winning conference record. Sad that you stay employed to make up lies and attack others to serve your employers agenda.

  5. What a joke of an article. The fact that you think Tubby Smith brought the Gopher’s to the Sweet 16, when he in fact DID NOT, removes all of your credibility. Do some research before you spew hatred.

  6. So Trent Tucker and Quincy Lewis despised the White media so much, they joined it? Hmm…

  7. This is a joke. Completely ignore the fact that Clem had one of the biggest academic scandals in the past 20 years. NO COACH MAKES IT THROUGH AN ACADEMIC SCANDAL OF THAT SIZE. Saying Tubby was fired because he was black is as bad as saying Mason was fired because he was white. It had nothing to do with it. He was fired because he failed to live up to expectations(No winning Big ten seasons, and 1 NCAA tourney victory doesn’t cut it). Had he still had the fire to run the program he may still be coaching them.

  8. Division 1 basketball is a multi-million dollar business, head coaches are paid accordingly, when they don’t produce for whatever reason they are replaced, that’s the way it is, when a head coach accepts the job, pay, and all the benefits they also accept the risk, to in anyway suggest that a 37% success rate in the B1G is acceptable is beyond laughable regardless of race of the coach.

  9. Ok, you got my page view, congratulations. Hope it was worth it, as this is possibly the dumbest article ever to appear in print.

    The modern examples are just made up (Tubby did not go “deep into” the tourney or “sweet sixteen,” he won one game). And the historical examples are laughably ignorant. The one thing that seems clear is that the author knows nothing about the U, or MN sports. Here’s a clue: nobody here calls us “UM.”

    Doesn’t this “newspaper” have editors?

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