<< Front page News May 7, 2004

Athletics employed radical

Note: Two quotes in this article contain potentially offensive language. The editors felt it was important not to censor this quote but to accurately represent its controversial nature.

This year, the College made national headlines by hiring away Stanford’s title-winning track coach Vin Lananna as Athletic Director. Rewind to 1972 however, and Oberlin’s AD was making very different kinds of headlines for his revolutionary educational philosophy and his radical politics. Jack Scott brought the social upheaval of the 1970s to Oberlin in a way that few other staff could match.

Scott, before becoming Athletic Director at Oberlin, was a radical sports writer. He earned his Ph.D. at UC-Berkeley and remained there to become the director of the Institute for the Study of Sport and Society. At Berkeley, he wrote articles and books including The Athletic Revolution.

The department began to change.

“Next year course offerings will be open to both men and women except those courses where strength and endurance directly affect the learning process,” read a 1972 Review article.

This was fairly revolutionary for the time. Prior to 1970, there were two separate departments for men and women and two segregated facilities: Old Warner and Hales.

Scott instituted new coed classes in squash, racquetball, handball, gymnastics, skiing, scuba diving and fencing as well as new programs including yoga and karate and a course called “Being in the Body.”
There were course sequences in sport and society, Scott’s specialty, experiencing the body as a psychological phenomenon, working with typical and atypical kids, teaching, coaching and recreational leadership. He moved the P.E. major away from teacher certification to a more “humanist” approach.

Jack Scott was always at the center of controversy. He opened up use of the facilities to the town at large. In the 1972-73, he puzzled the College administration by allowing the football team to interview the candidates for the new coach and submit their recommendations.

In February, 1973 he was asked by the athletic conference to explain his handling of the swim team. He and Coach Dick Michaels allowed women to compete in exhibition status during regular matches, and other schools complained. That year, at Scott’s suggestion, the Ohio Athletic Conference convened to discuss women’s sports.

Perhaps most controversial were Scott’s hiring processes. He hired the Oberlin Athletic Department’s first black coaches.

Along with the players, he hired Cass Jackson (former All-American and professional player) as head football coach, the first black man to have that position at a predominantly white college in the country. It was his hiring of Tommie Smith as his assistant that caused the most fervor of however. Smith was mainly known as one of the Olympic runners to give a black power salute while receiving a medal at the 1968 Mexico Olympics.

The Women’s Athletic Committee (WAC) wanted P.E. professor Ruth Brunner, to be chairperson of the department but it was in Scott’s contract that he got that position and he held the college to the contract. The WAC figured that he would then appoint a woman as athletic director. Instead, he suggested Tommie Smith. It became an issue of “racism vs. sexism” that only ended when Scott resigned in 1974.

His resignation was considered a surprise to many since he was considered a frontrunner to become College president after Robert Fuller’s resignation in 1973.

“If I received the position,” he said to the Review, “I’d do it the same way I did P.E. Hire all niggers. They’re the only ones who’ll work hard anymore. Those damn honkies are always hopped up on drugs.”
The Review interviewed him after his February resignation. He said that he was given a payoff of $42,000 for the remaining two years of his contract. Scott also stipulated in this agreement that the people he hired would be reinstated for another three years. He told the Review this was necessary because otherwise the council would definitely have fired them, especially Smith.

Scott had several criticisms of Oberlin, which he later described as having a ”faggot image.”
“This college has the audacity to attract people because of blacks and women,” je said.

“The faculty at Oberlin has a gig going for themselves. They’re interested in making a living, driving a nice car, living in a big house…What the college needs is to bring this reality of America into Oberlin.”

“When I first came here, I bought the rap of the place: a liberal place that encourages liberal behavior. After a while the place was nothing more than an exclusive educational playground. After my first six months here, I knew that I would resign.”
Many of Scott’s policies, especially his proactive recruitment of women minorities eventually became the norm at College’s throughout the country. However, many felt that his politics detracted from his administrative responsibilities and his tenure is generally marked as the beginning of the decades-long slump from which the department is only now recovering.

“The entire experience just radicalized me more,” said Scott, summing up his time at Oberlin

This was apparently true. Also in 1974, he became involved with the Symbionese Liberation Army. A left wing, radical, militant group, the SLA best remembered for kidnapping newspaper heiress Patty Heart and then converting her to their cause.

Scott made headlines once again in the SLA for hiding Heart, later known only as Tania, from the authorities. He was known for running an “underground railroad” for political fugitives. Perhaps a bit of the Oberlin spirit rubbed off on him after all.


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