UK and Integrated Athletics: A Proposal

Published in Kentucky Kernel, March 22, 1963

Note: Due to poor microfilm quality, some of the text is difficult to read and in some cases words are missing or assumed.

If the University is to live up to it moral obligations and make significant progress as a major institution it must divorce itself from the segregation policy which dominates the Southeastern Conference.

Here and now with a withdrawal from the SEC or an announcement that we will begin to recruit Negro players by a certain date, we have the chance to make a real step forward. We have the golden opportunity to become leaders. We can stand up and tell the world that we, a Southern university, are sick of having a doctrine of racial inferiority rammed down our throats.

Bernie Shively, UK Athletic Director, has stated that, "Our policy has been not to give any grants-in-aid to negroes because we are a member of the SEC." He added that the University would lose too much prestige if it withdrew from the conference.

We know UK prestige would drop -- in a few Southern states. Across the nation, however, we believe it would rise almost immeasurably. Which is more important?

Dr. A.D. Kirwan, dean of the graduate school and a member of the board of directors of the Athletic Association, stated that if the University took such a drastic step at this time (SEC withdrawal) it would have no one to play. He says, and quite correctly, that athletic schedules are made up too far in advance to allow us to schedule anyone but small and insignificant teams.

When a moral issue like this is at hand, shouldn't we take the step?

In response to questions concerning the possibility of the University recruiting Negro athletes and what would happen to its position in the SEC if it did, President Frank G. Dickey said yesterday: "Any matter of policy change must emanate from the Board of Trustees or the Board of Directors of the Athletic Association. While these questions have been discussed by these groups, no decision has taken place."

Other schools have obviously recognized the responsibility. Progress in the integration of athletic teams is being made in other sections of the country, but not in the SEC. Several major Southern football powers such as Miami of Florida, Wake Forest, and Texas Christian have announced that not only will they use qualified Negro players, but they will begin to recruit them.

Real progress is being made in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Maryland has already signed one Negro football player, Darryl Hill will probably start for Maryland in the near future.

The biggest problem in athletic integration is the Southeastern Conference. Some weeks ago AP sports writer Will Grimsley spoke to a group of SEC coaches about the problem. He received such comments as, "We don't anticipate any change in our recruiting program." This statement was issued by one of Vanderbilt's head coaches.

"Tennessee and Georgia Tech also indicated no alteration of policy. Mississippi State, Mississippi and Louisiana State declined comment," he added.

The University of Kentucky is also among the school which have remained silent.

The question is why have we remained silent? Are we afraid to say what we really believe? Is it true that we're merely paying lip service to a lot of high sounding ideals while really acting like hypocrites?

For those to whom a more "practical" line of reasoning might appeal, we cite the recent discussions on the benefits which would be drived from the recruiting of Negro athletes. The Human Rights News, published by the Commission on Human Rights, Frankfort, reports a quote from Adolph Rupp in the January 21 issue of The Courier-Journal.

"Other regions are catching up with improved basketball and Kentucky boys are helping them. George Unseld, for instance, is at Kansas. Joe Dan Gold is at Mississippi State, Tom Thacker is at Cincinnati, Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt have state boys."

"Thacker and Unseld are negroes," reports the Frankfort-based organization.

In addition to this there are the results of a recent poll conducted by the Kernel. It showed to a statistically significant degree that the majority of UK students favor integrated athletic teams.

From the athletic standpoint there is also a definite disadvantage in belonging to the Southeastern Conference.

At least a few other schools in the conference with lower academic requirements are able to recruit top flight athletics with low flight grades. thus we see at least one possible reason for Kentucky's poor showing in football.

In basketball UK would certainly remain as great whether in or out of the SEC. Kentucky basketball has made a name for itself. Independence or membership in another conference might enhance kentucky's cage reputation still more.

The state's chief official, Gov. Bert T. Combs, was considered for a high position on the Southern Governor's Conference last October but declined the honor, explaining he could not accept such a position because of his views concerning segregation. He is against it while the majority of other Southern governors hold the opposite position.

Combs said in a speech delivered to the Chicago Conference for Brotherhood in February, "If American freedom is to live, then all segregation must die."

Whether you are for or against him politically, we think it is apparent that Gov. Combs has stood u for what is right in this important instance.

And now it is our turn.

We ask Dr. Dickey, the board of directors of the Athletic Association, and the Board of Trustees to formulate a plan which will enable UK to withdraw from the Southeastern Conference because of the SEC's reactionary segregation policy.

We fully realize that it is impossible just jump from one conference to another. We realize also that formulation of the once-talked about conference in this ??? made up of schools with higher academic standards is not something which can be done in the spur of the moment.

However, we must say that the argument that active recruiting (?) of Negro athletes would cause UK to be ousted from the SEC and thereby create a number of problems is tantamount to saying "We'll act according to high moral standards only if we can get a good athletic schedule."

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