Roscoe Nance was well known as “the Dean of Black college sports journalists” for his longstanding commitment to HBCUs and what their legacy meant. He died January 9 at age 71 after a battle with prostate cancer.
His widow, Willye Nance, and others recently launched an endowed scholarship program in her husband’s name and memory at Tuskegee.
“She called me about two months ago,” said HBCU Game Day Editor Lit Williams in an MSR phone interview. Mrs. Nance was well aware of his and her husband’s long relationship over the years. “She said she knows how much Roscoe and I used to talk.
“We talked about a lot of things,” Williams explained, including Black college sports and their favorite NFL team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. “We would just generally talk about the state of things as it relates to this sport environment.”
Nance was born in Alabama and began his legendary sports-writing career at his high school, then as sports editor for Tuskegee’s campus paper, graduating from there in 1971. After three years in the U.S. Army, Nance joined the Columbus, Georgia newspaper and then the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss.
He was that state’s first Black sportswriter at a mainstream newspaper. There he gave Black college sports their rightfully due coverage before leaving for USA Today, where he covered the NBA, soccer, and other sports for over 20 years.
“He spent many years at USA Today, but he never lost his connection to those HBCUs that really birthed him and gave him the confidence and the skills to compete at the highest level,” continued Williams of Nance.
After he left USA Today, Nance kept up with Black colleges, providing a spotlight on them as expertly possible. “He actually started writing for me on the Black College Sports Page,” noted its founder.
“He [Nance] would write features for me, sometimes once a month, maybe sometimes a little more. But anytime I needed a feature story written about any subject related to Black college sports, Roscoe was my go-to guy.”
Nance also offered his services to his college alma mater whenever possible. Williams reported that Mrs. Nance at last count has raised around $12,000. He started a crowdfunding account on GoFundMe that thus far has raised $2,000-$3,000 toward the Nance scholarship.
“It will be for any student at Tuskegee who is a journalism student who has demonstrated a certain degree of proficiency, anything that would indicate that they have a similar kind of drive and determination that Roscoe did,” said Williams.
NCAA profits in the billions
The NCAA’s “interim fix” to allow players to sign sponsorship deals since July 1 “does not affect its commitment to rules regarding pay-for-play and improper inducements tied to choosing to attend a particular school,” said a recent Statista.com article.
Although college players can potentially sign million-dollar deals, they will still lag far behind what’s earned by the schools they play for. NCAA athletic departments in 2019 generated income from television deals, sponsorships and ticket sales adding up to $18.9 billion, mainly from football and men’s basketball, noted the article.
Among the breakdown numbers: $3.44 billion (media rights), $6.85 billion (institution and gov’t supports), $2.87 billion (donor contributions and endowments), $2.01 billion (ticket sales), $1.10 billion (royalties, licensing, advertising), $1.55 billion (student fees), $0.30 billion (guarantee revenues), $0.79 billion (other).
To support the Roscoe Nance endowment scholarship campaign, go to www.gofundme.com or contribute directly to Tuskegee, either electronically (www.tuskegee.edu) or by mail: Tuskegee University Office of Advancement and Development, c/o Brad Watts, 1 Booker T. Washington Blvd., Kellogg Conference Center, Tuskegee, AL 36088.