We’re five months from the opening kickoff of the 2010 college football season but things are already heating up with the University of South Carolina football program.
The Gamecocks are on the verge of losing their only black member on the board of trustees, causing outrage by local community members and politicians.
What does this have to do with head coach Steve Spurrier’s football program?
According to the Associated Press, South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus chairman, Rep. David Weeks, said members of the community want black South Carolina football recruits to reconsider playing for the Gamecocks, including Marcus Lattimore. Lattimore was rated as the top high school running back by Rivals.com and chose South Carolina over Auburn University.
Alton Hyatt Jr. is challenging for the seat currently held by the University of South Carolina’s lone black trustee, 39-year-old attorney Leah B. Moody. If Hyatt, a white attorney, were elected by the General Assembly in a vote that’s expected to take place in April, the 22-member Board of Trustees would lack a black presence. South Carolina would also be the only school in the Southeastern Conference without a black board member.
Moody was appointed last September by Gov. Mark Sanford to fill a vacant position after Samuel Foster II resigned because of federal bank fund charges. Foster was the first black member elected to the board in 1984 and was on his way to becoming the first black chairman prior to his sudden resignation.
“This is a state that continues to fly the Confederate flag (on the State House grounds), and now, out of 20 elected and appointed board members, can’t see fit to put a single African-American member on the board,” said state Rep. Todd Rutherford, a Richland County Democrat and a member of the Legislative Black Caucus.
There are many reasons why I wouldn’t attend the University of South Carolina, starting with the fact that the Confederate flag continues to fly within the state.
But these young men have made a commitment to the school and the team’s football program when they signed their name on the dotted line of a letter of intent.
NCAA rules state recruits that have already signed a letter of intent with a school would lose a year of eligibility if they chose to transfer to another program. The only exception is a school released a player from his commitment, which isn’t happening in Columbia where football is king.
The thought of The Ol’ Ball coach losing his best recruit during his five seasons with the Gamecocks won’t sit well with the locals – including the same people voting on Moody’s seat.
What Spurrier and his football program does on the field has nothing to do with what’s going on with the board of trustees.
The last time I checked with Sallie Mae, a free college education is hard to come by, and asking these kids to turn down that opportunity so a group of adults can have their way is selfish and irresponsible.
This doesn’t mean the possibility of having zero black board of trustee members at a major university is not troubling, especially in 2010 with President Obama in the White House.
The time and energy that is being spent on trying to scare away a group of 17-year-old high school seniors would be better spent on convincing the board of trustees the importance of having a black member, like Moody, on the board.