You can chalk it up to being naive or perhaps walking around with blinders on, but if ever there are places where the playing field seems equal it would be on the basketball court and football field.
Either you can play or you can’t. Race plays no factor.
With that as a fundamental belief, it seemed quite interesting to have Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Michael Hunt raised the question of whether the Wisconsin Badgers bringing in a Black quarterback is a big deal.
In fairness to Hunt, who is white, he expressed in his column that he does not believe it’s a big deal to have a Black man playing quarterback in Wisconsin.
But the real issue is why are we even talking about race on the field, even at the nerve center of the game, in 2011? In Hunt’s mind the issue of Blacks playing quarterback was resolved when Doug Williams won a Super Bowl with the Washington Redskins. There is more than a compelling argument that can be made Marlin Briscoe, Joe Gilliam, James Harris and Vince Evans had long made the point before Williams came along.
The problem always has been and continues to be about opportunity. Finally after 20 years, Wisconsin has given the opportunity to another black quarterback with Monday’s announcement former North Carolina State star quarterback Russell Wilson will transfer to the Big 10 school for his final year of eligibility.
The Badgers haven’t had a Black quarterback since Tony Lowery played for them from 1987 to 1991. Perhaps head coach Bret Bielema and athletic director Barry Alvarez have grown tired of seeing the consistent success Ohio State has enjoyed by keeping its quarterback options open over the last several years. And then we all got to watch in amazement as Cam Newton came in this past season at Auburn and led the Tigers to the BCS national championship.
If Wisconsin fans and supporters have any concerns with Wilson transferring in it should be that this is a situation where there isn’t a lot of room for growth and development. Wilson can arrive on campus this summer and begin going through two-a-days in August, but he has missed the valuable spring football period. And even more problematic, he has only this season of eligibility.
The argument and justification is “look at what Newton did at Auburn in just one season.” But that type of immediate success at quarterback is less than rare. Still, Wisconsin is willing to take that chance to get a quarterback of Wilson’s talent.
Wilson, a two-sport star who gave baseball a try in the Colorado Rockies organization this season, will be eligible to play for Wisconsin right away only because he graduated from NC State in three years and will enroll at Wisconsin as a graduate student. Normally transfers from one Division I-A school to another has to sit out a year under NCAA rules, but that rule doesn’t apply here because Wilson graduated early.
But none of that means he has enough time to truly become integrated into the Badgers system. These things take time. But apparently Wilson wants one more crack at football and possibly the NFL after giving up on baseball and Wisconsin figured out this spring it was in desperate need of quarterback.
To me, the issue is more will it work because of time constraints than will Wilson work because he is a Black quarterback at Wisconsin.
(Photo: AP Photo/Jim R. Bounds, File)