Essay about Racism in College Football

Words: 3443
Pages: 14

Integration in Ole Miss Football Today, African American athletes play a strong and predominant role in the football program at the university however, this was not always the case. Less than fifty years ago, the Ole Miss football program was just as segregated as it had been in its early days. As a whole, the Southeastern Conference of the NCAA was the last to instrgarate black athletes with the current white ones (Paul 297, 284). Of the ten teams in the conference at the time, the University of Mississippi was the last to integrate (Paul 287). This integration of the team took place ten years after the University itself was integrated. Not only did the school refuse to integrate until years after other teams had already done so but, …show more content…
When half of the state of Mississippi called for the university to close, there was only one overwhelming reason for the university to stay open, the prevailing Rebels football team: if the school closed the football’s teams season would end. Robert Kennedy called coach Henry Vaught himself saying, “Coach Vaught, I want you to do what you can to keep the situation calm” (Thompson 8). Following the days of violence and rioting, “a school and a football team have to pick up the pieces” (Thompson 7). Because the football team was one of the only forces holding the team together, no one dared attempt to integrate it. Integration took such a long time to occur on the football field at Ole Miss because it could have easily torn the university apart. Henry Vaught proved to be a strong force in the delay of integration of the Ole Miss football program. Even today, Vaught is considered one of the greatest coaches in the history of Ole Miss football. In addition to his leadership skills on the field, Vaught also possessed a strong anti-integration policy for his football team. Not only did Vaught keep African American athletes off his own team, he also refused to play teams who had moved with the times and integrated: “The school’s most famous and successful coach, Henry Vaught, refused bowl invitations in the 1950s against integrated opponents, and he