Gladiators & Spectators – Then & Now

November12/ 2019

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Nov 11, 2019

Gladiators & Spectators – Then & Now


Two seemingly unrelated events occurred recently that led me to a startling conclusion.  On the surface that conclusion might sound OMG, can even BobLee dare to say THAT !!!  but…

If you follow the If A > B > C logic you may find yourself agreeing with me… as most of you tend to do any way.

Pay College Athletes

The subject is The Ongoing Brouhaha Re: Paying College Athletes

Several weeks ago The Carolina Junction Boys were recognized on the artificial turf of Not Kenan The Racist But Some Other Kenan Memorial Stadium.  That prompted me to rerun my column about The Junction Boys and to indulge in some reminiscing about “those days” 50 years ago.

While I knew all of those guys, I did not know the particulars of their individual circumstances.  They were – in Spring 1967 – All “White Boys”.  I did know that.

UNCCH Football’s color barrier was breached in the Fall of 1967 with 2-3 AfAm athletes and a steady diversification quickly followed… as was the case throughout The ACC and Southern Football.

NOTE:  Remember that last sentence.  It comes into play down-page.

In those days a full athletic scholarship – called “a grant-in-aid”? – included room, board (3 meals/day), tuition, books and $15/month  AKA “laundry money”.  Yes, they actually got $15/month.  I don’t recall if it was in cash / check / rolls of quarters or postage stamps… but each player on scholarship got his $15/month.

Those not on full scholarship received various pieces of that package… usually a room @ Ehringhaus (The Jock Dorm) and some meals.  I do not recall what a semester’s tuition at UNCCH was in the late 60s.  I’m going to guess $1,500 – 2,000.   Considerably less than it is 50 years later… but everything else was less too.

I never heard any complaints about a full scholarship not being enough.

By NCAA decree that package – in 1969 – was what ALL NCAA “student-athletes” received… be it OJ Simpson @ USC … Lew Alcindor @ UCLA … Terry Hanratty @ Notre Dame … Steve Spurrier @ Florida … Chuck Amato @ NC State … Leo Hart @ Duke … et al.

Tuitions were different at private schools vs public schools as is the case today; but that $$$ difference was of no consequence to the student-athletes then… as it is of no consequence today.   Wonder how many “student-athletes” have a clue what the tuition is at the school they play for?

Among The C-Junction Boys there was a range of home situations relative to income.  Several players fathers were physicians… several were coaches /teachers… farmers… assorted small business owners and perhaps even a few butchers, bakers and candlestick makers.  Most players had cars on campus… GTOs were popular.  Likely a few were from “lower income” situations but it was not obvious by clothing or other visible indicators.

The father of a UNC Baseball player of that time was CEO of Chevrolet Division of General Motors.  “Bill” received a new Corvette each Spring.  Bill was a nice guy and no one resented his circumstance.

This was The late 60s … The Civil Rights Act was being passed.  Integration was the order of the day across America… both in K-12 and in colleges.Jackie Robinson

Prior to the late 60s, there WERE some AfAm student-athletes playing Major College Football.  Jackie Robinson was a star RB at UCLA in 1939… Jim Brown / Ernie Davis at Syracuse… Bubba Smith / George Webster at Michigan State… and others.   Very few, if any, at ACC, SEC or Big Eight schools.

Prentice Gautt was the first AfAm FBer at Oklahoma in the late 50s.  I got to know Prentice while at MIZZOU in the early 70s.  Incredibly nice fellow.

White or Black… what an athletic “grant-in-aid” consisted of was universal then… and now.  I’m pretty sure that $15/mo “laundry money” increased over the years.  Athletic dorms were outlawed in the late 70s as schools were constructing lavish living quarters as “sign with us” incentives; not unlike the charging stations / IPF silliness we see today.   Allowances for off-campus apartments have replaced “the room in the Jock Dorm” that the Junction Boys endured.


WHAT HAS CHANGED is … the economic circumstances of a significant % of Major College Football and MBB student-athletes. 

AfAm athletes now dominate the two Major College “Revenue Sports” . … from minimal % in the early 70s to well over 65% in FB and over 85% in MBB…

That 65% in FB is considerably higher if only the two-deep depth chart is counted.  The 85% in MBB is higher if one does not count “the biscuit boys” on the far end of the bench.


NOTE:  WHAT HAS NOT CHANGED is … the dominant ethnicity of Fat Cat Boosters / Howler Monkeys / and Mainstream Fans.  Stadiums are still “whiter” than a Jonas Brothers / Taylor Swift Concert.  THAT is a discussion for another day…


Apparently – and I have no reason to doubt it…

The economic circumstances of a high % of today’s Major College AfAm athletes is considerably less “comfortable” than for white athletes 20-30-40-50 years ago or today... allowing for whatever degree of inflation.

The Whys are beyond my depth of Cultural Economics.  Single parent homes etc etc etc are certainly among the many segregating factors.

Yet… the NCAA Definition of A Full Athletic Scholarship has NOT changed to react to this Radical Socio-Cultural Sea-Change.


Two Major Stories broke last week involving High-Profile College Athletes – both AfAm.. Arguably the nation’s #1 Defensive player – TheOhio State’s Chase Young … and Memphis’ 5-Star One & Done James Wiseman were both suspended indefinitely.

Both Reasons Why involved convoluted $$$-transfers… “loans” ??? made to the players and/or to their families in the course of their being recruited.  Not quite what NC State is dealing with with Dennis Smith and the Adidas dirty $$$; but in the same general category.

As is always the case… it is a matter of semantics and lots of “we didn’t know…” and “but but but…”.  In both cases, resolutions will be protracted and unsatisfying to all concerned.

Highly recruited AfAm College Athletes and shady $$$$ transactions have become such a daily occurrence in recent decades, we hardly pay attention any more.  The prominence of these two last week being the exception.

When a family’s rent / food / clothing are in doubt week-week… the offer of “a lot of $$$” is seen as a Godsend rather than as a bribe.  “A lot of $$$” is a relative term.

Many/most highly-recruited AfAm athletes ARE Majoring in Eligibility hoping for a pro career ever how long those odds.  In too many cases, public education has failed to provide them with basic Life Skills … Yes, Mary Willingham WAS RIGHT about the alarming level of functional illiteracy.


For a Junction Boy in 1969… the “barter” of his sports skills for a college education was a very fair deal.   If his family was not well-to-do, that $$$ his family was saving went towards a car or other nice necessities during his 4-years.

For an AfAm college athlete from “impoverished circumstances” in 2019 … that “barter” does not pay the rent or put food on the table for his family back home… much less allow for “nice necessities” during his 3-4 years at college.

I still do not have a definitive solution to Paying College Athletes.

Now we have Academic Bureaucrats AND Pandering Politicians jumping in to the quandary.  So When All is Said and Done” … A Lot More will be Said than Done.  Of that we can all be certain.


Has the above given you food for thought?  Feel free to challenge my premise, if you dare!

Oh… For those NC State howler monkeys screeching on Twitter about ESPN (or Swofford) purposely putting the Clemson / State game on National TV because ESPN always wants to embarrass NC State blah blah blah.

The game was on ABC.  Just sayin’…


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