Former Ole Miss great Deuce McAllister has concerns that a late Tuesday night campus incident could have far reaching effects for the university and its football team.
A racist disturbance on the Ole Miss campus could have a long-term impact not only on the university but also on its football program.
Late Tuesday night, some 200 Ole Miss students were heard using racist terms and epithets while protesting the re-election of President Barack Obama, who defeated the Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, to earn a second term in office.
“The University leadership strongly condemns this kind of behavior and is embarrassed that any students associated with the university would use this kind of language,” said Ole Miss chancellor Daniel W. Jones. “Our university creed calls for the respect of each individual and for fairness and civility.”
While on a substantially smaller scale, the racially charged rally brought reminders of the 1962 riots on Ole Miss’ campus after the integration of a black student, James Meredith, into the school’s all-white student body. For coach Hugh Freeze and his 5-4 football team, which has been one of the SEC’s great surprises in 2012, the potential ramifications from the rally underline an issue that has defined the program’s recruiting efforts for generations: How do we recruit black student-athletes to a university with our racially charged background?
Former Ole Miss running back Deuce McAllister, who went on to be a first-round pick of the New Orleans Saints, understands well how the university’s past – and now, its present – impacts the football program’s recruiting efforts.
“I feel strongly for the university,” he said. “I mean, I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed as an alumni, I’m embarrassed as a former athlete. Because I know how hard it is to get minority players to come to the university. That’s the stigma that they have to fight. That’s the stigma that the staff has to fight.
“It makes it tough on Coach Freeze. It makes it tougher,” McAllister said. “That does not put the school in the best light. And the biggest thing that they fight a lot of the time is how much they’ve got to deal with the past, how much they need to prove and show how much they have changed.
“So when you have a situation where you’re telling kids, ‘It’s not like that anymore,’ that Ole Miss has changed, then you have an incident like this occur, then that hurts. That hurts you with recruiting minority students. It hurts you with recruiting minority athletes.”
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