Despite having a black quarterback, Everett Golson—whose performance had to be salvaged several times this year by his white backup, Tommy Rees—Notre Dame starts up to twelve whites at a time and probably has a 70 percent white roster (judging from the sidelines). Alabama starts only four whites (out of 22 starters) and sports a roster that is over 70 percent black.
College football has long been an obsession in America. A new book examines the racial politics behind the game—both on and off the field—and shows how we arrived at the point where Alabama’s storied football team—all white until the 1970s— is now overwhelmingly black.
Opiate of America: College Football in Black and White is a collection of essays by Paul Kersey, who runs the popular Stuff Black People Don’t Like blog and writes frequently for VDARE.com. Kersey is a keen observer of pop culture and often devotes his blog to racial trends in music, movies and sports.
His book starts off with the 1960s, describing how white coaches, fans and administrators reacted to the demands of black players and the black power movement.
Kersey goes into painstaking detail about controversies at Oregon State, the University of Washington, Syracuse and other colleges where white coaches tried to enforce the rules of their teams on black players. Seemingly minor things like asking a black player to shave his moustache or benching a black player in favor of a white athlete would spur protests and race activism—all supported by the (exceptionally liberal) sports media.
At the University of Washington (UW), Jim Owens was a popular coach who led his team to numerous conference titles and Rose Bowl wins throughout the 1960s. UW had long played black players but that was not enough to save Owens from constant harassment from his own black players starting in 1968.
The thirteen blacks on the roster presented Owens with a list of racial demands, such as hiring a black coach, firing a white trainer they didn’t like, and having a four man “black athletic committee” oversee any roster changes made by the coaching staff. Owens, like most of the supposedly authoritarian white coaches profiled in the book, meekly gave in to the black power demands. A Sports Illustrated article from 1969 notes,
“Owens lives in a glass house. His every move is catalogued. The University’s Student Athletic Committee grills him on student seating and other procedural matters and on the athletic department’s requests for funds. Owens is questioned about black athletes, about discrimination, about jobs.”
[Shave Off That Thing! By John Underwood, September 1, 1969]
Only one coach didn’t give in so easily. The University of Wyoming (of all places) used to recruit black players from the South. During the 1969 season, a group of black Wyoming players wanted to wear armbands during their game with Brigham Young University (BYU) to protest the Mormon Church’s racial theories. Coach Lloyd Eaton—known as a stern disciplinarian— denied this request and simply threw the fourteen disgruntled blacks off the team.
In the Southeastern Conference (SEC) many of the top schools such as Georgia, Louisiana State (LSU), Arkansas and Auburn remained all-white until the early 1970s. This was a sore point for black “civil rights” leaders, since these all white teams from Dixie routinely defeated integrated sides with black athletes.
Of course, these teams paid a price for fielding all-white rosters. The Ole Miss team of 1962 and the Alabama team of 1966 went undefeated yet were not named national champions due to the biases of the sports reporters of the day, who vote for the national champions.
The complexion of the SEC started to change in the 1970s. By the 1980s, teams were often half white and half black.
Main Stream Media sports reporters make a big deal out of a 1970 game between all-white Alabama and an integrated Southern California (USC) team. USC crushed Alabama which purportedly made legendary Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant decide to recruit black players.
But Kersey points out that the 1970 Alabama team was in a down year anyway. The very next year Alabama—with only two blacks on the team—defeated the same integrated USC team.
Nevertheless, the idea that blacks are superior athletes is now so entrenched that whites only accounted for 20 percent of the starters in the SEC in 2011. You might think that coaches would always want to win, but Kersey argues that this is a case of an inefficient market—which obviously do exist in sports: think Moneyball . This has consequences for white athletes as they often have to “walk on” (join the football team without a scholarship) or go to smaller schools to play.
For example, Toby Gerhart, a white running back who finished second in the Heisman trophy race in 2010, was only offered one scholarship out of high school. Zach Line, currently a running back at Southern Methodist University was also offered only one scholarship—and that was to play linebacker instead of running back.
Kersey quotes recruiting guru Tom Lemming:
“College recruiters talk off-the record to me. They talk off-the-record that if an athlete is white, no matter how great his production, they won’t recruit him.”
[What college coaches don`t talk about, by Taylor Bell, Chicago Sun-Times, October 1, 2009]
It is also worth noting that white high school teams routinely win state football championships—often beating all-black teams in the process. Yet these white athletes are usually bypassed when it comes to college scholarship offers.
Another under-reported reality chronicled in Opiate of America is the abuse white athletes have to face from blacks on the field.
A typical example is last year’s Gator Bowl between majority white Ohio State and coal-black Florida. According to Ohio State player Tyler Moeller:
“I’ve never seen more people swing at our players and call us racial slurs. I’ve never been called a ‘cracker’ more in my life than I have today.”[Buckeye linebacker calls foul on race-baiting Gators, Graham Watson, Yahoo! Sports January 3, 2012]
Current NFL running back Jacob Hester played at LSU. One of the nicer insults he received was “Shouldn’t you be playing running back for Air Force?”
This is a “coded” racial insult. Because of necessarily high academic standards—the graduates will be expected to fly planes containing nuclear bombs—the US Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs has always had a very white football team. In 2005, Coach Fisher DeBerry was reprimanded for saying that black students should be recruited because they could run faster than whites.
White athletes also must deal with biased treatment from coaches. Vince Papale tried out for the Philadelphia Eagles and was originally denied a spot on the roster. When he complained to the coach that he had the fastest forty yard dash time on the team, the coach replied. “Yeah, but I’ve never seen a white guy run that fast. My assistant must have timed you wrong.”
One of the more curious sociological realities of college football is stadiums full of conservative white Southerners cheering nearly all-black teams—often against mostly-white teams.
Kersey notes that Georgia and Ole Miss opened their 2011 seasons against Boise State and BYU respectively. While Georgia and Ole Miss started only two or three whites, BYU and Boise State started 16 whites. These were essentially black versus white games. Yet the white Southern fans fervently cheered on their mostly black teams (and were no doubt very sad when the white teams won).
What would their Confederate ancestors think of this spectacle?
As with his other books (Hollywood in Blackface and Escape From Detroit) Kersey is to be commended for sifting through long-forgotten articles and books about the coaches, players and controversies of past college football seasons. It is eye-opening how many coaches will come out and say flatly that they believe blacks are better athletes and that is why they rarely recruit whites.
Opiate of America: College Football in Black and White may perhaps not be of keen interest to the non-sports fan. Derived from SBPDL columns, it is sprawling and sometimes repetitive. But its content is excellent. It does a great job in documenting the destruction of what was once a great national pastime.
The bottom line: college football is now just another area where whites a.k.a. members of the historic American nation are being discriminated against and dispossessed.
Peter Bradley (email him) writes from Washington D.C.