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Award to Honor Fritz Pollard

The big news in college football this week is about a certain tone deaf coach in the Rockies who was apparently unaware that his program has been heading for a fall.

Better news comes from the East Coast, where Brown University and the Black Coaches Association announced the establishment of the Fritz Pollard award for the male college coach of the year. Fritz Pollard was a skilled collegian and professional player. He was the first black player to play in the Rose Bowl, and if you classify him as a quarterback (there was little passing in the NFL in that era so opinions differ, but he did throw the ball some), he was the first black QB to win an NFL championship. His career after football was also distinctive. Let's hope the recipients of Pollard's award meet his high standards.

I first became aware of Pollard by reading a superb article by Daniel Coyle in the December 15 issue of Sports Illustrated (not available on line, but try Lexis-Nexis if you have access). The story is about the Brown Bombers, a team of black players led by Pollard in the 1930s that successfully took on all comers. The Bombers were Pollard and co.'s answer to pro football, when the NFL adopted an unwritten rule of segregation in 1933.

Searching SI for Pollard did turn up a piece by their resident football guru, Dr. Z, in which he places Pollard on his short list of "seniors" for the NFL's Hall of Fame. Curiously, such players as Bob Hayes and Jerry Kramer also populate the list. As Dr. Z's title says, choosing among these guys is a brutal job, and the committee should probably expand the number of players eligible for enshrinement to two per year. If they don't, it will take them forever to catch up, and their memories will have long faded.

Revisiting Pollard's story reminded me of John M. Caroll's book, Fritz Pollard: Pioneer in Racial Achievement. I've ordered it and will let you know what I think when I'm finished.