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CURRY: Selling Out Black College Football to Make a Buck

George E. Curry | 9/25/2013, 3 p.m.
Howard Bison WR Matthew Calvin protects the football from Morehouse Maroon Tigers DB Lance Bennett en route to a touchdown in the second quarter of Howard's 27-16 win in the third annual Nation's Football Classic at RFK Stadium in D.C. on Sept. 7. Photo by John DeFreitas

Gaither said that because of segregation, the only way he was able to prove the quality of his players was when they turned pro. That was true until Nov. 29, 1969 when Florida A&M played Tampa University in the first game in the Deep South between a Black college and a predominantly White university. FAMU, the underdog, won 34-28.

Unfortunately, most of our Black youth don’t know about the glory days of Black college football. I tried to help fill the gap in 1977 when I wrote, Jake Gaither: America’s Most Famous Black Coach. Recently, Vern Smith, a screenwriter and former Atlanta bureau chief for Newsweek, wrote a screenplay based on my book. We’re in the process of shopping the script, hoping to present the real story about Black college football.

The best known movie about Black college football is “White Tiger,” a made-for-TV movie starring Bruce Jenner as the first White quarterback at previously all-Black Grambling College, now Grambling State University. In the movie, Harry Belafonte plays the role of Coach Eddie Robinson. The fact that a White actor was the star in a movie about Black college football is proof that Hollywood was never serious about telling our story.

According to the Census Bureau, 53 percent of the Black population is under the age of 35. That means that more than half of African Americans were born after 1978. They don’t know anything about Jake Gaither, Eddie Robinson or John Merritt. All they see are the lopsided scores on Saturdays. Vern Smith and I hope to get our movie made if for no other reason than to let them know that it wasn’t always this way.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA). He can be reached through his website, www.georgecurry.com. Follow him on Twitter @currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook.