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BSU Presses for Ouster of Hiegert : Racism: Black leaders at Cal State Northridge believe athletic director should step down in wake of task-force report critical of athletic program.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Cal State Northridge black student leaders said Wednesday that they are pressing ahead with their call for the resignation of Athletic Director Bob Hiegert.

Black Student Union president Karen Brannon and Black Student-Athletes Assn. president Patrick Johnson are more convinced than ever that Hiegert should step down in the wake of a 68-page task-force report that concluded that racism exists in the CSUN athletic program.

Brannon and Johnson, who have called a campus press conference for 12:30 p.m. today to respond further to the report, said the report increased their dissatisfaction with the school’s athletic program.

Among other things, they cited the disparity between graduation rates for black and white student-athletes. Only 9.2% of black athletes graduate compared to 33% of white athletes, according to the report.

“My general feeling about the athletic department after reading the report is that it is a mess,” Brannon said. “It is mismanaged on many levels. When there’s a gap that big in graduation rates, it is an example of institutional racism.”

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Webster Moore, an academic counselor and a member of the six-person task force, is critical of Hiegert’s response to the report.

In an article in The Times on Saturday, Hiegert went on the defensive in regard to a divided football team, academic advisement shortcomings, the lack of minority coaches and communication and cultural problems within the athletic program--all of which are addressed in the report.

“I don’t know why they deny so many things instead of doing something about it,” Moore said.

After reviewing transcripts of a dozen athletes who were included in the report, Brannon said: “They would make you cry.”

Names are removed, but sports teams are included in the transcripts, which are dotted with Fs, I’s (passing, but work is incomplete) and U’s (unauthorized incomplete, the lowest possible grade).

“I had never seen a U before,” Brannon said. Students who receive U’s are not eligible for I’s because they are not passing the class, and they are not eligible for F’s because they did not make an effort to pass the class.

“While they are getting U’s, they are getting A’s in physical education classes to remain eligible,” Brannon said.

One football player who enrolled in 1989, received five U’s, four D’s, two I’s and an F. He also received seven A’s, five in football classes, one in a soccer class and another in a health science class.

Of the 24 seniors on the roster last fall, 14 no longer are attending class, according to an informal survey.

CSUN football Coach Bob Burt put the blame squarely on the student athletes.

“When they are directed to (stay in school), asked to do it and begged to do it, there’s a point where they are responsible,” Burt said Wednesday.

“You gotta understand and so do the people crying and moaning about graduation rates, these guys leave school by choice.”

When asked whether he could change the situation by recruiting more academically motivated players, Burt said: “When you recruit them, every one of them is academically motivated.”

According to the BSAA, only three black student-athletes in the school are graduating this semester: football players Don Martin and Cornell Ward and women’s basketball player Bridgette Ealy.

Hiegert defended the report’s criticism of his program’s efforts to provide academic counseling, saying that the first meeting of volunteer academic advisers in April was “scheduled long before the (BSU) protest rally.”

But a copy of a March 17 memo sent to Hiegert and Associate Athletic Director Judy Brame by Leonard Wurthman, a speech communications professor who provides part-time academic counseling to athletes, discusses gathering volunteers.

The BSU protest was held March 11.

Brannon and Johnson also took issue with Hiegert’s comments disputing that the football players travel in “black” and “white” buses.

Hiegert claimed that offensive players rode in one bus and defensive players rode in the other.

But an informal survey of players indicates that an ethnic separation existed for long trips, to Sacramento and San Luis Obispo, for example.

Blacks, along with Samoans and a few whites, rode together, according to the survey.

“There was a black and a white bus and it was, let me stress, the players’ decision,” said Martin, a senior tight end. “We had a black driver and he played the music we liked.

“It was like an unwritten law. Eventually, we became aware of it and we realized that that’s what we lacked as a team. We didn’t mingle with the others.”

Burt said Wednesday he was unaware of separate buses.

“If I noticed I think we would have talked about it,” he said. “But you’d have to stretch to see it. I just told guys to get on the bus.”

Said Martin: “I think the coaches should have noticed it. To be a coach you should be observant.”

Moore believes Hiegert’s denial of the bus situation illustrates his lack of understanding.

“He missed the boat on the racism, period,” Moore said.

“Here we have a man who was here in 1968 when black students revolted in one of the biggest incidents at CSUN and here we have the same man, no longer the baseball coach, but the athletic director, who’s been through the civil rights movement and still doesn’t admit there’s a problem. It amazes me.

“Someone’s crying and he’s so busy defending, he creates a war.”

In a protest against discrimination of black athletes in 1968, the BSU held 34 administrators hostage, including former Athletic Director Glenn Arnett, in a four-hour siege of the school’s administration building. The action was sparked by the alleged shoving of a black athlete by Don Markham, the freshman football coach.

Along with a breach of contract regarding the release of the task-force report (see accompanying story), Moore also criticized the hiring of assistant women’s basketball Coach Robin Patterson.

Patterson, who is white, was hired while the task force was analyzing hiring practices, particularly the absence of minority hires, and she is the roommate of interim basketball Coach Kim Chandler.

“It all has to do with your own friends,” said Moore, whose task force reported that the department is guilty of “inbreeding” and a “good old boys and good old girls” system.

“Again, it shows their lack of sensitivity,” Moore said. “Worse, their arrogance.”


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