I’m a Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech, and a hell of an …. Management Major? Academic Rigors for Black Football Players at Georgia Tech

Future Engineers? Not so much.

 “The South stands at Armageddon,” brayed Georgia Governor Marvin Griffin to the regents. “The battle is joined. We cannot make the slightest concession to the enemy in this dark and lamentable hour of struggle. There is no more difference in compromising the integrity of race on the playing field than in doing so in the classrooms. One break in the dike and the relentless seas will rush in and destroy us.”

Never forget this quote when you consider the extraordinary lengths that the schools discussed in this article have gone to in accommodating Black athlete-students (and in trying to add Black undergraduates) to the two biggest schools in Georgia.
When the University of Georgia and the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) meet on the football field this November for the annual “good, clean old fashioned hate” grudge match, a most curious scene will unfold. UGA sports a team of more than 75 percent Black players, the vast majority of whom rely on “special admit”- in 1999-2000, 94 percent of the football team were ‘special admits’ compared to only seven percent of the general student body –  status to gain admission to the university. Once there, most of these Black athletes are ‘clustered’ in the Housing major, the easiest academic path at UGA. 

The Atlantic Monthly recently lamented the shame of college football for taking advantage of underprivileged Black athletes; in reality, it is only athletic ability that grants acceptance and a lowering of academic standards to Black athletes whose intellectual abilities are lacking and would forever keep them from being granted admission to a school like UGA or Georgia Tech. Both schools bend over backwards trying to attract and accommodate Black undergraduates, but maintaining high academic standards for admission precludes such Utopian hopes from coming to fruition.

Competing in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and trying to maintain its status as one of the top public institutions for higher learning in the country, Georgia Tech has gone much farther than UGA in accommodating Black football players at the school and integrating their academic deficiencies into the curriculum of the institution. In the bad old days of segregation, Georgia Tech fielded all-white football teams (up until 1970) and won plenty of games, national acclaim and championships.

Many of these white student-athletes would go on to earn degrees in electrical, chemical, industrial, mechanical, and other assorted engineering disciplines. But with integration of college football in the South came the belief that only recruiting Black athletes could bring fame, fortune, and glory to the school. Remember, the top recruiting guru Tom Lemming has admitted massive discrimination goes on against white running backs, defensive backs, receivers and other skilled position players, all because college coaches have been conditioned to believe Black athletes are bigger, stronger, and faster.

Georgia Tech’s current coach, Paul Johnson, does not recruit white skilled position players on offense. He didn’t do this at Naval Academy, nor did he do this at Georgia Southern. He plays Black players at the quarterback, fullback, and hybrid tailback/running back positions in his famed “triple option” attack. Funny, the school plays at Bobby Dodd Stadium, named for a football coach that famously retired so that he didn’t have to recruit Black football players.

Sports Illustrated published this story on Bobby Dodd and his Georgia Tech football team back in 1957, detailing a football that was all-white, and student-athletes who were actually sold on going to Tech to earn an engineering degree:

The “kids” are one of the real anomalies in big-time college football. Because of Tech’s high academic standards their football players must be scholars in fact as well as name. This keeps many of the beefy tackle types away from Tech and has forced Dodd to replace size with speed. Yet Dodd makes his system work in one of the toughest conferences in the country—the Southeastern.

“Some schools go all over the country to get players. Here at Tech, we try to get the local boy. I believe if you have local boys you will have a better team. Me, for instance, I can talk to a boy from this area in my language and he’ll understand me. We have something in common. A kid from up North—well, it’s just not the same. I can take a boy from the Southeast and fire him up so he’ll play 110% of what he’s capable. Now I don’t know why it should be that way, but it is.

“Another funny thing. Generally, a southern boy hasn’t got the physical size that kids from Pennsylvania or Texas or the Midwest have. But they’ve got this unbelievable spirit and willingness. I think you get a bunch together from the same region and they’re going to play better together because they have this common background—a common understanding—that makes for better teamwork. Anyhow, we try to get the local boy.

