By Bob Lowe
Only three jersey numbers have been retired during Greensboro Collegeâ€™s 44-year athletics history. Two belonged to student-athletes â€“ basketball standout Clarence Caldwell (No. 30) and basketball and volleyball star Elaine Penn (No. 22).
The most recently retired number â€“ No. 1 â€“ belongs to everybody.
In an effort to recognize and celebrate diversity efforts at the college, Greensboro officially will take the number â€œ1â€ 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 â€œPrideâ€ are part of a single and cohesive unit.
â€œWe actually were planning on not retiring another number again at Greensboro College,â€ said Athletics Director Jean Lojko. â€œWe 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.â€
The â€œ1 Prideâ€ campaign launched at the schoolâ€™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 â€œGate City.â€ 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.
â€œThe incidents would be considered minor by most people, but we have zero tolerance for any discrimination at Greensboro College,â€ Lojko said. â€œWe need to put aside differences and focus on group and team success in athletics.â€
As part of the â€œ1 Prideâ€ campaign, all Greensboro student-athletes will receive a green â€œ1 Prideâ€ T-shirt to wear at all Greensboro athletics contests. The â€œ1 Prideâ€ phrase will be the official slogan for the year, as well. The logo will be featured in game programs and on the schoolâ€™s athletics web site. Greensboro teams also will break their huddles saying, â€œ1 Pride.â€
â€œThe No. 1 is leaving our jerseys, but the focus on welcoming all types to our campus lives on,â€ Lojko said.
Members of the team depicted in â€œRemember the Titansâ€ 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 Universityâ€™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 â€œBlueâ€ Stanton, Reggie Watson and Derrick â€œSugarbabeâ€ 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.
â€œAt the beginning of the movie, our fans are segregated,â€ said Hopson. â€œOnce we became a family, we won and they followed. At the end of the year, our fans were integrated, too.â€
â€œYes, Gerry Bertier and I were friends, and we did the â€˜strong side/weak sideâ€™ chant,â€ Campbell said of the friendship that was a turning point in the movie. â€œWhen Gerry was paralyzed, he really did single me out to visit him in the hospital. Iâ€™m an emotional guy, and he gave the â€˜fist in the air signâ€™ that he was going to be OK.â€
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. Bertierâ€™s accident really occurred later that year when he was on the way home from the Titansâ€™ awards banquet.
Greensboro student-athletes hope their â€œ1 Prideâ€ campaign lives up to the billing Lynch gave it during his comments at the meeting.
â€œThey didnâ€™t make a movie about us because we won a state championship. Teams do that every year,â€ Lynch told them. â€œThey did a film about our team because we were good people who made a positive impact on our community.
â€œMaybe someday Disney will want to tell the story of the 2010-11 Greensboro College Pride.â€
Bob Lowe is the assistant athletics director for communications at Greensboro College.