George Trice is thankful that the tragic story of his cousin, Jack Trice, still is being told a century after he died from injuries sustained on a football field.
Still, George Trice is not satisfied.
Jack Trice, Iowa State’s first Black athlete, carried an immense burden into his first varsity start at Minnesota in Oct. 6, 1923. He wrote in a letter the day before the game that the “honor of my race, family and self are at stake.”
Trice was trampled during that game in Minneapolis, and he died two days later upon his return to Ames, Iowa. He was 21.
His memory lives on. The field at Iowa State was named for Jack Trice, who was born in Ohio, in 1988. After years of pressure from students, the stadium was named for him in 1997, making it the first major college stadium to be named for a Black person.
Iowa State honored Jack Trice this past weekend, including during the Cyclones’ game against TCU. The team wore special uniforms that date to the era in which Trice played. There was the installation of a new, 100-ton bronze-and-concrete sculpture of Trice’s silhouette titled “Breaking Barriers.” A street was renamed “Jack Trice Way,” and his degree was posthumously given to his family members.
All these years later, Jack Trice Stadium remains the only major college football stadium named for a Black person. And even with that, George Trice feels the school’s athletic department has come up short in honoring his family.
George Trice is executive director of the Trice Legacy Foundation. He said he loves seeing the Trice name on the side of the stadium, and he appreciates the efforts of the university, the city of Ames and the state of Iowa to honor his cousin. But he feels the athletic department has fallen short.
The Foundation aims to help increase minority enrollment at Iowa colleges; George Trice said Iowa State University helps the foundation, but the athletic department specifically does not. He said he doesn’t get input when the department creates events that involve his late cousin. And he says his family receives nothing from memorabilia connected to Jack Trice because Iowa State’s athletic department owns the trademark.
“Everybody wants their five minutes of fame for it, but they don’t want to really pay the cost for what it is to be a representative of Jack Trice,” George Trice said of the athletic department.
Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard did not respond to an interview request.
Most major college stadiums are named for a company with naming rights, a donor or a former coach. Black athletes are generally honored in other ways – for example, Syracuse’s field was named for Ernie Davis, who in 1961 became t he first Black Heisman Trophy winner, in 2018. The field at the University of Texas was named for Black Heisman winners Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams in 2020. Several schools have statues of Black trailblazers at their stadiums.
Mike Locksley, the Maryland head coach and founder of the National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches, became familiar with the Trice story when he interviewed for a job at Iowa State years ago. Locksley, who is Black, figured more Black people would have their names on stadiums by now.
“It’s surprising that that number is still one and has not grown over the years because of the contribution,” Locksley said. “Now, I would hope that as we continue fighting through the stigma that goes along with us … that maybe down the road, they’ll (Black athletes) will reap the benefits of the contributions they made to their particular sports.”
But Black people don’t have a deep history of coaching in major college football. The first Black Division I-A head coach, Willie Jeffries, took over at Wichita State in 1979. Even now, just 14 of the 133 Division FBS coaches are Black, including the interim coach at Michigan State.
So based on past naming patterns, Black coaches haven’t had the longevity required to gain the status to receive that specific recognition.
“African-American coaches were a rarity until the last few decades, so if you’ve got college programs that go back 100 years and often are named for some significant person way, way back in the day — that was a time when there weren’t any opportunities for African-American coaches,” said Joshua Boyd, a Purdue communications professor who studies stadium naming rights. “So it stands to reason that there wouldn’t be long standing names like that.”
Still, George Trice feels the overall contribution of Black people in the world of sports should reach this area, too. But he understands that athletic departments would have to be convinced that their donors would accept it.
“You’ve got to have something so significant that overpowers money,” George Trice said. “They have to be about, not the culture, but it has to be, what is ingrained in the people? What are they going to come to? What are they going to want? That’s where it is. You’ve got to find that, but it’s not out there right now.”
George Trice said change likely will take generations.
“The diversity is going to come when the grandfathers and the fathers leave and the people that are in their 40s, like my age, start to take over,” he said.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll