Monday, January 30, 2012

When God Saved BYU Football

I am currently reading Michael Oriard's excellent history of college football, Bowled Over: Big Time College Football from the 1960s to the BCS Era. In it he describes how in the late 1960s and early 1970s racial tensions and protests over football dramatically influenced several major programs, such as Wyoming and Oregon State.

Some of the protests focused on Brigham Young University, due to the Mormon church's policy against African-American's serving as priests. That prohibition was lifted in 1978 after God apparently revealed to the president of the Church that he had changed his mind about the priesthood.  Oriard writes that the protesting college football players "changed Mormon theology" (p. 110)

In 2005 the BYU Daily Universe newspaper described the events as follows:
Fourteen University of Wyoming football players in 1969 wanted to wear armbands protesting alleged racial policies at BYU. Because of a policy set in place by coach Lloyd Eaton that prohibited players from protesting, the football players were suspended...

The University of Arizona in October 1970 sent a six-member “fact-finding committee” to determine if BYU was racist after they said “rhetoric had escalated too far” with regards to racism and the Western Athletic Conference.

The Daily Universe reported that the school's committee determined BYU was not racist, but was an “isolated institution whose members simply do not relate to or understand black people.”

The findings were presented on Arizona's campus the same week. Still, when BYU football players showed up at University of Arizona’s stadium a week later, they were met by 75 picketers demonstrating against racism at BYU.

Although spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said BYU does not keep track of individuals by race and so cannot track who was the first black person to attend BYU, Zobell said there were a few black athletes during the 1970s.

That fact still didn't quell some schools' anger.

Stanford and San Jose State University both refused to play BYU in any sport because of what they called racism at BYU.

Then in 1978, President Spencer W. Kimball of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that blacks were allowed to receive the priesthood.
In the 10 years prior to the revelation, BYU won 57 football games, and in the ten years following, 103. God must really love college football. (However, in fairness to God, LaVelle Edwards may deserve more credit.)

1 comment:

  1. Is history repeating itself? I sense a new wave of protests and boycotts coming soon to a sports field near you.

    BYU Protest - 2016