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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Why Luther Campbell is an idiot

Luther Campbell (a.k.a. Luke Skywalker) is still famous nearly 25 years after he burst onto the rap scene as a part of the group 2 Live Crew. He's not making music these days, but Campbell is still active in Miami as a businessman, football coach, one-time mayoral candidate and as a columnist for the Miami New-Times.

Luther Campbell with Miami's favorite son, Nevin Shapiro.

Predictably, the notorious Miami fan (yes, he reportedly threw down "bounties" for big plays and injuring opposing players, an NCAA violation I might add) offered his commentary heading into a noon showdown between Florida and Miami at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens on Saturday. Campbell decided to focus the majority of his vitriol towards UF in regards to its history as a "bastion of southern racism." Interestingly enough, Campbell forgot to check the records for "his school's" role in denying equal opportunity to African-Americans.

– In 1940, Miami cancelled a scheduled contest with UCLA because of the presence of four African-Americans on the Bruins' roster. In a twist of fate, one of the UCLA players that caused Miami to rescind their offer to play was Jackie Robinson, the man who would later break baseball's color barrier in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

– In 1946, Penn State elected to eliminate a scheduled contest at Miami due to the same policy that forced UCLA to withdraw from the 'Canes 1940 slate of games. Halfback Wally Tripplett was one of two African-American players on the 1946 roster for the Nittany Lions. Selected 182nd overall by the Detroit Lions in 1949, he would go on to be the first African-American player to be drafted by and play in the NFL.

– Campbell points out that the University of Florida did not admit African-American students until 1962. Well, he's wrong. George Starke was the first African-American admitted to the College of Law on Sept. 15, 1958. Despite receiving police protection, Starke withdrew from the school shortly after beginning classes. W. George Allen became the first person of African-American descent to graduate from the College of Law in 1962. At the same time, the first seven UF undergraduates are admitted to UF. Campbell also conventionally forgets to leave out that the University of Miami only began the process of admitting African-American students a year earlier than that, with the Board of Trustees voting to de-segregate on January 31, 1961. This after the school was able to avoid compliance with the Brown v. Board of Education ruling for several years, due to the University of Miami being a private institution.

– Another allegation made by Campbell points out that former UF quarterback Derrick Crudup, Sr., was denied the opportunity to play quarterback at Florida because of his race. Crudup, who enrolled at UF in 1983, later transferred to Oklahoma (where he also didn't play quarterback.) Years later, his son, also a highly-touted signal-caller out of South Florida (Senior starred at Boca Raton, Derrick Crudup, Jr. played at Deerfield Beach). The younger Crudup wound up at Miami where he would himself MAKE CLAIMS OF RACISM after losing a battle for the starting job in 2003 to Brock Berlin. Shocking, right? The elder Crudup was to be passed over for the position by Wayne Peace and Kerwin Bell, two of the best quarterbacks in Florida history. Junior lost out to Brock Berlin. At least the son had a legitimate argument.

– Then of course, there was the Ryan Clement-Ryan Collins racism imbroglio that Campbell HIMSELF started in 1995. Collins, an African-American quarterback who shared the starting job with Frank Costa in 1993, was demoted to second-string in 1994 and lost the job to Clement in 1995 after getting hurt in an early-season loss to Virginia Tech, never made claims of racism against the Miami staff. But after Campbell's comments, he did seem to give off a sense of having never gotten a fair shake at the job during spring practice in 1995.

"He's one of my biggest fans, I guess," Collins said of Campbell in the above-linked article by Randall Mell of what was at the time, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. "For once, somebody's supporting me. That's unusual."

– Finally, there's the assertion that Charlie Strong was passed over for the Florida head coaching job because of his race. This one is a little trickier to navigate. Florida had two opportunities to hire Strong as the head coach. The first in 2001, when Steve Spurrier stepped down. The second, in 2004, after Ron Zook was fired. Strong served as interim coach for Florida in the Peach Bowl, where they were trounced by Miami. At neither point was Strong considered a "hot" head coaching candidate.

That would come later, when his defenses under Urban Meyer were among the best in the country and helped lead the Gators to two national championships. Timing is everything. Had Strong remained on Meyer's staff in 2010, it's entirely possible he would be the head coach at Florida right now. There are lots of theories about that abortion of a season. Some believed it was an audition of sorts for Steve Addazio. But that obviously didn't work out, and he's now at Boston College. I doubt ol' Charlie has too many regrets with the way things turned out for him at Louisville. And, yes, that does include the good old-fashioned butt-whipping he handed the Gators back in January at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

In any case, Strong's career is forever entwined with Florida. He served four stints as a coach at UF, as a graduate assistant from 1983-84 under Charley Pell (the same racist who didn't allow Derrick Crudup, Sr. to take the QB job, mind you), 1988-89 as an outside linebackers coach for Galen Hall, 1991-94 as a defensive line coach for Steve Spurrier, and finally as the defensive coordinator from 2002-09 under Ron Zook and Urban Meyer. UF fans will always have a soft spot for the guy.

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It should be noted that Miami was one of the first programs in the South to integrate their football program, when wide receiver Ray Bellamy joined the varsity football side in 1968 as a sophomore (freshmen weren't allowed to play in those days.) Nat Northington at Kentucky, who began his varsity career for the Wildcats a year earlier, was the only player in the so-called "Deep South" to help integrate a squad before Bellamy.

The University of Miami does have a great track record of helping to advance race relations since the mid-60's in many aspects. But the University of Florida has made considerable progress in those areas as well. To try and argue otherwise is foolish, and Campbell's commentary proves to be nothing more than that. Foolish.

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