Hiring a Black Head Coach in 2003 Is News? Yeah, Unfortunately

News at Home

Mr. Catsam is Assistant Professor of History at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

The Mississippi State Bulldogs football team has hired Sylvester Croom, running backs coach for the Green Bay Packers, to be their next football coach. He will succeed Jackie Sherrill in Starkville .

Croom was an All-American lineman at Alabama in the early 1970s. But his signing on with a traditional Southeastern Conference rival is not what is most noteworthy about this hiring. What is truly historic is that Croom is African American, and almost astoundingly, he will be the first black head coach in the history of the SEC.

This is historic. It is not, alas, surprising. The schools of the SEC were notoriously slow to integrate. Crises surrounding the enrolments of the first black students at Alabama in 1956, Georgia in 1961, Ole Miss in 1962 and ‘Bama again, in 1963, made national and international headlines. Autherine Lucy's ill-fated first attempt in Tuscaloosa, the riots in Oxford , and George Wallace's absurdist orchestration of his “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door” brought dishonor on the region and on America .

Football, and sport in general, was not separate from this racist folderol. Indeed, during the Ole Miss crisis, football served as a sort of white supremacist anchor, mooring white supremacy with the values that too many white southerners held dear. Ole Miss, it was famously said, used to be known for three things: A rambunctious style of campus politics dominated by equally boisterous fraternities and sororities; Beauty Queens – Ole Miss used to redshirt Miss Americas; and football.

In this autumn of Eli Manning, football fans have often been reminded that the rise to prominence of this year's Rebels team (note the nickname!) hearkens back to the glory days of the 1960s. And glory days they were! Even before Archie Manning (Dad of Eli, Peyton, and Cooper to those of you of a certain age) rolled into campus and stole the hearts of the state (leaving as his legacy among other things a campus speed limit of 18 miles an hour, Manning's jersey number, natch) Ole Miss was a dominant team in college football. The teams of the late 1950s and 1960s contended for national championships. In fact, in an era when there was no consensus champion, Ole Miss ended a couple of years at the top of the national rankings of some pollsters. From 1959 to 1963, the Ole Miss regular season record was 42-2-3, they won three SEC championships, and the 1959 team, which went 9 and 1 scored 329 points while giving up but 21, was named AP's SEC Team of the Decade.

Ole Miss did this with a bunch of white boys. So too did Alabama and Louisiana State University, almost universally consensus top 5 programs in the years from 1957 to 1964, and every other SEC program, and not only in football. Even after the universities integrated, the athletic teams did not.

So it should come as no surprise that football provided one of the most dramatic backdrops to the Ole Miss integration crisis. Almost inevitably, events in September 1962 culminated in the Ole Miss-Kentucky game. In those days, major football games dwarfed all other news – the Jackson papers gave the Kentucky game the sort of coverage most newspapers might have given a third world war.

But perhaps there was a better analogy. At the game, played at Jackson's War Memorial Stadium (Ole Miss would play a game or two a year each in Jackson and Memphis so as to appease the alums from those cities who wouldn't or couldn't make the trek to Oxford), students waved Confederate flags. The band (dressed in their Confederate Greys) played “Dixie .” The students chanted the Hoddy Toddy, Ole Miss' beguiling, nonsensical football chant. But they also chanted “Ask us what we say? It's to hell with Bobby K!” and “Never will our mascot go from Colonel Reb to Old Black Joe.” Students sang the words of the “Never, No Never” song, which answered the unasked question, “When is Ole Miss going to integrate.” As one Ole Miss student who was at the game would later say, it was the closest thing he could imagine to a Nuremburg Rally in the United States .

It was into this environment that Ross Barnett stepped up to give a halftime speech. Barnett was otherwise a pretty nondescript Governor. But in an era of massive resistance, with Mississippi at the forefront, Barnett was quickly becoming an iconic figure. Before the more than 40,000 fans crammed into the stadium (to watch a rather dull game that Ole Miss won 14-0) Barnett intoned, “I love Mississippi ! I love her people – her customs! And I love and respect her heritage!” The crowd erupted in delirium. At this point, Barnett could have talked about the fixtures his bathroom and the crowd would have eaten it up. (This is not scant praise – just a year before Barnett had showed up at a football game and been booed as a result of the discovery that a bathroom in the Governor's mansion was furnished with gold accoutrements.) Students throughout the game had been roaring another popular chant from that autumn: “Ross is Rollin' Like Gibralter, he shall never, never falter.” (A future biography of Barnett would carry the title “Rollin' With Ross.”)

