The "Syracuse 8," a commitment for change
This date in 1970 celebrates the “Syracuse 8” college football players.
These African American players at Syracuse University boycotted the 1970 football season in a collective effort to demand change and promote racial equality within the University football program. These student-athletes wanted better medical care for injured players and stronger academic support for African American student-athletes; the right to compete fairly for any position on the starting team; and racial integration of the football coaching staff.
Although called the "Syracuse 8" by the media in 1970, the group included nine individuals. They are Gregory Allen '72, Richard Bulls '73, John Godbolt '73, Dana Harrell '71, G73, John Lobon 9'73, Clarence "Bucky" McGill '72, A. Alif Muhammad '71, Duane Walker '80 and Ron Womack '71.
The activism actually began in the spring of 1969 with the black players accusing (then) Coach Floyd "Ben" Schwartzwalder of discriminatory practices. The ensuing season began with a home game against Kansas and the most potent riot in Syracuse campus history. A pre-game confrontation between nearly 100 policemen and at least 400 students featured flying rocks, bottles, and wood, pepper gas, and nightstick beatings.
Later that school year SU Chancellor John E. Corbally Jr. convened a commission to investigate and assess the situation. The commission's 60-page report concluded that the players' response to the racial injustices of the time, and their efforts to bring about change, were justified.
In 2006, at halftime of the SU-Louisville game, the group was recognized and presented with their SU Letterman's jackets, which they never received after leaving the team 36 years ago. These men sacrificed playing the sport they loved and a possible career after college to stimulate social change and needed awareness.