“We rely on Tech’s scholastic and football records as the persuader. And, of course, public relations. A coach, he’s got to be a public relations man, a salesman. You have a product to sell—in this case, Georgia Tech—and you go out and sell it the best way you know how. Technical education is a big help. We turn out engineers. Everyone wants to hire engineers. The kids, they get jobs a year before they get out of school and they make good money. And you’ve got to realize that our football tradition helps, too. We’ve been in six bowls the last six years. Won every one of them. Been in eight bowls since I became head coach 12 years ago. I think kids like a winner.”

 Watching Georgia Tech play football now, you get a weird feeling that none of these kids belong at an academically strenuous like the Tech. The crowd is almost all-white (the student body and alumni being overwhelmingly white, though foreign students from India and China spend their Saturday’s in the school library studying). Yet a team of predominately Black athlete-students representing one of the most respected engineering institutions on the football field? What would Dodd think?

How many of these Black athletes even major in engineering? The answer might shock you:

When Jay Finch arrived at Georgia Tech, he wasn’t just interested in being a lineman for the Yellow Jackets football team. He wanted to study architecture, too.

 Then he talked with some student advisers, who gave him a dose of reality.

“They were like, ‘You can expect anywhere from 100 to 120 hours of studio time,'” Finch recalled. “I said, ‘Oh, like in a month.’ And they were like, ‘No, in a week.’ And I was like, ‘On top of football?'”

With that, Finch hopped aboard the M Train.

At Georgia Tech, where the famous fight song proclaims “I’m a heck of an engineer,” nearly 70 percent of the football team (43 of 62 players) has chosen to major in management, a business degree dubbed the “M Train” by those on campus who consider it an easier route to a diploma than the school’s renowned engineering program.

But the Yellow Jackets are hardly the only school where players tend to congregate in the same fields of study. There are four others universities where at least half the sophomores, juniors and seniors playing football are pursuing the same degree, The Associated Press found in a survey of the 68 schools in the conferences which receive automatic bids to the Bowl Championship Series, plus Notre Dame and Big East-member-to-be TCU.

At Vanderbilt, it’s human and organizational development (35 of 59). At UCLA, history is a big draw (27 of 47). At Wake Forest, there’s been a gridiron run on the communications department (34 of 60). At Baylor, upset winners over TCU on the opening weekend of this season, expect to find a lot of big guys in general studies (27 of 53).

This is not mere coincidence, of course. While it’s natural for a selected group of students — in this case, male athletes — to be interested in the same classroom subjects, it’s also apparent many are drawn to courses that are more accommodating to their Saturday pursuit.

“I wanted to dedicate myself more toward football,” conceded Finch, a sophomore center. “Yeah, I did take a little bit of the easier road. Management is still hard. You’ve still got to go to class.

“But,” he added, “at least I’m not up ’til 3 in the morning drawing.”

The trend is so prevalent it has its own name — clustering — and extends far beyond Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt, UCLA, Wake Forest and Baylor.

The AP survey, compiled from media guides, university websites and information provided by the schools, showed at least half the football players with declared majors at a dozen other universities are bunched in two fields of study. At 22 schools, 50 percent or more are pursuing a degree from a group of three majors.

That means more than half of the schools at the core of major college football — 39 of 68 teams — have some level of clustering.

Georgia Tech, for instance, receives more requests from the football team than any other for special admissions — enrollment for those who don’t meet the standards applied to the overall student body. But officials at the Atlanta school point out management is one of the most rigorous business programs in the country, requiring everyone to take two calculus courses and two lab sciences.

“There’s always going to be that tension,” said Anderson Smith, the senior vice provost for academic affairs. “You’ve got to recruit who the best players are. But it’s a much more heterogeneous population than what we have applying to Georgia Tech as regular students.”

