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Homecoming Boycott in 1971 showed unity, action


Desi LaPoole
A&E Editor

Student activism at The College of Wooster is not new; in fact it is embedded in the College’s history. One of the more forgotten instances of student-led action on campus was the Homecoming Boycott of 1971. This boycott of Wooster’s 53rd homecoming game developed as a result of discriminatory practices against black students.

Black students issued a list of demands for the boycott, titled “Black Ultimatum,” which consisted of six points:

(1) “We, the Black football players here at The College of Wooster, demand an [admission] of prejudicial attitudes within the coaching staff of The College of Wooster with regards to the Black players,”

(2) “We demand a Black coach who has experience within the coaching field with a degree, who meets the requirements of The College of Wooster as a professor of physical education,”

(3) “We want an honest attempt by the coaching staff to try to understand the problems of the Black players,”

(4) “We want greater recruitment of Black athletes at The College of Wooster,”

(5) “In order to express our convictions, we Black football players will take part in no homecoming activities, and we urge our fellow teammates who are members of the Christian Fellowship of Athletes to follow our example,”

(6) “In conclusion to Saturday’s boycott, there must be no reprimands toward the black football players or any others involved.”

The students concluded the ultimatum with the simple phrase, “In essence, what we want is to be treated like men.”

At the time of the protest, there were only five black active players on the football team, namely Bruce Smith and Bob Fields, as well as two former players who had quit the team the year before. All of them joined the boycott.

The boycott also brought white and black students together to protest discriminatory practices at the College. Groups such as the Wooster Christian Fellowship (WCF), Fellowship for Christian Athletes (FCA) and the Black Students Association (BSA) joined the boycott, as well as unaffiliated students, both white and black. The amount of support for the black football players from not only their black counterparts, but also from their white teammates and peers made it evident to some that there was an issue of racism within the athletics department that was not being addressed.

As student Ed Gilbert wrote in a letter to the editor in the Voice in 1971, “The fact that all the black football players united for a common cause … the fact that two of last year’s regular black starters retired before the boycott was even formulated … [and] the fact that the white co-captain stood up before the campus and openly admitted to wrong treatment

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