George Jewell was the first Black football player at both the University of Michigan (1890 and 1892) and at Northwestern (1893). This fall the U of M and Northwestern will play for the first rivalry game trophy named for a Black player, the George Jewell Trophy. It will become the 16th Big Ten rivalry trophy contest.
Jewell first enrolled at Michigan after being named valedictorian at Ann Arbor High School in Michigan, where he played football, track and baseball. He starred at fullback and halfback for the Wolverines while studying medicine.
He left Michigan for Northwestern in 1893 to finish his medical degree. There he also lettered and starred in football for the Wildcats for two seasons. After graduation, Jewell became a doctor in Chicago before returning to Ann Arbor in 1899.
He coached at Michigan Agricultural College and Olivet, and then later started his own dry cleaning and pressing business. He died in 1908 at age 38.
The Jewell trophy is the first in Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) history. It joins the Durley-Nicks Trophy that Prairie View and Texas Southern—two HBCU schools where Alexander Durley and Billy Nicks were former coaches—play for each season. There also are over a dozen “classics” football games that are or were named after Blacks in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), and specifically for HBCUs.
Pitts piling up honors
Former Minnesota Gopher Destiny Pitts is among four Texas A&M players receiving All-SEC honors. Pitts became the program’s first SEC Sixth Woman of the Year honoree since Chelsea Jennings in 2016.
The 5’-10” senior from Detroit led the Aggies in three-point shooting (.479), which also leads the SEC and is fifth in the country. TAMU won the conference regular season title and reached the semifinals last week in the league tourney.
Pitts won five all-conference honors during her time in Minnesota.
Last Sunday both coaches in the SEC women’s tournament final were Black females for the first time ever: Dawn Staley of South Carolina, and Georgia’s Joni Taylor, who won the league’s coach of the year. This also was the first time such a colorful meeting took place in any of the Power Five conferences dating back to 1978.
Staley won her sixth, going for her sixth SEC tourney title in seven tries—she also won it in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2020. Taylor was going for her first as coach.
“It’s not a race thing but an opportunity thing,” said Staley afterwards. “It’s really cool.”
Previous Black female coaches who have won their league’s tournament championships include Carolyn Peck (Purdue, 1998, 1999, Big Ten), Cynthia Cooper-Dyke (Southern Cal, 2014, Pac-12), Marian Washington (Big Eight six times between 1979-93 at Kansas), and C. Vivian Stringer (Rutgers, 2007, Big East)
Three former Black coaches reached the SEC finals but didn’t win the title: Carol Ross (Florida), Pokey Chatman (LSU), and LSU’s Nikki Fargas.
Globe-tracking the Lynx
Kayla McBride led her overseas club to two victories last week, scoring 20 and 28 points respectively. Napheesa Collier averaged 11 points and six boards as her team posted a 2-1 week.
Natalie Achonwa’ 18 points and 10 rebounds powered her club to a Coppa Italia quarterfinal win.
Kayla Alexander helped her team to a 19-point win with six points and three assists.
All four Lynx players are in action this week.
Nia Coffey, entering into her fifth WNBA season, signed with Los Angeles last week. The Hopkins grad attended Northwestern and was drafted fifth overall in 2017 by San Antonio. The 6’-1” guard-forward has played with the Stars (now Las Vegas), then traded to Atlanta in 2019, and traded again to Phoenix in 2020.
Her father played for the Gophers and in the NBA, as did her brother, who’s a current player in the LA Clippers organization.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.