So what do events at Ole Miss in 1962 have to do with Sylvester Croom's hiring at rival Mississippi State in 2003? Well, Mississippi State was not exactly virtuous during the era of the Ole Miss crisis. Before the Ole Miss-MSU game in October 1962, posters supporting the Bulldogs popped up across the Starkville campus. Distributed by a Jackson advertising firm, the posters showed State's bulldog mascot nipping at the heels of Ole Miss' Colonel Reb. But Colonel Reb had one notable feature: He was black, caricatured to appear like a character from a minstrel show. Above the MSU mascot were the words “sic ‘em WHITE FOLKS.” The implication was clear. Mississippi State , in the minds of its supporters, was the white Mississippi school. Newly integrated Ole Miss was tarnished.

Fast forward to 2003. Mississippi State, like every school in the SEC, recruits black athletes ferociously. Race relations at SEC campuses are not great, but neither are they necessarily much worse than race relations on campuses across the country. Ole Miss still is beleaguered by its past, as its mascot, its nickname, and many of the traditions have fallen by the wayside, many, such as the waving of Confederate flag, in the past few years. Even Colonel Reb is under assault. For more than forty years after Ole Miss exploded in paroxysms of violence in 1962, the SEC has haltingly tried to rehabilitate its racial image. Now Mississippi State has taken a step too long delayed by hiring Sylvester Croom.

Fortunately, this is no affirmative action hiring. By all estimates, Croom's ascension to a head coaching job has been a given, and many are amazed that it has taken this long. MSU Athletic Director Larry Templeton said upon announcing Croom's hiring, "We went after the best football coach and we're confident we found that individual in Sylvester Croom." Many believe that it was only the nepotism so common in major college (and professional) sports that prevented Croom from getting the Alabama job that Mike Shula received.

Croom's hiring makes for an embarrassingly low total of five black head coaches in Division IA football. This is not enough. But for one brief and glorious moment we can look to the SEC and see that Mississippi State does not have any interest in being the white school. And far from being tarnished, at least this week, Mississippi State football shines.


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Josh Stovall - 2/17/2004


Your claim that Ole Miss used none of its offensive southern symbols until the 1950's has no factual basis whatsoever. I suggest you do some research and you will indeed find that they were used well before World War II.
Colonel Rebel, for example, became a University insignia beginning in 1936, and incidentally, the characature was derived from a black man named Jim Ivy, who was blind. Look at the pictures and you'll see the resemblence is unmistakable. Also, the Confederate flag began to be used before 1950. It appeared in the 30's as well, and became popular in the 40's. Certainly another one of their symbols is the nickname of the University itself, Ole Miss. This is a term that goes back to the days of slavery. This term became part of the University in 1896. As for the playing of "Dixie", this practice has been documented as far back as the 1920's at Ole Miss. It too became popular in the 30's which is also when the football team began to be called the "Rebels", instead of the Red and Blue or the Flood. The band being dressed as southern soldiers also started long before 1950. I hope the next time you try to defend yourself with what you said are "historical facts", that you will do just that, and not your own opinion.

rg - 12/21/2003

Derek Catsam entire article is pretty much a waste of space.
So what was the purpose of this article? To inflame, infuriate, antagonize whites and blacks?
The NAACP, KKK and liberal college professors will always exist as long as there is a market for there drivel.
I know inflammatory crap sells (see Jerry Springer) but is it really necessary?

Hal Sparks - 12/14/2003

Your remarks seem somewhat daft frankly. The charge of racism is silly. I am a leftist unlike yourself and I would not become too upset if someone loses interest in communicating with you over the Internet. That is their choice. However, when a columnist acts as if he has the responsibility to police others and then denies he has editorial stature, then I think the issues of academic freedom and accountability do loom.

They don't obviously and so maybe others may wish to pursue other website for their entertainment and time.

Ralph E. Luker - 12/13/2003

Since you have his e-mail address, Mr. Sparks, you may want to write to the editor of HNN and tell him that you believe that you would do a better job of running the show here than he does. By the way, how about some discussion of the substance of the article in place of the constant reference to the process. You don't like HNN's policy on posted comments? Have you read it? You doubt that HNN is entitled to have such a policy? What, exactly, is bothering you?

