Diversity for Greensboro College

By Bob Lowe
For NCAA.org

Only three jersey numbers have been retired during Greensboro College’s 44-year athletics history. Two belonged to student-athletes – basketball standout Clarence Caldwell (No. 30) and basketball and volleyball star Elaine Penn (No. 22).

The most recently retired number – No. 1 – belongs to everybody.

In an effort to recognize and celebrate diversity efforts at the college, Greensboro officially will take the number “1” off limits after the current team uniforms are cycled out. While no individual student-athlete will wear No. 1, the idea is that all student-athletes at the school with the nickname “Pride” are part of a single and cohesive unit.

“We actually were planning on not retiring another number again at Greensboro College,” said Athletics Director Jean Lojko. “We want our athletics hall of fame to be the place for such recognition. However, this was a great opportunity to send a message about how important diversity is to us.”

The “1 Pride” campaign launched at the school’s athletes meeting August 29 came with fanfare that linked past with present.

The City of Greensboro is known for the being a key hub in the Underground Railroad that helped slaves reach the north; hence, the municipality is known as the “Gate City.” Greensboro was also at the heart of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. The famous Woolworth Department Store where the Gang of Four protested not being served is just five blocks east of the Greensboro campus.

Yet, last spring, two Greensboro College teams experienced racial incidents. Lojko decided it was time to make a stand.

“The incidents would be considered minor by most people, but we have zero tolerance for any discrimination at Greensboro College,” Lojko said. “We need to put aside differences and focus on group and team success in athletics.”

As part of the “1 Pride” campaign, all Greensboro student-athletes will receive a green “1 Pride” T-shirt to wear at all Greensboro athletics contests. The “1 Pride” phrase will be the official slogan for the year, as well. The logo will be featured in game programs and on the school’s athletics web site. Greensboro teams also will break their huddles saying, “1 Pride.”

“The No. 1 is leaving our jerseys, but the focus on welcoming all types to our campus lives on,” Lojko said.

Members of the team depicted in “Remember the Titans” were on hand at the event, too. The 2000 film chronicles the experiences of the recently integrated T.C. Williams (Virginia) High School. Denzel Washington portrays African-American head coach Herman Boone, who brings the racially divided team together and leads it to a state championship.

Greensboro College President Lawrence Czarda hired one of the Titans, Mike Lynch (an offensive lineman), as George Mason University’s police chief in the late 1990s, which coincidentally was when the former linebacker was helping in the production of the film.

Joining Lynch from the championship team were Julius Campbell, Tim Morris, Petey Jones, Darryl “Blue” Stanton, Reggie Watson and Derrick “Sugarbabe” Hopson. Campbell, Stanton and Jones were all prominently portrayed in the movie. The Titans have a website for those who are interested in keeping up.

“At the beginning of the movie, our fans are segregated,” said Hopson. “Once we became a family, we won and they followed. At the end of the year, our fans were integrated, too.”

“Yes, Gerry Bertier and I were friends, and we did the ‘strong side/weak side’ chant,” Campbell said of the friendship that was a turning point in the movie. “When Gerry was paralyzed, he really did single me out to visit him in the hospital. I’m an emotional guy, and he gave the ‘fist in the air sign’ that he was going to be OK.”

Campbell said that Bertier actually played in the championship game, which was a 27-0 Williams win rather than the nail-biter depicted in the Disney production. Bertier’s accident really occurred later that year when he was on the way home from the Titans’ awards banquet.

Greensboro student-athletes hope their “1 Pride” campaign lives up to the billing Lynch gave it during his comments at the meeting.

“They didn’t make a movie about us because we won a state championship. Teams do that every year,” Lynch told them. “They did a film about our team because we were good people who made a positive impact on our community.

“Maybe someday Disney will want to tell the story of the 2010-11 Greensboro College Pride.”

Bob Lowe is the assistant athletics director for communications at Greensboro College.