 How does that feel to have a school – renowned for its engineering program – to be represented by Black athlete-students majoring in the easiest, least academically rigorous curriculum? Georgia Tech students, walking around their campus – which is deep in the heart of Black-Run Atlanta – are known to sometimes questions whether a Black person on their campus is a potential robber or mugger, or a Management major.

 While an epidemic of violence against Georgia Tech students is ongoing – the perpetrators have all been Black residents of the Atlanta – with E-mail advisories sent out regularly to coeds warning of muggings, break-ins, car-jacking and other assorted violence on campus – leaving students always cautious when they see a Black face on campus.

It has been stated that the Management degree was created specifically in mind with the well-noted deficiencies that Black people when it comes to mathematics. To field a competitive football and basketball squad, Georgia Tech officials decided to allow Black athletes to circumvent the engineering discipline that brings acclaim, patents and students from all over the world to study there, and create the Management degree. 

According to a New York Times study on the geography of football fans, Atlanta is home to one of the most rabid fan bases in the country. Georgia Tech has the second-largest fan base in the ACC, larger than even UGA. The school has a huge footprint when it comes to its fan base:

Still, the S.E.C.’s average of about 1.1 million fans per team — not counting Texas A&M — sets a slightly lower bar than the Big Ten’s. Clemson (1.8 million fans), Georgia Tech (1.7 million) or Virginia Tech would improve upon it, while Missouri and West Virginia (1.0 million) are aren’t far from the league average and would do more to expand the conference’s geographic footprint.

It should be noted that

ForGeorgia Tech football players had the highest average SAT of any college football back in 2008, but that score – 1028 out of a possible 1600 – was 315 points lower than the average score of their classmates:

  • Football players average 220 points lower on the SAT than their classmates. Men’s basketball was 227 points lower.
  • University of Florida won the prize for biggest gap between football players and the student body, with players scoring 346 points lower than their peers.
  • Georgia Tech had the nation’s best average SAT score for football players, 1028 of a possible 1600, and best average high school GPA, 3.39 of a possible 4.0. But because its student body is apparently very smart, Tech’s football players still scored 315 SAT points lower than their classmates.

For those who argue that Black athletes in collegiate sports should be paid (because they come from an underprivileged background), know this: if these Black students didn’t excel at football or basketball, they wouldn’t have a pray of getting into the school. As it is – at UGA and Georgia Tech – most of the Black athletes require “special admit” status to get in.

Steve Sailer recently noted that donations to college athletic departments (these are tax-exempt, one of the great scams in America) have continued to grow, even as the economy has faltered. A college football team is the most powerful symbol of the university, a source of pride for alumni to gloat about over cocktails and golf, and way to unite the the campus.

Georgia Tech has one of the top fight songs in college football. It goes:

I’m a Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech, and a hell of an engineer—
A helluva, helluva, helluva, helluva, hell of an engineer.

 So the next time you see a Georgia Tech football game on, realize you are watching a team full of Management Majors, the easiest major at the school because the Black athletes on the field lack the mental acumen to earn an engineering degree. And because Paul Johnson is one of the college coaches who has bought into the “only Black athletes on the field give me a shot at winning” mentality. A hell of an engineer? Try a team full of Management majors – the graduation rates for Black players compared to whites is pretty bad – that require “special admit” to the school.

It should be noted that in 2010, Richard Lapchick published his annual College Football Bowl Bound Teams Black-White Graduation Disparity Guide and Georgia Tech had one of the lowest graduation rates for its Black players. This has become a hilarious tradition: each year, despite millions of dollars dedicated to tutoring athletes and keeping them eligible, we find out that the white-Black graduation gap only gets worse. Only 43 percent of Georgia Tech’s Black football players graduated, compared to 75 percent of its white players. I guess a Management degree isn’t so easy?