Ralph E. Luker - 12/13/2003

I haven't replied to anything posted by "NYGuy" in months for reasons I explained months ago. Otherwise, I don't see the conversation with Brother Sparks moving in a constructive direction either.

Hal Sparks - 12/13/2003

Is it "Mr Luker"? Kindly do not put my name in quotation marks.
It is insulting as if I have an amanuensis.

NyGuy - 12/13/2003

Mr. Luker,

Since you have never responded intelligently why should we take your word now.

Since you are a supporter of Clinton, our first american black president, who put his presidentcy on 7 million people who had problems in the middle east, but ignored the milliions of black guys who were killed and maimed, I find it hard to take your comments seriously.

You sound like someone who is promoting your own self interest and thus I have to agree with Hal and and patriot. What are you really about and what do you believe in, except racism. After all the Asians, the hispanics and many other groups are really the future of our country, not those who want to sell their books of the past.

Wake up america.

Ralph E. Luker - 12/13/2003

Mr. "Sparks", I suppose I could respond to your query more intelligently if I knew who you think are in the first tier and who you think are in the second tier.

Hal Sparks - 12/13/2003

Jo Ann Robinson too.

Ralph E. Luker - 12/13/2003

Holy cow! The clever wit of "Hal Sparks" and "Patriot" is way beyond my capacity.
Yet, they seem like patriotic Americans. I'll reserve my meagre efforts for more subversive threats -- Southern Baptist theocrats, sociologists in general, genealogists, and pestiferous autograph collectors. "I've got 'em on my list ... and none of 'em will be missed."

Patriot - 12/13/2003

Mr Sparks,

You are obviously a leftwing academic. Gee, those are so rare today. Hmmm. You must have few friends in academia. Leave Luker alone and focus on the fifth columns that threaten our children if not the survival of our nation.

Stop your calumny and attacks on decent Americans.

Hal Sparks - 12/13/2003

"By the way, what do you claim to have done lately that was constructive?"

My esteemed Mr Luker,

This is not a loving, caring remark but one that attempts to degrade me and humiliate me. I hope however that such base incivility will not result in YOUR being censored by the Committee on Public Information.

I urge LNN visitors to write the editor pleading with them not to censor Mr Luker.

By the way Mr Luker, I think Edgar Nixon has been an underrated if forgotten hero of the Anti-apartheid movement in the Republic of South Africa aka the United States. Why has he been relegated to the second or third tier of antiapartheid activists? Wrong last name?

George Creel,
President, A Mitchell Palmer Fan Club

Ralph E. Luker - 12/13/2003

Professor Sparks, You're entitled to think whatever you want. If you think it is useful to have a public space where historians and non-historians discuss issues of interest to both of us, however, then you'll appreciate the necessity of maintaining a level of civil discourse that excludes ad hominem attack and potty mouth. I can assure you that most of my professional colleagues simply will not participate in the kinds of exchanges Homer Simpson and Stephen Thomas engaged in. If you call what they posted "ideas" or "thoughts," you are sadly mistaken. By the way, what do you claim to have done lately that was constructive?

Hal Sparks - 12/13/2003

I refer to this post.

Subject: RE: how insensistive
Posted By: Derek Catsam
Date Posted: December 9, 2003, 3:56 PM
Er, they did do it with a bunch of white boys. How is that somehow disparaging? Except, I guess, inasmuch as those boys got to play in many cases because their state universities would not allow black boys to play alongside them.

Homer -- you have not seen all of this before. You have not seen most of it before. Much of this is based on original research that has not been published anywhere (ie the Nuremburg comments, the poster that appeared in Starkville). Your being a bigot is obvious. Now we know you are a liar too.

Hal Sparks - 12/13/2003

Why wasn't this deleted Mr Luker? First it lacks civility in which Professor Catsam calls Homer a "liar." It appears totally out of context and a reader might see it as directed at L. Tobin who did nothing wrong. It clearly was a response to a posting that was deleted and its merit and context are meaningless.

You folks are becoming a little elite club who are in danger of alienating those of us who are interested in evenhanded censorship.

Hal Sparks - 12/13/2003

Hears how it works. Mr Luker is basically the eminence grise of HNN or maybe we should all it LNN. If he find something he does not like, he emails Rick and says "Rick, this is star-semi-retired blogger here and I find these comments to be too critical of me." As one peruses LNNs chief's own postings, one encounters a frequent foray into incivility.

