"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
The passing of former North Carolina coach Dean Smith was noted on the board the other day, but I had seen nothing here that underlined what a powerful figure he was, including in his contributions to both civil rights and the evolution of the game itself.
I found this wonderful appreciation of Smith at CBS Sports, an easy and pleasurable read with lots of links and a great interview of him and John Thompson, and thought I'd share it. Note that Smith's coaching tree pretty much takes in everyone, going back to Phog Allen and the game's inventor, James Naismith. Even more than John Wooden--who himself called Smith the greatest coach ever--Smith may well be the single most towering figure in the history of the sport. The appreciations of him by the likes of Michael Jordan and Duke's Coach K are pretty touching:
John U. Bacon writes a short introduction to the attached video highlighted in this month's Michigan Today profiling civil rights pioneer Branch Rickey and his relationship with the immortal Jackie Robinson. Rickey was a 1911 graduate of Michigan Law School.
Like so many great Wolverines, he was born in Ohio but shook it off. Interesting that Charles Thomas, a black player on Rickey's Ohio Wesleyan team (at that point Rickey was Wesleyan's coach) was a catalyst for Rickey's focus on discrimination in baseball. The incident in particular - a not unusual story of a hotel refusing to lodge a person of color - took place in South Bend, but sadly could have occurred virtually anywhere in the U.S. at that time.
This is well worth 25 minutes of your time, and as "42" hits the theaters, remember that Branch Rickey was a law school alumnus and a model representative of UofM in many ways.
There is also a related story by Bacon regarding the impact Rickey had on Fred Wilpon (Mets owner, Michigan man, and namesake of the baseball-softball complex) that's worth a look. LINK. Money quote? Money quote:
He practically invented Ladies' Day—which integrated an almost entirely male domain—spring training, and baseball's minor league system. Former St. Louis Cardinal great Stan Musial said, "An all-star team of our top farm clubs probably could have finished third behind the Cardinals and Dodgers. This was Branch Rickey's masterpiece."