One of the most amusing anecdotes in a book about Greek life in the South called “Pledged” goes something like this:
State U. is a pretty liberal, relatively tolerant school and when one sister at State U. was asked if there was diversity in the [sorority] house, she responded: “Oh sure, we’re diverse, we have blonde, red and a lot of brown-haired girls. I think we also have a Spanish girl.”
As anyone who has ever lived there recognizes, racism in the South is a lingering unspeakable that infests itself into nearly every situation (good and bad) whether you want it to or not. College athletics is no different, and in fact, team sports push the issues to the fore in ways that they otherwise would never be. Life in the modern SEC has fostered a peculiar “working relationship” between blacks and whites in that environment. The largely black football and basketball teams are expected to perform on the field and court, while the largely white coaching staffs are expected to harness the athletic talents of the players with discipline and structure, which will result in wins for the program and money in the university coffers. Some have gone so far as to conclude that what goes on in Tuscaloosa, Fayetteville, Athens and the like every fall and spring is nothing more than a modern-day plantation society.
To that end, as Gary Parrish points out in a recent CBS Sportsline article – with Tubby Smith’s recent departure from UK and the firings of Stan Heath (Arkansas) and Rod Barnes (Ole Miss) in the last two years – the SEC has taken a step backwards in terms of its head coaching diversity. He blames this “trend” on little more than racism shrouded in performance expectations. And while there is always some racial politics to any decision about hiring/firing of coaches in the South, a trend may not always be what it seems without appropriate context. Read the rest of this entry »