Monday, July 15, 2013

A Bit of Sun Devil Pride

There is little to make one proud in the world of professional sports, nor in putatively amateur college sports. There are many times when I question whether being a sports fan gives me a shared responsibility for the disgusting sleaze and corruption that permeate that world, in that the fans are the enablers of the whole mess. I’ll leave that discussion for another day.

I can’t say that my alma mater and favorite sports factory, Arizona State, is any better than any of the others. I did come across one moment in its history, however, that is worth celebrating (though we have to go all the way back to the year of my birth to find it).

In 1947, the Arizona State College Sun Devils* had two black players on their football team (the first black player had played for ASC in 1937**). These players were not allowed to play in games against West Texas A&M (now West Texas State) nor Texas Mines (now UTEP) because officials at those schools “do not feel they can be responsible for actions of spectators.”

After that season, ASC dropped the two schools from future schedules and refused to play them (or any other such schools) for several years. In the early fifties the two schools changed their racist policies. ASC was also the first team with a black player to play at the University of Arkansas (in 1951).

One of the players that the Texas schools refused to allow on their fields, Morrison Warren, went on to become Phoenix’s first black city councilman and eventually vice-mayor, as well as president of the Fiesta Bowl. I remember him as a leading citizen during my youth.

*As an aside: 1947 is the first full year the school’s teams were called ‘Sun Devils’ – the name was changed from ‘Bulldogs’ midway through the 1946-47 school year.
** UofA did not have any black players until 1949.

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