December 03, 2003

Michael Wilbon of the Washington Post is, IMO, the best of the sports pundits currently active. He writes clearly, forcefully, and with a moral center. This is particularly apparent in todays article on Sylvester Croom. I started reading the Washington Post sports columnists because Tony Kornheiser was funny; I continue to read them because Michael Wilbon makes me think.

Two things jumped out of Wilbon's piece. The first was that it is a shameful thing for ANY organization or group to have to announce the first African-American senior executive. It was a shame when John Thompson was the first black coach in the basketball final four in 1982, it is a shame when Croom is the first black coach in the SEC in 2003.

The second thing that jumped out at me from Wilbon was the story of Bear Bryant of Alabama. For years Bryant ran all-white programs in all-white conferences. The SEC, despite being in football country, was in the south and was slow to integrate its sports teams just as it was slow to integrate its universities. Once he crossed the color line, however, he crossed that sucker. Sylverster Croom was in Bryants third integrated class of football players, Croom's brother Kelvin was on the team and, after a knee injury, a scout and assistant. The Crooms father, a minister, worked with the team. And it was not just one black family, Bryant opened up his program, reached out to black leaders as well as black athletes, and totally transformed his program. It is not surprising in the least that Bryant was so good for so many years - coaching is people skills and he used them.

Sylvester Crumb will be coaching at Mississippi State, not Alabama, but he will be back in the SEC. I am torn: I actually dislike big time college football and yet, as long as there is a cartel of rich schools and rich conferences, I want that cartel to hire on skill, not skin color.

And back to prepping class.

Posted by Red Ted at December 3, 2003 08:11 AM | TrackBack