Black History Month: UH coaches had no problem with athletics integration
UH was one of the first universities in the south to integrate black and white students in the 1960s, after officially integrating its student body in the summer of 1962.
Philip G. Hoffman, UH president from 1961-1977, said in a news release that integrating the school was the right thing to do although they did not want to publicize the integration to avoid a backlash or riots. UH integrated quietly with the right intentions, which were to secure the students’ safety.
“We did not want a Mississippi or Alabama on our hands,” Hoffman said in a news release. “We decided to integrate in the summer when there weren’t as many students on campus.”
By the summer of 1962, UH was officially integrated. By 1963, however, UH athletics had yet to recruit a black student athlete.
When football head coach Bill Yeoman recruited his first black player, he said he didn’t realize people would have a problem with it. He wasn’t looking at the color of their skin. Yeoman was simply looking for the most talented athletes to play for UH.
The university finally recruited its first black athletes in 1964, thanks in part to the pioneering vision of head basketball coach Guy V. Lewis as well as Yeoman.
“Wondrous Warren” McVea
McVea became the first African-American to play football for UH when he signed in 1964. The San Antonio native was unquestionably the most sought recruit in the nation at the time. Every major school in the country wanted McVea. With over 70 different scholarship offers, McVea had the choice to play anywhere in the country. McVea also holds a UH record for longest touchdown for a 99-yard touchdown reception he caught against Washington State University in 1966.
Elvin “The Big E” Hayes
Hayes and Don Chaney, were the first African-Americans to play basketball for the Cougars. In 1968, Houston faced the University of California, Los Angeles Bruins in the first-ever nationally televised regular season college basketball game. They played “The Game of the Century”, as it was dubbed, at the Astrodome in front of a record 52,693 fans. Hayes scored 39 points and had 15 rebounds, while Lew Alcindor, now known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, of UCLA was held to only 15 points as the Cougars defeated the Bruins 71-69. Hayes would enter the 1968 NBA draft and be selected first overall by the San Diego Rockets.
Chaney played all 40 minutes of the “Game of the Century”. He too entered the 1968 NBA draft and was picked 12th overall by the Boston Celtics. Chaney and the Celtics became the 1969 NBA Finals champions during his rookie year. He then led the Celtics to win the 1974 NBA Finals.
Today, UH remains one of the most diverse schools in the country.
“The University of Houston has had a very rich history in terms of integration and in terms of being the first in many of these activities, and I’m very proud of our diversity, and I’m very proud of the way our students and our faculty staff create a very holistic environment here,” President and Chancelor Renu Khator said.
“We have a very proud history and a lot of good role models for all of us to look up to.”