I agree that Homer was a boor and was too piquant in his denunciation of the author. I think however Mr Luker should stop spending his days, policing HNN and do something constructive.

Now Ralph, I will give you Rick's email if you lost it.


May I suggest a new book by Oxford:
"George Creel and Ralph Luker Defend Our Country From Dangerous Thoughts."

"Incursion" not an "Invasion"

Richard Babb - 12/13/2003

Dear Mr. Luker:

You may very well be correct about this. I was relying on memory of an article which appeared last year in the Vanderbilt Alumni Magazine. Jim Lawson was going to be a Methodist Minister, if he wasn't one already, and I think had actually visited Ghandhi to learn about his method of achieving social change through nonviolence.

Whatever the reason, Mr. Lawson's presence at Vanderbilt really caused a crisis of epic proportions. I wish I had kept the article. It was quite in depth and was one of those "setting the record straight" articles with interviews with Rev. Lawson and other participants. Fortunately, Vanderbilt was able to come through the crisis and, of course, is a widely admired University. But the Lawson affair wasn't one of its better institutional moments.

By the way, Dr. Colvard, the former MSU President who led the 63 basketball team to the NCAA's, is still alive. A local paper interviewed him after the hiring of Coach Croom and described his reaction to the hiring as "estatic." And, if I am not mistaken, Dr. Colvard received part of his education at Berea College in Kentucky, which has its own distinguished history of inclusive education.

Ralph E. Luker - 12/13/2003

Mr. Babb, All of this is well said. I have only a qualm about your reference to James Lawson at Vanderbilt. The crisis at Vandy, as I recall, came -- not over Lawson's admission -- but, after his admission, it became clear that he intended to be a civil rights activist in Nashville. It was then that he was expelled and his expulsion precipitated the crisis that is to this day a sorry story in Vanderbilt's history.

Richard Babb - 12/13/2003

Mr. Catsam,

As an alum of Mississippi State, Vanderbilt University and the University of Mississippi, I feel a little disposed toward responding to your article. I am not a professional historian, but I have probably done more than my share of reading about integration at my respective alma maters, and I experienced the desegregation of public schools in Mississippi when I was 12. I also happened to be at the press conference when Coach Croom was announced as the new coach at MSU.

First of all, I think you make too much of the "posters" involving the Bulldogs some forty years ago. That's the first I have heard of them, and while they probably deserve mentioning for the historical record, in light of what was going on in Mississippi at that time, that was, frankly, really nothing. Civil rights workers were being murdered, a riot occurred at the University of Missisippi when Merideth enrolled, resulting in dozens injured and two people being killed, and other civil rights workers were being terrorized and beaten on a regular scale. In my own community, a black church was burned the day after famed civil rights worker, Fannie Lou Hamer, appeared and made a speech.

The posters, nothwithstanding, the larger point which I think you perhaps missed is that MSU has, for whatever reason, simply been a little more advanced in the admission of minority students and bringing them into the vanguard of student life than other supposedly more sophisticated liberal arts colleges. MSU, as you probably know, is a land grant university which was established in 1878, not a liberal arts college. However, six months after the riots at Ole Miss in 1962, (which certainly has seen itself as the "Harvard of the South"), Dr. D.W. Colvard, President of MSU, prepared and instituted a plan to sneak the basketball team out of the State of Mississippi at night so they could play in the NCAA's.

Again, I think the context of this courageous act should not be overlooked. Given that people were being murdered in the State of Mississippi over the issue of civil rights, this was nothing less than an act of radicalism by a college president. However, Dr. Colvard was supported by MSU students who signed petitions by the hundreds in favor of this act.

Dr. Colvard was also President when MSU admitted, without incident, its first minority student, Richard Holmes, who later became a Medical Doctor.

MSU was also one of the first schools in the SEC to recruit black athletes. Along with the University of Tennessee, it was the first school to have a black kid start at quarterback for its football team. That would have been about 1971 or 1972. In 1972, one of the black players on the football team, Frank Dowsing, was elected by the majority white student body as "Mr. MSU." Furthermore, MSU had the first of its minority student body presidents over 20 years ago. It has also had a number of minority homecoming queens over the years.

My point in all of this is to point out that the appointment of Coach Sylvester Croom as the first minority coach in the SEC and that it occurred at Mississippi State, is quite in keeping with a progressive tradition of forty years which was started by Dr. Colvard.

