`Big Four' Spread Influence of Black Coaches: NCAA Feels Continuing Effects of Last Season's Boycott Threat

By Farrell, Charles S. | Black Issues in Higher Education, December 29, 1994 | Go to article overview

`Big Four' Spread Influence of Black Coaches: NCAA Feels Continuing Effects of Last Season's Boycott Threat


Farrell, Charles S., Black Issues in Higher Education


'Big Four' Spread Influence of Black Coaches: NCAA Feels Continuing. Effects Of Last Season's Boycott Threat

by Charles S. Farrell

Call them the Big Four: John Thompson, George Raveling, John Chaney and Nolan Richardson.

They are arguably the most powerful Black men in intercollegiate sports, capable of sending shock waves through the National Collegiate Athletic Association as the masterminds of a boycott of the association's basketball tournament last spring.

As the prominent leaders of the Black Coaches Association (BCA), the four attracted the attention of the Congressional Black Caucus, which intervened in the boycott dispute and got the Justice Department to mediate a settlement.

The four pitted their basketball teams -- Thompson's Georgetown, Raveling's Southern Cal, Chaney's Temple and Richardson's Arkansas -- against one another in the first annual Martin Luther King Classic, played Thanksgiving weekend in Memphis. An auto accident recently forced Raveling to retire, but the classic is seen as a means for the BCA to raise much-needed capital to fund the organization.

Through the leadership of the four, the BCA has, over the last two years, become a powerful and effective force for change within intercollegiate athletics, said Rudy Washington, executive director of the BCA and men's basketball coach at Drake University. "The BCA has become an effective watchdog of NCAA policy and policymaking," he said. "There is great credibility in what we do in calling upon athletes, administrators and others to address specific issues no one else wants to talk about."

Specifically, the BCA has persuaded the NCAA to review academic standards and their impact on Black athletes, the role of coaches in the Black community and in the lives of their athletes, and scholarship reductions and their impact, to name a few.

Judith Albino, president of the NCAA Presidents Commission and president of the University of Colorado, credited the BCA with helping to create legislation that will allow athletic scholarships to be awarded to freshman athletes who fall short of initial eligibility academic standards. The legislation will be voted on in January at the association's annual convention.

"I certainly do think that [the BCA] was an important force in shaping this legislation, and their concerns were persuasive and critical for us," Albino said. "I am aware that there are groups that don't think this fully does what is needed, but I think we're moving in that direction, and pointing the way is the Black Coaches Association."

But the key direction pointers remain Thompson, Raveling, Chaney and Richardson, Washington said, explaining, "Their presence has helped tremendously, and thank goodness they've been conscientious about what is going on.

"John Thompson, in particular, has showed longevity on many of the issues and has provided much of the momentum that has allowed us to pick up more people and support."

That support was such that many white coaches were ready to join the BCA in the proposed boycott, Washington said.

That boycott was averted when the NCAA agreed to sit down with the BCA in sessions mediated by the Justice Department's Community Relations Division. According to Francis Canavan, NCAA group executive director for public affairs, "The mediation process was an experience the leadership of the association found to be positive. The BCA and the NCAA are not strangers. The BCA is an affiliate of the association, but the relationship was strengthened by the experience of the last year."

Dialogue Begun

While there are reports of lingering resentment in many camps against the BCA for talking boycott, Canavan would say only that there was respect for the issues the BCA raised.

"Listening is as important a consequence in the last 12 months as anything else," he said. "People who were not talking are now talking to each other. This is very much a process, and it is not over. …

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