By Farrell, Charles S.
Black Issues in Higher Education , Vol. 13, No. 8
Jackson State University made history this spring by becoming the
first historically Black institution to have its golf team invited to the
National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division I golf tournament.
Division 110 the NCAA's top competitive division.
Jackson State's inclusion i s as ironic to some as it is historic. A year
ago, golf coach Eddie Payton tried discrimination when his team was
not selected for the tournament -- despite the fact that the majority
of his team is white. In fact, only one member of the current Jackson
State team is Black.
Critics charge that fielding majority white sports teams at historically
Black colleges undermines their mission. Supporters counter that the
situation is no different from white institutions that field mostly Black
basketball or football teams.
Economics appears to be at the root of the situation. With most Black
colleges lacking the financial resources to recruit extensively, particularly
to pursue the small pool of Black golfers who can be competitive at the
Division I level, many must turn to white golfers to be competitive.
And, because whites are in the minority at Black colleges, those
institutions are often in a better position to offer more lucrative
financial aid to whites.
It is a Catch-22 situation, according to Bill Dickey, president of the
National Minority junior Golf Scholarship Association, which helps to
provide financial assistance to young minority golfers.
Dickey said he has mixed emotions about Jackson State becoming the first
historically Black institution to appear in the Division I tournament. "To be
the first historically Black school is a plus," he said. "But the negative may
be that a majority of the players are white. But I know Eddie Payton and of
course, he wants to have the best program possible. He is trying to recruit
and get the best players."
The best Black players often have more options,
by virtue of being recruited by the best collegiate
golf programs in the country. Jackson
State pursues such players but,
as Dickey puts it, "The supply is
limited as to those guys who can
compete at the top of the Division
The top-level white schools
also tend to have better equipment,
uniforms, facilities and
transportation, making them more
attractive to the country's best
young golfers, Black and white.
So, with Black schools geographically
limited in their recruiting, it is the white golfer
who frequently gets the nod.
Raymond A. McDougal, golf coach at
Fayetteville State University, a Division II
school, fields a predominantly white team, but
makes no apologies. "I believe you should call
the white schools that have predominantly
Black basketball and football teams and see
what they say. it is not who plays; it is the
school that counts."
Fayetteville State, like most Black
schools, doesn't have money to recruit
players, "So most of our players are local
players. We serve the community here. That
is what a school is supposed to do
regardless of what race the people
That is the true mission of a
historically Black institution, said
James Frank, commissioner of the
Southwestern Athletic Conference,
a group of historically Black
schools to which Jackson State
belongs. Jackson State is the only
school in the conference with a
majority white golf team.
As for Jackson State being ignored by the
NCAA in previous years, Frank said, "There
were charges of discrimination, not against an
all-white team, but discrimination against a
historically Black school. …