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. Frankly, I have not
heard any criticism or any problem about
Jackson State fielding a predominantly white
team. There might be a remark here and there,
but it was sort of tongue-in-cheek.
"What people have to remember is that
Jackson State is a state school, open to
everybody that applies and is qualified. These
athletes represent Jackson State. Jackson State
will be there long after Eddie Payton and this
group of golfers is long gone. Jackson State is
the first historically Black institution to go
to the tournament and will always have that distinction.
Sure, you look at opportunities to provide for
Black athletes and Black students at HBCUs,
but it can't be that cut and dry. On one hand,
we know why we were founded, but we can't
deny people opportunity." Coach Eddie
Payton could not be reached for comment.
Herschel V. Caldwell, publisher of
Minority Golf Magazine, said Black schools
need to make a choice and not waiver.
`You Have to Make a Choice'
"You have to be dedicated to bringing
along minority youngsters or not and either
way is fine, but you can't have it both ways."
He chastises Jackson State for fielding a white
golf team yet seeking money allocated to
historically Black colleges to support the
"There are people who will argue that
predominantly white schools field Black
football and basketball teams and that is fine,"
Caldwell said. "But they don't go to minority
college funds for funding for basketball and
Caldwell added that the reality is that
there is a greater percentage of talented white
golfers than Black golfers and any team
seeking to compete at the highest levels will
undoubtedly reach out to white golfers.
"You can't get a school recognized unless
you go to the NCAA tournament, but there are
realities to face," he said. "One is that the pool
of players is larger among those who are white,
than those who are not white. Therefore it
follows that if the goal is to field the best team,
then you logically go with the larger pool of
"But if you have a mission to develop
parity, to bring along minority golfers, however
long it might take, then you seek out and
develop those skills in those who are not white."
Development is key, because everybody
agrees that the shortage of talented Black
golfers is a major factor in who plays on Black
college golf -- teams.
It was not many years ago that Black
colleges didn't have golf teams. The move came
after the NCAA pushed colleges to provide
broader athletics programs, giving money to
institutions based on number of sports and
scholarships offered. The more sports and
scholarships, the more money.
College golf teams generally consist of five
to seven players, and are less expensive than
some other sports. For instance, a team doesn't
need to own its own golf course as long as it can
So, while Black college golf is in its infancy,
"It is a beginning, it is a start," Frank said. "We
are not doing too well now, mostly because of
what is a scarcity of Black golfers, both men and
women. But we want to see our schools do
everything possible to recruit Black golfers and
see they have a chance to succeed."
That means that young Blacks must be
introduced to the game of golf earlier, said
Dickey. "This is a long-term problem; it just
didn't happen," he said. "Obviously, there has
been some growth as the Black community
become more affluent. But if there are no
programs, then young Black don't take the game
up. If they don't take the game up, they don't
have the benefit of learning and progressing."
Years ago, there was a similar dilemma with
tennis in the Black community. People like
tennis great Arthur Ashe Jr. addressed the
situation by developing junior tennis programs
in the inner city and other communities with
large Black populations. And, while Black
participation is still low, substantial inroads have
Get Parents Interested
Similar programs must be developed for
younger Black golfers so they can get similar
exposure to golf. That may start with getting
their parents interested, since children tend to
follow the example parents set.
McDougal said there is an effort in the
Fayetteville area to get young Blacks interested
in golf. A group of about 100
black golfers is conducting clinics in the
area, he said, with the assistance of the
Fayetteville State team.
"We hope to provide an avenue that
won't cost them anything, because most
don't have the money. But if we can get
them interested, later on down the line,
maybe they can get scholarships."
But Blacks need to look even beyond
playing golf, Caldwell said. "We have to
look at the overall benefit of golf as an
industry," he said. "It is a billion dollar
industry that offers careers in fields we are
not pursuing, not saturated, not tapped.
"There is architecture, horticulture,
design and maintenance, apparel manufacturing.
The list goes on and on. We are
tragically, pitifully not entrenched in all of
those fields in golf."
He said that Black parents need to
understand that their children playing golf
are not wasting a Saturday afternoon, that
it just might lead to a college scholarship.
"We've got an orientation job to do
because it is a non-traditional field," he
said. "We've got to make parents more
aware of golf as an industry and it can be
an alternative out of a lower economic
situation. It is a viable alternative to football
and basketball and baseball."…