Freshman Jaren Hall will take the field in Tampa, Florida, on Saturday (October 12th) as the starting quarterback for the BYU Cougars in their game against South Florida.
Normally, a new starter midway through the season isn’t cause for more than the usual football related attention.
But this is different.
Hall will be the first ever Black starting quarterback for BYU in the program’s nearly 100-year history, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
It seems crazy to think about Black firsts in anything in the year 2019. But these milestones provide a reminder of where we’ve progressed as a nation, but how far we still have to go.
BYU is owned by the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS), and diversity on the campus has not been present really ever.
The university says it is open to non-LDS students and they recruit non-LDS athletes. Still, the school’s student body is comprised of 99% LDS, according to their website.
The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life issued a study in 2014 that states that 85% of Latter-day Saints in the U.S. are white, 8% are Latino, 5% are other races and just 1% are African-American.
The math is pretty easy to calculate on this.
Not to mention LDS’s history as it relates to Black people is checkered. LDS used to have a policy prohibiting Black people from becoming priests. Black men and women were also barred from entering temples.
In 1968 University of Wyoming football players were taunted and the subject of racial slurs by the BYU crowd in Provo prior to a game.
In 1969, BYU was set to play Wyoming again, and Wyoming students planned to protest the racist policy. The protests never happened, and 11 Wyoming players were summarily dismissed from the team.
BYU finally added its first Black player in 1970 and lifted the ban on Black people becoming priests and entering temples in 1978. That’s only 41 years ago.
While Hall wasn’t alive then, he understands the significance of his start on Saturday.
“I’m just going to enjoy it; I’m not going to overthink it too much,” Hall said. “Just going and playing the game I love with the guys that I love next to me. I'm very proud of my ancestors, very proud of my ethnicity and all the things that come with that. So, it is an honor and a privilege to be here and to be playing in this wonderful university.”