Funny to think that in 1956, Georgia Tech (fielding an an all-white team) almost didn’t face Pittsburgh in the Sugar Bowl because the school played a Black player. Though they had faced a Notre Dame team in 1953 that had a Black player, this would be the first game after Brown v. Board had passed. Hundreds of Georgia Tech marched on the state capitol, not in support of the Black player from Pittsburgh, but because they didn’t want Tech to boycott the Sugar Bowl! Football has – and will always – always played an integral role in the life of southerners, easily being the most popular sport in the region.

14 year later, Georgia Tech would finally integrate (though not before Bobby Dodd retired, always having coached all-white teams) and the first Black player would be Eddie McAshan.

Interestingly, he would be the first Black starting quarterback for a major southern school. Though he set school records (remember, most schools didn’t start throwing the ball until the late 70s – 80s), he would throw a lot of interceptions and forever be remembered for the racial turmoil he brought to Atlanta :

McAshan broke into the starting lineup back when blacks were regarded as lacking the intellectual and leadership skills to play quarterback. His sophomore debut at Georgia Tech was hailed as a milestone in Jet and Ebony.

But before the final game of his senior year in 1972, everything exploded under a racially charged cloud that has followed Eddie McAshan along 18 years of detours and dead ends.

During those tense years when Southern college football was still largely segregated, mistakes – even misunderstandings – weren’t tolerated. When it came to crossing the color barrier, you could step over the line, but not out of line.

“One of the first things you learned at Georgia Tech is that `Ma Tech’ is unforgiving,” said Karl Barnes, a teammate during the 1971-72 seasons. “Ma Tech would knock you down, and the strong would get back up and keep going.”

McAshan and Ma Tech kept going, but in opposite directions, an estrangement that has lasted nearly two decades.

The old clippings McAshan had sealed in plastic tell of a shy young man who endured the special stresses of breaking a color barrier and bearing the racial taunts, the slashed tires and the lynchings in effigy.

So when the university denied McAshan’s request for extra family tickets to the season-ending game against Georgia in 1972, “It was what they call the last straw,” McAshan said recently.

When McAshan skipped a practice to protest the decision, coach Bill Fulcher suspended him from the Georgia game, which Tech lost, then extended the suspension to include the Liberty Bowl against Iowa State.

Atlanta’s black community rallied to McAshan’s defense; Georgia Tech’s athletic department and administration backed Fulcher. McAshan soon became a civil rights cause celebre, receiving advice from black activists who tried to organize a boycott of the Liberty Bowl. His black teammates, fearing the loss of their scholarships, crossed an NAACP picket line outside the Liberty Bowl but wore black armbands in a show of support.

While his backup led Georgia Tech to a 31-30 victory over Iowa State, McAshan sat outside the stadium in a white stretch limousine with Jesse Jackson, who would call him the “Jackie Robinson of Southern college football.”

 ESPN, which promotes the concept of Black supremacy in athletics 24/7 (and acts as if legitimate sports weren’t played until integration), published a hagiography to McAshan here, with these words:

Today, big-time college coaches are escorted onto the field, surrounded by security. Back then, a different kind of security was needed when McAshan came onto the field. They were there to keep him safe from racist fans. During his college career, McAshan’s tires were slashed and his dorm room burned in a suspicious fire. As Tech’s team bus drove across the Auburn campus at a game, McAshan saw himself hanging from a tree in effigy; and at first, guards at Auburn’s stadium refused to allow him to enter the players’ entrance because they didn’t believe a southern university would have black players.

This story about Auburn is odd, because Auburn was recruiting Black players as early as 1968. In 1970, he first Black player debuted on the team (James Owens).Back then, freshmen were ineligible, so they played on the freshmen teams. McAshan stories are of racism are all dubious; he just wasn’t a very good quarterback, basically a Reggie Ball.

Georgia Tech graduates should be embarrassed to be represented on the field by athletes who required “special admit” to garner admission to the school. They should be more embarrassed by the fact that a special major was set-up to help maintain their eligibility.



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