The tragedy of the South when it comes to its tortured racial history is that its academic institutions basically failed its citizens. When James Lawson was admitted to the Divinity School at Vanderbilt, it caused a crisis of such proportions that one of the Vanderbilt heirs flew down from New York to try and straighten out the mess. There is no reason to detail the failure of leadership at the University of Mississippi and the University of Alabama. You have ably done that.

It is sad that it took so long for the SEC to have its first black head coach. However, I am justly proud and not a bit surprised that MSU made the appointment. Every SEC school has made a change in coaches within the past five years. But it took MSU to break the barrier.

Jesse Lamovsky - 12/12/2003

Yikes. Bad mistake, but thanks for correcting it.

Hugh High - 12/12/2003

Jesse Lamovsky's initial contribution was spot on -- excellent, and correct, observations. Moreover, a highly temperate contribution designed to further knowledge -- which is the presumptive purpose of this forum, as all too few seem to realise. My congratulations, Mr. Lamovsky.

Mark Stevens - 12/12/2003

Major Oglivie is white. Still, your point is made. SEC resurgence in the seventies was tied to integration and players like Ozzie Newsome, E.J. Junior, and Wilbur Jackson.

Ralph E. Luker - 12/11/2003

Mr. Pereson, As you may know, I do not speak on behalf of HNN. I do speak on behalf of civility and make no apology for that.

Bill Pereson - 12/11/2003

Is Mr Luker speaking for HNN? His tone is one of officialdom and has a rather condescending and unctuous nature to it. Is he an editor and does he have fiduciary responsibility? It would seem to me that the editor not a columnist should assume such an aura of accountability for this website. In academe, we call it arrogance.

Ralph E. Luker - 12/11/2003

Mr. Norris, Both Homer Simpson and Stephen Thomas are repeat offenders -- many times over. Parker pushes the envelope and could also make himself unwelcome.

Fred Norris - 12/11/2003


You may be correct about Thomas (as I said in my first post, I didn't like the rhetoric). But that doesn't answer the question -- why Thomas and not Parker? Why is "moronic" and "hate" OK?

Jesse Lamovsky - 12/11/2003

Thank you for your kind words, Ms. Cornett.

Somehow I knew you would pop up on this thread!

Jesse Lamovsky - 12/11/2003

The paucity of black head coaches is neither significant nor insignificant. Regrettable? Yes- I would sympathize with the fans and players of any school, or any business, saddled with a morons who pass up on talent out of bigotry. But Sylvester Croom is an SEC guy. A generation of black football in the SEC has passed, and opportunities have advanced accordingly. A bit slow for some people, but it is happening nonetheless.

The right guy is the right guy. Jim Tressel is the right guy at Ohio State; Bobby Williams was the wrong guy at Michigan State. Marvin Lewis was the right guy for the Bengals; Marty Mornigweg was the wrong guy for the Lions. What else can you say? But African-Americans will receive more opportunities in the coaching ranks in the future. That's bound to happen. There are, ultimately, too many black men in the sport for that not to happen.

Methinks the re-birth of the Confederate flag in the 1950s was as much a reaction to what were seen as objectionable Federal government policies as a message of intimidation for Southern African-Americans. Either way, the only way you can really hurt somebody while waving a flag is to poke them in the eye with it. If football fans want to break out the Stars 'n Bars at games, that's their prerogative. I'm not going to question their motives. Anyway, Ole Miss has paid the price on the field for its flag-waving intransigence- the Rebels haven't done squat in any of the four decades since James Meredith enrolled (unless a guy named Manning was playing quarterback). In a sport dominated by black athletes, that's probably not a coincidence. There are penalties for racism (or perceptions of it) and exclusionary policies in the course of human action. That's the way it should be handled.

Ralph E. Luker - 12/11/2003

Mr. Norris, I accept your shame, if you think it deserved. When Stephen Thomas learns to post at History News Network from a keyboard that is civil, he may be welcome to post here. Until he does, he is not. We have quite enough folks here who push the envelop on name-calling. Professor Thomas fell right off the cliff.

Monish Vegas Alexander - 12/10/2003

I noted many of the acerbic and unprofessional comments were deleted from this thread. I think HNN is engaging in appropriate policing of statements that,while legal and first amendment protected, were egregious. Homer aka Thomas's were quite shocking and intemperate and struck me as too personal.

