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Resilience and Revitalization

Resilience and Revitalization

Everyone knows that college sports is a lucrative business. The fact that the University of Alabama earlier this month offered the NFL’s Miami Dolphins’ head coach Nick Saban an eight-year, $32 million contract, making him the highest-paid coach in college football, illustrates the point. It’s also an example of how much money universities are willing to spend to,well,win.But our cover story in this edition highlights not the big money college sports programs, but rather those that are flying a bit under the radar. Operating on shoestring budgets, they are not governed by the NCAA.They are sports programs for disabled student-athletes.

In the cover story “Got Game,” contributing editor Lydia Lum looks at these programs and the committed athletes that participate in them. Ironically enough, Lydia profiles a disabled student-athlete at the University of Alabama, one of the few colleges that even offers disabled sports on a varsity level.
UA student Mary Allison Milford plays wheelchair basketball for the Crimson Tide. She and her teammates must raise some of the money for tournament fees and travel costs because the budget of the university’s disabled sports program doesn’t cover everything. Writes Lydia: “Around the country,
disabled sports are often treated like second-class siblings to their able-bodied counterparts, largely because the latter bring in prestigious tournaments and bowl games, lucrative TV contracts and national exposure for top athletes and coaches.” But Milford is not looking for sympathy. “We’re athletes who happen to use wheelchairs,” she says.

The story, “Project Town Gown,” will serve as inspiration to many of you who may teach or work at an institution that is located in a neighborhood on a rapid decline. Rhodes College in Memphis was one of these schools that, through the prompting of one of its political science professors, has gotten involved in the revitalization of its surrounding neighborhood. But residents of the Hollywood Springdale neighborhood were initially a bit skeptical about Rhodes’ involvement.

“Their attitude was: ‘We sure hope you don’t get the grant money, show up, do research and disappear,’” says Dr. Russell T. Wigginton, a 1988 Rhodes graduate and the college’s vice president of community relations. “All we asked was an opportunity to prove ourselves.”

Speaking of proving oneself, some may consider the article, “Ethnic Fraud,” to be a bit controversial, but compelling. Contributing editor Mary Annette Pember delves into the question of American Indian identity. What does it mean to be an American Indian? Who are the “real” Indians and how are they identified? She raises these questions because of some scholars claiming Native heritage to boost their job prospects. The most high-profile and recent example is Ward Churchill, the University of Colorado professor who initially came under fire for calling some victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks “little
Eichmanns.”His claims of Native ancestry were investigated by local media and found to be unsupported.

Dr. Venida S. Chenault, a member of the Prairie Band Pottawatomie and vice provost of Haskell Indian College, speculates that a degree of racism lurks beneath the surface of those who falsely claim Indian heritage. “They seem to believe they are more knowledgeable than tribal people and therefore better advocates for tribes,” she says.

Hilary Hurd Anyaso

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A New Track: Fostering Diversity and Equity in Athletics
American sport has always served as a platform for resistance and has been measured and critiqued by how it responds in critical moments of racial and social crises.
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A New Track: Fostering Diversity and Equity in Athletics