Chaney On Boycott: 'It Will Not Go Away'

Posted: January 17, 1994

KINGSTON, R.I. — John Chaney didn't walk. But he was ready and willing, and he wasn't alone.

If Temple's basketball coach had boycotted his team's game Saturday afternoon against Rhode Island, longtime assistants Jim Maloney and Dean Demopoulos, who both are white, said they would have joined in on their own volition.

And even though the Temple players said "No comment," the feeling was evident that they were prepared to vacate the court, too, just as some of their Rhode Island counterparts - and head coach Al Skinner - had threatened.

But because the Justice Department on Friday agreed to try to intercede on behalf of the Black Coaches Association in its dispute with the NCAA, Saturday's proposed boycott was averted - at least for the time being. And the 13th-ranked Owls (9-2 overall, 3-1 in the Atlantic 10) went out and posted a 69-49 win over the Rams (5-6, 2-3) at Keaney Gymnasium.

The BCA has made it clear that this simply could serve as a delay, not a cancellation. It's a viewpoint that Chaney was all too happy to expound upon - first quite demonstratively during a postgame press conference, then in a calmer mood with a Philadelphia reporter on the return trip.

"If there is no solution, we will shut things down," he said. "I guarantee. It takes something drastic to get people to understand what the real issues are."

Those issues go beyond an additional scholarship for men's Division I basketball programs. That issue, as the BCA said, merely was the last straw. Chaney says the issue is a decade of moves by the NCAA designed to, as he puts it, deny educational opportunities for student-athletes.

Central to those concerns is the NCAA's Proposition 48 entrance requirements, guidelines that are structured around what the BCA considers culturally biased college-board exams.

"People should be outraged. But some people just don't get it," Chaney said. "You can go all the way back to when Prop 48 came into being (1986). (The attitude) is one of arrogance. Utter, total arrogance. The thinking, to us, says that people are just not getting the message. But we're not buying into that.

"The biggest issue is: Who should go to college? We want Prop 48 revisited. It's about enhancing lifestyles. When you close your eyes and deny access, kids stop looking to the heavens. They don't have any aspirations. The fact is, many kids go to college and don't graduate. But they learned to enhance their lifestyle because they've been exposed to a better kind of life. You have to keep those doors open.

"Anyone who ever had a scholarship should fight his butt off to make sure the right to go to college is left open to everyone else."

Chaney says it's not necessarily a question of black or white. It's a question of economics, of haves and have nots.

"I'm sick and tired of anyone constantly saying to our underprivileged kids, you don't have the right to pursue your dream," he said. "We should be proud of our youngsters. Should we have to apologize for dreaming about playing in the NBA? Every ethnic minority in this country sought a way out through sports. I'm not going to apologize for that.

"It's the same guy who doesn't want you to come to his neighborhood, or in his schools, or in his house. It's racism, in its highest form. There are blacks who have made it who feel that same way. It boils down to those who have it, and those who don't. That's the way it's been in this country, for a long period of time. And the only time anyone rises up and says we're wrong is when the bullet hits them in the butt.

"This bleep's been going on too long. It's insensitivity against the poor. People think it's right to deny those who cannot help themselves. We find joy in stepping on their fingers, and that's unfair."

Chaney says the BCA was more than set to go out Saturday. It might have been five coaches one day, five others the next, for as long as it took to grab the proper attention. Chaney says that if a boycott is deemed appopriate in the coming weeks or months, there are some prominent white coaches who would support the BCA by also walking. He would not name them.

Chaney also stressed that the decisions of his staff members and players would be left up to them, that there would be no pressure exerted on them from him or anyone else. While his players would not confirm their intent to participate, the tone of their voices and the looks in their faces indicated it would have been unanimous.

A source close to the situation said the referees at the Temple game were instructed to assess technical fouls on both teams should they walk in unison before the tipoff, and another "T" should they not return within five minutes. Failure to respond would have resulted in a double forfeit and a loss on each team's record. No boycotted games would have been rescheduled.

"I will walk out any time my membership says. Absolutely. And I won't be alone, by any means," Chaney said. "I don't care what it takes. We have to do what we think is necessary. It's the right of every man to be represented as a voice in the wilderness in this business.

"You would have seen that (Saturday). You will see it, in the ensuing weeks if nothing happens. We will look at it very hard. It will not go away.

"Higher education has to address, for the first time, that high schools and lower education need help, and that they have to bridge the gap between those institutions. Higher education shouldn't outdistance the poor."

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