Evolution of black football players in SEC

Published 7:53 pm Monday, March 2, 2020

As a black octogenarian and also an absolute college football nut, I am extremely proud of the national championship victory by LSU in the 2019-2020 season and the overall dominance of the SEC conference nationwide.

However, this euphoria indicates a 180-degree move in appreciation for changes in administrative and admission policies in the SEC over the last decades.

As a graduating senior, especially as football players in Lee County, Florida, at Dunbar High School in 1956, some of us thought that if we dreamed of playing SEC football, we might be arrested.

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Upon inquiring, we heard the usual range of excuses that denied us the opportunity to play. For instance, you cannot meet the academic requirements; you will surely flunk out. Also, black kids don’t have brainpower to play positions that require thinking and intellect, particularly center, quarterback and middle linebacker.

The pundits who made such assertions may have made their decisions on the inside knowledge of public school officials who woefully underfunded our schools to the extent that we got used shoes and other equipment that our white counterparts cast out when they got new equipment.

As a result of some of the above conditions, when an SEC team played in a bowl game and a team from the Big Ten, PAC Ten or other conferences had one or two black players on their rosters, we rooted hard for the visitors.

Despite my glowing appreciation of SEC rule changes that permitted several black players on SEC rosters, I still have deep concern for players who maybe unfairly were denied the opportunity to play. If you will notice, I saw no white players at the positions of running back, slot receiver or wide receiver.

The paucity of white boys at these positions gives cause of enormous concern. Particularly, I had to revise my criteria and standards by which I decide which SEC team I will root for. If I see a white boy who is not playing quarterback or place kicking, I must root for that team, out of fairness.

On the other hand, if the same ridiculous unfair academic standards that were applied to us are used to keep white boys from these positions, we must eradicate such practices at once.

If it is fairly determined that white boys cannot cut it academically, then we must provide some academic tutoring or some other form of remediation. I plan to ask the NAACP for help in forming a foundation to support such an effort. White boys also deserve a chance to play in the SEC!

If you missed the point of this opinion, remember Art Buchwald (1925-2007) and laugh out loud.

Dr. Benny A. Wright is a Natchez resident.