The University of Florida's Racist Legacy Runs Deep
Uncle Luke, the man whose booty-shaking madness made the U.S. Supreme Court, gets as nasty as he wants to be for Miami New Times. This week, Luke breaks down the good ole boy history of the University of Florida.
The Gator nation is always acting like they are so much better than Canes nation. Florida fans and alumni are always talking smack about the Nevin Shapiro scandal. Yet all their players get arrested while all our players are going to the NFL Hall-of-Fame. The school is always making excuses for not playing the University of Miami like, "oh we play in the Southeastern Conference," or "oh we play Florida State, our real rivals." They're full of it.
As the University of Miami Hurricanes prepare to kick the crap out of the University of Florida this Saturday, I think its important to reflect on Gators' storied history as a bastion for southern racism. Located in Gainesville, the Sunshine State's Tea Party capital, the University of Florida was instrumental in preventing African Americans from getting a higher education at a state run institution during segregation.
It's no surprise this is the school that produced Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper, who was caught on camera a couple months ago at a country music concert saying he would "fight every nigger here."
Between 1945 and 1958, UF rejected 85 black students who applied for admission solely based on race. One of those pupils, Virgil Hawkins, who wanted to attend law school in Gainesville, fought his rejection all the way to the Florida Supreme Court, whose Chief Justice Stephen C. O'Connell was a self-proclaimed segregationist would later become UF president. Not surprisingly, the state's highest court refused to integrate state public universities despite finding that Hawkins had "all the scholastic, moral and other qualifications" to be a Gator.
The school didn't admit its first black undergraduate students until 1962, a year before Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic "I have a dream" speech.
Willie Jackson Sr. and Leonard George, the first black high school student-athletes to play football at UF, witnessed the discrimination at the school first hand. In 1971, when O'Connell was president, Jackson and George were among the only 343 black students at UF. At the time, the student population was more than 20,000. When the black student union staged a protest about the disparity on campus, 66 students were arrested and O'Connell insisted on pressing charges. As a result, a third of the black students and several black professors left UF.
The racism continued through the early 1980s when Derrick Crudup Sr., at the time a heralded quarterback coming out of Boca Raton Senior High, committed to the Gators. Then-football coach Charley Pell refused to play Crudup at his position and tried to get him to switch positions because of his athleticism.
Crudup bolted out of Gainesville after Pell allegedly told him he wouldn't be accepted as a black quarterback leading a Southeastern Conference football team.
In the last decade, UF twice passed over an African-American, Charlie Strong, for the top coaching position. The defensive coordinator served as interim head coach for a bowl game in 2004, but was quickly cast aside for superstar coach Urban Meyer. Strong stayed with the Gators for five more years, molding a stout defense that helped the school win two national championships.
He expected a fair opportunity for the head coach's job once Meyer hung up his whistle. But when UF officials begged Meyer to stay on for one more year after the 2009 season, Strong saw the writing on the wall.
So he accepted the head coaching vacancy at the University of Louisville, where he's built a powerhouse. In an January 2009 interview with the Orlando Sentinel, Strong expressed his belief that race was part of the reason he wasn't offered the gig at Florida. He got the last laugh though when his Louisville Cardinals stomped the Gators in the Sugar Bowl this past Jan. 2.
The same is going to happen this Saturday when my boy Duke Johnson runs over the Gators and Canes QB Stephan Morris lights up the UF secondary. Once the 4th quarter ends, the Gators are going to run and hide again. They won't play the U for another 10 years.
I can't wait for kick-off.
Follow Luther Campbell on Twitter: @unclelukereal1.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Miami, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.