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Reclaiming a Forgotten Legacy - Part 3 Rationale

Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

The goal is to honor this history in a way that builds a lasting legacy that serves and improves Kansas State University.


The goal is to honor in such a way that any words issued by Kansas State University on racial issues are widely acknowledged as having merit, power and are filled with resolve, else our leaders fail to uphold the historic legacy of the offices and the community fails to hold them accountable to that legacy.


The goal is Reminding, Educating and Motivating all K-Staters to Continually Improve Kansas State University. While it is right to memorialize some historical events, these events rise to the level of becoming living history that serves a greater purpose going forward. Living history is what these K-Staters and their achievements deserve.


Each successor is to build upon the achievements of their predecessors. It is fair to ask if this has actually happened at K-State in this area. Currently the leadership is issuing plans and words and saying we are "just starting." Instead, we should be letting the world know we were once fearless leaders in racial justice, and we are that once again.


The honoring proposals only meet the goal if given power by the K-State community. The mere facts alone that Jack Trice was allowed to play at Iowa State 97 years ago and the stadium now bears his name do not say anything about the attitude of the Iowa State community in 2020. It is the depth and breadth of pride the community has in Jack Trice that does. And although they have pride in him in 2020, fifty years after his death his story was functionally erased from history. Once discovered, a 20 plus year campaign ensued to name the stadium. (Link 1)


This is what we are after. We want K-State to proudly reclaim and stand on its legacy in a manner that improves and moves the K-State community forward on these issues. This requires more than some stories on a website and a plaque or two that acknowledge this legacy in a manner that ultimately makes it functionally erased in the minds of most people.


Why is K-State following the former Iowa State path and not the current? With all this rich history in integrating the conference, the only honors are a small building on campus and only one person in the K-State Sports Hall of Fame, and that was not until 2004. Milton Eisenhower’s Alumni Association bio says nothing about integrating the conference (AS of 8/25/2020 the Alumni Association updated this bio Link 7). Veryl Switzer and Ralph Graham are in the Hall of Fame for their play. Switzer’s bio does not mention he was the first African American athlete to graduate from K-State. As of this writing, Graham’s bio states that he came back to coach for three years, but makes no mention of him integrating the conference.(Link 2) Harold Robinson explains the importance of Ralph Graham, "People have to give him credit for letting black players on the team. Jackie Robinson had Branch Rickey, who brought him into Major League Baseball," Robinson told the Collegian. "If it wasn’t for Ralph Graham, I wouldn’t have been playing at K-State. Maybe (Veryl) Switzer wouldn’t have, either.(Link 3) It almost feels like for the better part of 70 years K-State has tried to avoid this history rather than stand on it. Stories are now being written, several by the athletic department, but that is still not the broad based prideful recognition that continually builds and serves the community.


Naming prominent things does educate. In addition to integrating the conference, Milton Eisenhower shook K-State of its provincialism, demanded competitive pay for professors, started the endowment, sent correspondence across the globe seeking international students and basically put KSC on the path to becoming KSU. For all that, he has a small building named after him and the campus tour guide only lets you know he was not Dwight. "Not Dwight" is the best we can do? Meanwhile the naming of the most prominent building on campus, Anderson Hall, was done so out of political spite by his anti-intellectualist brethren. President Anderson sought to keep K-State from becoming the spot we love full well. He was against K-State becoming a full scale educational institution. He stripped the curriculum of everything except physical labor training and many felt it took 40 plus years to recover. His philosophy, "no Latin or Greek rubbish, no useless ‘abstract’ math, and no fancy ‘ologies’ or ‘osophies’."(Ref 4) Anderson was one of the worst presidents and Eisenhower one of the better. Yet because one has the most prominent building and road named for them, most K-Staters believe the opposite.


Farmageddon Proposals:

The historical dates concerning Harold Robinson and Jack Trice are very close on the calendar. Harold Robinson’s first conference game was Oct 1, 1949. Jack Trice’s second and final game was Oct 6, 1923 and he died of injuries he received in the game, racially motivated stompings most believe, on Oct 8, 1923. Harold Robinson broke a conference mandated color barrier instituted due to players like Jack Trice. Jack Trice Stadium is the only major college football stadium named for a person of color. Each school has a tremendous opportunity to anchor their major diversity efforts to historical dates. Holding KSUnite on Harold Robinson Day makes sense. A football rivalry that is the seventh longest continuous and longest with uninterrupted rivalry in college football provides even more opportunity to combine efforts and center the campaigns around the football game. Making the first Saturday in October the traditional date for Farmageddon also makes sense.