Kent Hartmann - 12/10/2003

I hate for anyone to take the bait of such a juvenile comment, but why don't you, Mr. Thomas, write something displaying these "ideas" you have for us to assess, rather than constantly carping in your perpetually outraged fashion about what others have written. Perhaps you have tried and your attempt was not found to be up to snuff. To be an unsubstantive (a word?) critic is the easiest thing in the world. Why don't you try creating something for us to discuss rather than constantly stewing in your own bitterness. Isn't a life of continuous outrage tiring? Maybe that's why William Bennett turned to gambling to relax.

rg - 12/10/2003

Two more comments for Barbara:

(1) Al Sharpton is the liberal equivalent of David Duke.

(2) I know people who have pulled themselves up from humble/impoverished beginnings without becoming a thug along the way. ..."street kid" ? so was Hitler at one time.

Fred Norris - 12/10/2003

Ask yourself this question, in the long course of history who killed more people -- the slave power represented by the Confederacy, or Nazi Germany? The former was certainly at it for much longer.

Comparisons between Nuremburg rallies and Ole Miss football games may be overblown. And comparisons between Nazism and the Confederacy may be invidious, but one should not preclude the possibility of a serious debate.

And by the way, the choice of posts that HNN has chosen to excise from this debate over the course of the day is interesting. Charlie Parker can call Homer Simpson / Stephen Thomas moronic and hateful and that's OK, but Thomas's defense isn't? Frankly, whether one likes the rhetoric or not (and I didn't) Mr. Thomas had a point. Can't his record on race be included in the record of his defense? Shame.

rg - 12/10/2003

A lot of people don't like Sharpton because of his controversal past. He was a street kid and he came up the hard way but he has evolved and grown and has made something of himself and I think that is a positive thing and certainly shows that he has more character then Bush has.

You need a reality check..... unless this is another of those "depends on what the definition of character is" things.

I have contempt for Bill Clinton. Unlike you, I wouldn't place him lower than, say, Charles Manson.

Your statement is over the top. It ranks up there (or down there) with Catsam's Nuremburg comment.

rg - 12/10/2003

By repeating the "Nuremburg Rally" comments in your article you lend them credence. The person who passes along a slur is little better the person who originates it.
Given the general tone of your article, I seriously doubt you harbor little (if any) affection for the South. Or at least Mississippi.

Derek Catsam - 12/10/2003

Jesse --
I neither disagree with anything you say nor do I believe it undercuts my argument. In a finite amount of space I wanted to deal with a major issue making news and show some of the historical background there. If you wanted a full and comprehensive history of this topic -- of any -- HNN is probably the wrong place to go given the length of articles. I think the MSU basketball example is a great one, although as you must well know there is more to it than that, and it does not change that durting the Ole Miss crisis some did use that as a way to boost white supremacy at MSU. In the final analysis, you may talk about how there have been black coaches in college, but there are currently only five out of nearly 120 at the DIA level and on top of that, this is the first black coach in the history of the SEC. Why you think that is insignificant is beyond me.
I love the South. I was not taking cheap shots -- it is an historical fact that Colonel Reb et al are under fire and have been for some time. If you read it as a cheap shot, I am sorry -- I certainly did not intend it that way. That said, Ole Miss adopted every one of the Old South accoutrements only after WWII -- the Rebel flag was not a part of Ole Miss' football heritage prior to the 1950s. Historical facts are not cheap shots. I love Mississippi, I love Ole Miss, and I love the South. That does not mean that it does not have a past to reckon with. These symbold were simply not used in Mississippi prior to the Civil Rights era. This is of someimportance.
As for the Nuremburg comments, before Lamovsky decides on the quality of my degree, he probably should know that several people who were at the game are on record as comparing it to being the closest thing they can imagine to a Nuremburg Rally. It is their words to which I am referring and not my own. Is the analogy overstated? Sure. But these are, significantly, the words of former Ole Miss students who were at the game. they are not my own, and it is not my construction. One of the former students who said this would go on to serve in the Mississippi legislature in the 1970s.

Jesse Lamovsky - 12/10/2003

I'll save the comments about Al Sharpton for another time...

Actually, black quarterbacks have been competing in pro football for more than a generation. The first was Marlin Briscoe, who broke in with the Denver Broncos (then in the AFL) in 1968. The 1970s saw the Rams' James "Shack" Harris, the Steelers' Joe Gilliam (who was from your home state of Tennessee, and who briefly knocked Terry Bradshaw out of the starting job in Pittsburgh), and at the end of the decade, Tampa Bay's Doug Williams. Not many examples, to be sure, but examples nonetheless. By the way, James Harris was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1975.

