BOWIE, MD — Keynote speaker Rob Parker’s message couldn’t have been any more timely or relevant for the attendees Friday at the Second Annual Sport Summit at Bowie State University.
“Make your own way,” said Parker, who chronicled his career in sports journalism that started in high school with publishing his own sports report and led to him being the first African-American sports columnist at the Detroit Free Press, general sports columnist at Newsday as well as a regular contributor to ESPN’s First Take.
Parker told the audience, attending the event hosted by BSU’s College of Education Sports Management Program, that being rebuffed by the principal of his high school in New York in a bid to have the school financially support his venture sent him on his way career-wise.
“He said, ‘It’s just going to be another piece of paper that the kids throw on the floor,” Parker recalled. It forced Parker to find another path to achieve his goal.
Parker wrote letters seeking support to the New York Times, the Daily News and the New York Post. The News did not respond and the Times declined, saying it would violate company policy to fund a potential competitor. Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul whose empire included the New York Post, sent Parker a check for $50 and Parker was on his way.
The message of perseverance and collaboration would be underscored in a way that the aspiring leaders off the competitive playing fields could not have predicted Friday. The National Football League announced that it is partnering with two historically Black college & universities (HBCU) athletic conferences — the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) — to increase opportunities for professionals and students interested in pursuing careers in football administration.
The MEAC and SWAC compete at the top level, Division I, of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Bowie State is a member of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, a Division II member, so it will not be a participant in the new alliance.
However, as several speakers noted at the sport summit, there are numerous opportunities — some that exist, some that might take vision to bring to fruition. The challenge is there and BSU has announced it readily accepts it.