The game has a name, but no trophy. A Robinson-Trice Trophy would be completely unique in college football. We believe it would be the only trophy named after African Americans in the entire FBS. The only other trophy we found was the Durley-Nick Trophy played for by FCS level HBCU teams Prairie View A&M and Texas Southern. That is the only other rivalry game trophy named after African Americans in all NCAA divisions.(Link 5) The Robinson-Trice Trophy needs to start in 2021. The Centennial of Jack Trice at Iowa State is fast approaching. October 6th is a Wednesday and not available for a game. Friday October 8, 2023 is a primetime date. If schedules are reworked, the first time the trophy will be competed for in Jack Trice Stadium would be on the centennial of his death. I will all but guarantee ESPN would take that game.


Football Namings:

Bill Snyder Family Stadium (formerly KSU Stadium) is not an erected structure like most stadiums. It is a hole in the ground with free standing components in and around it. Naming the components is an already established tradition with the Vanier Family Complex, Wagner FIeld and the Ice Family Video Boards. The new south video boards, new practice facility and practice field will probably be named after donors as well. Eight of eleven components will be named for donors. Three components will be unnamed: the West Stadium Center, South End Zone Project and East Upper Deck. They are described, not named. While we appreciate the generosity of the donors, something should be named for a player and these three have historical significance like no other players. Harold Robinson, Hoyt Givens and Veryl Switzer were the first three black athletes in the entire Big 7. They took the most intense heat for all future athletes in the conference. Please go back to the history segment of this series and read the Oklahoma post game story to get a sense of what they endured. No on field performance in purple, not even Heisman finalists, has the historical impact of these three players. No on field performance can provide the amount of opportunities for others that these three players did. While the rest of the nation is tearing down statues and taking down names, we can show everyone who to honor names and erect statues.


Basketball and Baseball Proposals:


While only a very brief history of Harold Robinson’s story was included in Part 2 of this series, Earl Woods and Gene Wilson also broke color barriers in their respective sports and had to endure all that came with it both in Manhattan and in the rest of the places they would play, or not be allowed to. The basketball court and the baseball and soccer complex and new state of the art clubhouse are unnamed. The goal is to honor in a manner that keeps these stories alive. Gene Wilson Court, Earl Woods Complex and Dave Baker Clubhouse accomplish this. They would also be as unique as the Robinson-Trice trophy is in college sports. I doubt there are many such things named after African Americans anywhere. We believe the court would be the first in at least the power conferences.


Hall of Fame and Other Honors


All of these people deserve to be in the hall of fame. Harold Robinson thought so. He knows what they endured. Givens was right next to him in that Oklahoma shower. Upon his induction to the K-State Sports Hall of Fame in 2004, Harold Robinson told Hoyt Givens, "Hoyt, you should be along beside me".(Link 6)


Not many people in segregated Manhattan, KS were willing to make a move and help Harold Robinson’s grandfather with civil rights. Milton Eisenhower came home and waged war on segregation. No setback would stop him. He took on the segregated power universities in the conference and challenged their world view directly. He challenged their threats to leave the conference. Where so many tried but ultimately let the segregationist change their schools, Milton Eisenhower had the courage of his convictions to change the segregationists view.. He deserves so much better than a small building, no road and being basically, "Not Dwight."


Right now these are only historical facts in need of the important depth and breadth of pride to have any further meaning. As stated previously, even if these proposals come to fruition, it is on the community to give them power. This is especially true of the student athletes. Would playing for a Robinson-Trice trophy be important to the football players? Would playing on Gene Wilson Court be meaningful to the basketball teams? They need to answer those questions.


If given the proper power, these proposals will meet the goal of honoring in a fashion that Reminds us of our past, good and bad, Educates us in the present and Motivates us towards the future.


Part 1 - Honoring Proposals

Part 2 - The History


References:


1) https://www.desmoinesregister.com/in-depth/sports/college/iowa-state/cyclone-insider/2020/06/19/jack-trice-stadium-name-history-iowa-state-football-black-lives-matter-juneteenth/3216285001/


2) https://www.kstatesports.com/honors/k-state-athletics-hall-of-fame/ralph-graham/17


3) https://www.kstatesports.com/news/2017/2/6/58994e36e4b0adf5f7a13083_131478101492171198.aspx


4) Carey, James C. Kansas State University: The Quest for Identity. (Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, 1977.)


5) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_NCAA_college_football_rivalry_games


6) https://247sports.com/college/kansas-state/LongFormArticle/Kansas-State-football-Harold-Robinson-and-his-life-as-the-first-African-American-football-player-in-K-State-history-147179613/#147179613_9

7) https://www.k-state.com/about/presidenteisenhower.php

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