I do agree with your assessments of Peyton Manning and Steve McNair. Of course, pretty much anybody with two legs and two arms would look good compared to Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb. And as for the Titans not having any Pro Bowlers, well... I'd rather be 9-4 with no Pro Bowlers than 4-9 with no Pro Bowlers, as the Browns are!

Barbara Cornett - 12/10/2003

Mr Thomas, I don't understand why you are angry??? Catsam is pointing out the racism that has plagued the south and the reluctance of the whites in power to allow black people to participate in sports. Have I missed something here?? Why are you angry?

The culture of the south evolved as a result of black and white people both contributing to it. In the south blacks and whites have always lived together much more so then up north. So I understand what you are talking about when you object to states where there are few blacks but plenty of self righteous indignation over racism.

Last night in the democratic debate Al Sharpton was accused of not visiting New Hampshire as much as the other candidates have. I couldn't help but think of the fact that there are no blacks in New Hampshire so why would Sharpton go there. A lot of people don't like Sharpton because of his controversal past. He was a street kid and he came up the hard way but he has evolved and grown and has made something of himself and I think that is a positive thing and certainly shows that he has more character then Bush has.

I love football! well I am a southerner after all so it comes naturally I guess. Only recently has the NFL allowed black quarterbacks so I guess Mississippi is not that far behind the rich owners of national football teams who had to be goaded into giving blacks a chance to quarterback.

Rush Limbaugh made statements about the media needing to be able to say good things about black quarterbacks and dissed Donavan McNabb. The fact of the matter is that Steve McNair will probably be declared the greatest quarterback of the year which shows how much Limbaugh knows. Of course the Titans are completely ignored by the rest of the country because they play in TN which like AK is probably not even considered to be a real state. Not one Titan went to the Pro Bowl last year and they have been contenders for the Super Bowl for the last 5 years.

I have seen McNair carry the ball himself dozens of times and it is practically impossible for the defense to tackle him. He can carry three tacklers and get an extra five yards. This is a team that is so good it is hard for them to get pumped up for their games. They let the New York Jets beat them. They are a lot better then Payton and the Colts.

But I have to say I love Payton and the Colts and they are the only team that I root for besides the Titans. When Payton was a freshman at University of Tennessee, we had a black quarterback who had a very promising career but received a career ending injury and UT had no one to replace him except Payton. Payton looked like he was 12 years old when the coach put him in and everyone wanted to protect him and we all immediately embraced him and loved him. He considers TN to be his home.

But I think that McNair is a better quarterback. He makes it look easy while Payton has to work really hard for his success.

McNair refers to himself as a good ole Mississippi boy who stays in shape by working the farm during the summer.

Barbara Cornett - 12/10/2003

Mr Lamovsky it is not Mississippi and their hiring of a black coach that is amazing me right now. It is your attitude and speech regarding the south which is so rare and unusual that I actually find it stunning. I don't know if I know how to respond to someone who is that kind in talking about the south. Mr Catsam and his words I have plenty of experience with.

It makes me think that you are a very generous and decent man and I would do well to follow your example. You are a much better person then I am.

Charlie Parker - 12/10/2003

Just like one cannot assume political opinions from one's state of residence, one cannot just pull out the "I have black friends" card and expect a free pass.

Charlie Parker - 12/10/2003

Mr. Simpson,

The assumption that the state in which one teaches determines one's political or racial attitudes is moronic. As with every other profession, one applies for the jobs that are advertised, and one takes the jobs that are offered. Derek doesn't need my help in defending himself, but you, sir, are so full of hate that you can't even see the insanity of your own rantings.

Jesse Lamovsky - 12/10/2003

It's too bad. Mr. Catsam is obviously a sports fan, and he knows about the topic. And he's right- Sylvester Croom is clearly the best man for the Mississippi State job.

That having been said...

Mr. Catsam could have pointed out that before, and even after, the major Southern schools were integrated, the small black land-grant colleges were turning out brilliant African-American football players. At one point the NFL's all time leading rusher (Walter Payton), receiver (Jerry Rice), winningest college coach (Eddie Robinson), and the first black quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl (Doug Williams) all hailed from these schools. It wasn't like blacks sat on the sidelines while the white folks played. There was plenty of great football played in the South, even outside the SEC.

