The Confidential

The ACC Sports Blog

Syracuse-Maryland, Race, and Quarterbacks

The Confidential is not a source for book reviews or history lessons.  And we are not about to get preachy.  But there was an interesting story in Deadspin about the history of a Syracuse-Maryland game in 1937.  See article: Deadspin.

The 20-word summary: In 1937, Syracuse had to bench its quarterback, Wilmeth Sidat-Singh, on a road trip to Maryland because he was not from India (as claimed), but an African-American.  This did not sit well with segregationists. With Syracuse traveling to Maryland this Saturday, it is interesting to read how much times have changed. Now, before casting a stone at Maryland, just remember that the NFL was not desegregated yet at that point either.  Times have changed in more places than just Maryland.  Society has come a long way.

And while one does not ordinarily think of Syracuse University as a racial trailblazer, it does bear mention that there were few African-American quarterbacks even as late as the Donovan McNabb era.  For every Warren Moon or Tony Rice, there were numerous other kids forced into different positions based solely on race.  Guys like Don McPherson, Marvin Graves, and Donovan McNabb were given the chance to fulfill their dreams of playing quarterback by Syracuse.  Under their leadership, Syracuse football was a consistent bowl team from 1987 to 1998.  And it was part of a change for college football.

In fact, just look at the ACC Standings:

ACC Standings

Florida State 6-0 8-0
Clemson 6-1 8-1
Syracuse 2-2 4-4
Boston College 2-3 4-4
Wake Forest 2-4 4-5
Maryland 1-3 5-3
North Carolina State 0-5 3-5
Miami (FL) 3-1 7-1
Georgia Tech 5-2 6-3
Virginia Tech 3-2 6-3
Duke 2-2 6-2
Pittsburgh 2-3 4-4
North Carolina 2-3 3-5
Virginia 0-5 2-7

There are seven teams with conference records at .500 or better.  Want to know what they all have in common?  They all have African-American starting quarterbacks: Florida State (Jameis Winston), Clemson (Tajh Boyd), Virginia Tech (Logan Thomas), Miami (Stephen Morris), Georgia Tech (Vad Lee), Duke (Anthony Boone), and Terrel Hunt (Syracuse).  Needless to say, things have changed considerably between 1999 and 2013, much less 1937 and 2013.

The economy may have been better in the 1950s.  The world might have been more sociable and interactive, and less Facebooky and Twittery, in the 1980s.  But some things are better today.  While we often lament the days of yore–remember, we have made a lot of progress as a society just to get to a point where teams will finally play the QB that gives them the best chance of winning, without regard to the color of his skin.

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7 thoughts on “Syracuse-Maryland, Race, and Quarterbacks

  1. jae1837 on said:

    Wow. Seriously? So the only reason an ACC team is winning is because they have a Black QB? And you really want to use LT (Logan Thomas) as an example of a QB that leads his team to victory? LOL! And I’m a Hokie for goodness sake and I find that logic funny. Look, I’m sure the intent of this article was well intentioned, but for pete’s sake, leave politics out of sports please. The unintentional message that is implied in your article is that only Black QBs can be successful in the ACC. Please. How about the best man won the position and forget the rest. Stick to sports and forget the historonics.

    • Wow… you gleaned THAT from the article?

      The fact that there are 7+ African-American quarterbacks in the ACC is a radical change from just 15 years ago. I do not know for sure, but I suspect that there were not 7 in all of FBS in 1998. The fact that the TOP 7 teams do not have white QBs is interesting. Maybe you are not old enough to remember a time when it was thought that only white QBs could handle the mental part of the position. Here you go… 7 teams who are not imploding, despite having African-American QBs.

      Of course… the bigger question is why this hit such a nerve with you? I think you need to look in the mirror. Why do you care so much? Facts are just facts. Even if you do not like them.

      • jae1837 on said:

        What hit a nerve is the fact that you implied that the only reason for the success of these teams is that they have a Black QB. The lack of an analysis is what I find so deplorable. The fact that you only celebrate that they are Black. Nothing else about them or their team. That is what I find so sad. You want to celebrate that there are 7 Black QBs in the ACC. Gee, thats great. But guess what, its no big deal. How about we just try to live in a world where we are, I don’t know, judged on our performance instead of color. Like you did in your article.

        As for your inference as to why I have a problem with race issues, guess what, being 40 years old and asian, I remember when being “Yellow” was not such a great thing and I have been discriminated against in the engineering world. So how about you get off your high horse. Please. Live my life and then tell me why I may or may not have issues with race. What I find so aggravating are condescending attitudes such as yours.

        • Then your issue is and remains reading comprehension. Nowhere did I say those teams were doing well because of the race of their QBs. I just pointed out a fact. A fact that could not have happened 15 years ago. I am sorry that you choose to pretend that nearly all QBs were white just recently. Things have changed, whether you like it or not.

  2. M. Caffrey on said:

    A few weeks ago I watched the documentary, “Glickman” about the Syracuse athlete/Olympian who would become a famous broadcaster. Although he made the Olympic team in 1936, Glickman was told he could not race in the Olympics because he was Jewish and the Americans did not want to embarrass Hitler by losing to a Jew.

    The following year, Glickman was a member of the SU football team and was teammates with Sidat-Singh. In the film he recalled the day of the game when the coaches announced that he (Sidat-Singh) could not play that day. Glickman wanted to say something, to stand up and defend his teammate. Instead Marty, who was sitting shoulder-to-should with Sidat-Singh, just looked down at the floor and kept his mouth shut. Glickman said it was one of the biggest regrets of his life.

  3. Lots of Pulp on said:

    If people don’t think of Syracuse as a racial trailblazer in football, they’re not paying attention
    Jim Brown and Ernie Davis were at the forefront of race in football. Brown getting snubbed for the Heisman and then Davis becoming the first black player to win the Heisman shortly after is literally at the point where the tide starts to turn.

    Sidat-Singh was obviously ahead of his time. And while I don’t think Syracuse comes off as looking amazing in the way the handled it at the time, I also think the expectations were a lot lower in the 30s than several decades later. Just having him on the team said a lot.

    Then as you point out with Graves, McPherson and McNabb, Syracuse helped usher in an era of black quarterbacks both in college and later with McNabb in the NFL. He wasn’t the first black quarterback by any means, but he definitely didn’t come into the league during an era where the black quarterback was a standard. He helped make it accepted for teams to have black quarterbacks who not only ran but threw as well.

    In the interest of fairness, one has to point out the boycott as a dark chapter in our history there.

    In the end, it makes sense that Syracuse would be a racial trailblazer in football. We’re a Northeast, non-denominational, private school. Not many schools like that even have football programs, let alone good ones. When you’re competing against Texas and Alabama in the 50s and 60s, it would be pretty appalling if Syracuse WASN’T at the forefront of the race issue.

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