Discrimination and Resistance in Athletics at UW–Madison

Learning Objectives:

Students will be able to understand the different forms of discrimination that Black athletes and coaches encountered and how they advocated for change.

Students will be able to understand the inequities between men’s and women’s athletics, and how it generated different types of discrimination.

Students will learn about what Title IX was and how it affected athletics and academics at UW–Madison.

Sources and Readings

Recommended Primary Sources:

Black Football Players at UW–Madison Article: Read Source Here 

This article discussed the demands of Black student athletes for missing the football team banquet in 1968. These issues included stacking all Black players at one position, a lack of availability of counseling, transferring players to positions they never played, living accommodations in the dormitories, and granting five-year scholarships to Black players. The article also detailed Professor Marshall Colston’s discussion about how the university allowed public airing of the players grievances and the student athletes’ supposed interest in not involving “militant” student groups.

Discrimination Suit Against UW–Madison: Read Source Here

This article details a complaint filed against UW–Madison by Edwina Qualls, the Wisconsin women’s basketball coach. The article discussed the implications of Title IX and Qualls’ claims that the university failed to implement equal practices between men and women’s athletics. Issues of note included transportation to games, training facilities for men and women, hiring practices and appointment retention for male and female coaches, and scholarship opportunities.

Qualls’ Appeal Denied: Read Part 1 Here & Read Part 2 Here 

This article explains that Qualls was dismissed as head coach from the UW–Madison women’s basketball team after losing an appeal. In the article, the UW officials cited the overall record and a supposed contentious relationship between players and the coaching staff as the reasons for Qualls’ dismissal. The second part includes statements from players who said Qualls was given “a rough shake” especially in relation to a series of articles from the Cap Times critical of her coaching. The players also mentioned they were relieved the incident was over and that Qualls would not be returning, despite their respect for her as a coach.

Recommended Readings:

Chapter 1 “Brief Historical Overview and the Experience of Black Athletes and Students at Predominantly White Institutions: A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste.” In The New Plantation: Black Athletes, College Sports, and Predominantly White NCAA Institutions by Billy Hawkins. Read the Book Here

UW Madison Public History Blog: “A National Problem”: Badger Athletics and the Fight Against Segregation. By Andrew Kramer Read the Article Here

“Canceled due to Racism: The Wisconsin Badger Football Games against Louisiana State in 1957 and 1958” In the Wisconsin Journal of History by Richard Haney. Read the Article Here

Additional Primary Sources:

“Letter to the Editor in Support of Qualls.”: Read Source Here

This is a small opinion piece from a fan of the UW–Madison women’s basketball program in support of Qualls. The authors claimed that the Cap Times was overly harsh on her and that UW made a mistake for dismissing a coach who understood and followed NCAA protocols, which the men’s team had multiple violations for.

“No Bias Policy” Article: Read Source Here

This article explained how UW–Madison’s athletic department started screening coaches for bias against Black players. In the article, they summarized some of the incidents of “racial tension” including the Black student strike of the banquet, the dismissal of a white assistant coach for racial prejudice, and the dismissal of a Black player for participating in a student strike on campus.

Women’s Athletics Funding Article: Read Source Here

This article explains how the university attempted to determine funding for men and women’s athletics after the passage of Title IX.  The article discusses the discrimination lawsuit against the university, initiated by Qualls, and how the university claimed they attempted to make things equal but we’re unclear about what equality meant because Title IX did not specifically define it. There was also a debate between Elroy Hirsch and Kit Saunders about whether men and women should have equal scholarships, with the former saying that it should not be equal and the latter saying it should.

Additional/Alternative Readings:

“Exploitation in college sports: Race, revenue, and educational reward.” By Derek Van Rheenen.

Discussion and Questions

Primary Source Discussion Questions

Black Football Players at UW–Madison:

  •       Why do you think these issues were of particular importance for Black football players?
  •       What would be some “militant” student groups on campus at the time? Why do you think the athletes would not want them involved?
  •       Do you think that Professor Colton was trying to defend the university in this article? Why or why not?

Discrimination Suit Against UW–Madison:

  •       Why are all of the issues that Qualls raised in her discrimination lawsuit important for student athletes?
  •       What is Title IX and what was it supposed to do?
  •       What struggles or challenges do you think the university faced when implementing Title IX?

Qualls’ Appeal Denied:

  •       Why do you think Qualls’ players thought that she was given a “rough shake of things?” What do you think that means?
  •       The university listed several justifications for Qualls’ dismissal, but what other reasons could have factored into this decision?
  •       How do you think gender disparities between men and women’s athletics factored into this decision to dismiss Qualls and her treatment in the Cap Times

Reading Discussion Questions

  •   Why were Historically Black colleges and universities important for Black athletes during the late 19th and early 20th century?
  •   How has both cultural and institutional racism affected Black athletes at predominantly white institutions?
  •   How were the cancellations of the Louisiana State vs. Wisconsin football matches a microcosm of racism and discrimination throughout the US?

Discussion Norms: These are based on Walter Parker, Teaching Democracy: Unity and Diversity in Public Life, 138-9

  •       Do not raise hands
  •       Address one another, not the discussion leader
  •       Invite others into the conversation
  •       Cite and/or reference the texts to support your texts
  •       Base response in the reading/sources
  •       Listen to and build on others’ comments
  •       Critically Agree and Disagree

For more ideas about structuring discussion and asking good questions, see The Discussion Project

Source Citations

Black Football Players at UW–Madison Article: Bob Greene, “List of Grievances by Negro Athletes Nearly a Year Old,” Manitowoc Herald Times (Manitowoc, WI), December 10, 1968, accessed at https://newspaperarchive.com/manitowoc-herald-times-dec-10-1968-p-14/

Discrimination Suit Against UW–Madison: R.R. Lenz, “Complaint Filed Against UW Claims Sports Discrimination,” Wisconsin State Journal, October 11, 1978, accessed at https://newspaperarchive.com/madison-wisconsin-state-journal-oct-11-1978-p-23/

Qualls’ Appeal Denied Part 1: Perry Hibner, “Appeals Denied, Qualls is Out,” Wisconsin State Journal, June 6, 1986, accessed at https://newspaperarchive.com/madison-wisconsin-state-journal-jun-06-1986-p-21/

Qualls’ Appeal Denied Part 2: Perry Hibner, “Players Happy Qualls Ordeal is Over,” Wisconsin State Journal, June 6, 1986, accessed at https://newspaperarchive.com/madison-wisconsin-state-journal-jun-06-1986-p-22/

“Letter to the Editor in Support of Qualls.”: Marilyn Winglers, Letter to the Editor, Wisconsin State Journal, June 12, 1986, accessed at https://newspaperarchive.com/madison-wisconsin-state-journal-jul-12-1986-p-25/

“No Bias Policy” Article: “Hirsch Promises No-Bias Policy,” Kenosha News (Kenosha, WI), December 18, 1969, accessed at https://newspaperarchive.com/kenosha-news-dec-18-1969-p-35/

Women’s Athletics Funding Article: R.R. Lenz, “Money crunch hits women’s Athletics,”  Wisconsin State Journal, January 28, 1979, accessed at https://newspaperarchive.com/madison-wisconsin-state-journal-jan-28-1979-p-63/