He also could have pointed out that the SEC schools integrated their football teams not out of some liberal desire to "rehabilitate (their) racial image", but because they needed to integrate to compete in the increasingly diverse world of major college football in the 1970s. It wasn't the Kennedys that compelled Bear Bryant to sign his first integrated class in the winter of 1973 (a class that included coach Croom)- it was USC and fullback Sam Cunningham, who embarrassed the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa the previous season. The SEC was revitalized in the late '70s and early '80s by black stars like Major Oglivie and Herschel Walker.

Mr. Catsam also could have pointed out that this wasn't the first time Mississippi State has been a trendsetter for integrating competition in Southern college sports. In 1963, the Bulldog basketball team literally snuck out of the state under cover of darkness to compete in that year's NCAA basketball tournament, against integrated Loyola of Chicago and Bowling Green teams.

He could have pointed out there have been black coaches in Division I-A for a full decade now. That Notre Dame has a black coach. That the position of African-Americans in the coaching ranks has advanced to the point where a school (Michigan State) can fire a black coach (Bobby Williams) and replace him with a white coach (John L. Smith)- and have nobody bat an eye over it.

He could have also resisted the usual cheap shots against white Southerners, and the usual gleeful clapping over the symbols and traditions of the white South (Colonel Reb; the Stars and Bars) that are being thrown down the memory hole. A lot of us admire and respect the cultures and traditions of both the white and black South, and rejoice when the two can come together peacefully and amicably, as they do on the football field on fall Southern Saturdays. Why does it always have to be a zero-sum game?

(By the way, I'm going to give Mr. Catsam the benefit of the doubt and assume he really doesn't believe that Ole Miss football games, circa 1962, and the Nuremburg rallies were equivalent. If he did, he might as well toss his degrees into the trash, because they're not worth the paper they're printed on. Nobody with an ounce of common sense, or knowledge of history, can compare the white South to Nazi Germany.)

Derek Catsam - 12/9/2003

rg -- actually, Homer was a liar because he said he'd "seen it all before." That is not an opinion, it is a misstatement of fact. You might note that his comments, as so many of his other diatribes, have been stricken from HNN due to their intemperance. This has nothing to do with accepting other ideas. It is, however, about what is right and wrong. Jim Crow at SEC universities was wrong; the fact that the conference had never hired a black coach before is appalling; the fact that there are only five black head coaches in all of DI football is loathsome.
As for tenure as a substitute for intelligence, that';s a good line. It isn't true of course -- I know many very bright tenured folks and I know a lot of bright untenured ones. You can insult me if you want, however I do not have tenure, and despite what you say, I'm reasonably confident that I am fairly bright.
(I don't buy most of the Kennedy conspiracies either. But I do maintain that Homer's post was racist. I do not think that yours or L. Tobin's is. The first stage of right wingers ought to be acknowledging that there are racists out there, and you should condemn them with at least as much emphasis as your gratuitous generalizations about the professoriate. Conservatism and racism are not of necessity the same thing, but when you don't speak out against it, well . . .)

rg - 12/9/2003

standard liberal response.
Let me guess, anyone who disagrees with you is a liar, and a bigot, and a meanie, and personally pulled the trigger on one of the 9,999,999,999 shots that killed Kennedy, and is a member of "the vast right wing conspiracy,, hates clean air and tortures little kittens. .... and a racist.

The total intolerance you exhibit to others opinions can only come from a member of a university.. where tenure is a substitute for intelligence.

Derek Catsam - 12/9/2003

Er, they did do it with a bunch of white boys. How is that somehow disparaging? Except, I guess, inasmuch as those boys got to play in many cases because their state universities would not allow black boys to play alongside them.

Homer -- you have not seen all of this before. You have not seen most of it before. Much of this is based on original research that has not been published anywhere (ie the Nuremburg comments, the poster that appeared in Starkville). Your being a bigot is obvious. Now we know you are a liar too.

Son of Stemler - 12/9/2003

The above two comments reflect racist bigotry. The absence of white running backs in the National Violence League is due to African-Americn superiority at the position.

The latter comment is similar to what one would hear pre-Rosa Parks in the South.

L. Tobin - 12/8/2003

"Ole Miss did this with a bunch of white boys." Interesting how those suposedly worried about racial bias can slide so easily into disparging terems for white people. In any event,
the really radical event n college and NFL football is not the appointment of a black coach, but the appearance of a white running back.