Fore! NCAA Division I Golf Taps Its First Historically Black College

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Fore! NCAA Division I Golf Taps Its First Historically Black College.

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 I is the NCAA's top competitive division.

Jackson State's inclusion is as ironic to some as it is historic. A year ago, golf coach Eddie Payton cried 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 I level."

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 are."

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. …

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