It was a story that was buried beneath The Last Dance ESPN documentary series, the pending NFL season and NBA camps opening up for the Clippers among others.
In the shadows of it all was the monumental hire of UCLA African American Athletic Director Martin Jarmond.
After all he is the first athletic director of African American descent in the 101-year history of the school.
This is the school that gave us Jackie Robinson, the man who broke Major League Baseball color barrier and its first Black football player in Kenny Washington, tennis pioneer the late Arthur Ashe hailed from the Westwood campus.
Jarmond joins a list of D-1 athletic directors that includes Florida State’s Stan Wilcox, Virginia’s Carla Williams (the lone black woman), Maryland Damon Evans (interim) Michigan’s Warde Manuel, Ohio State’s Gene Smith, Arizona State’s Ray Anderson and California’s H. Michael Williams.
“UCLA is an aspirational program in intercollegiate athletics,” Jarmond said in a statement. “Steeped in history and success, the tradition of legends and barrier-breakers who call themselves Bruins is unmatched. … I will work tirelessly to ensure our student-athletes, alumni and fans remain proud of UCLA Athletics.”
It is a really big deal, but if you examine the history of racial pioneers in the landscape of sports you are still left scratching your head as to what the long term impact was or will be.
Since Jackie Robinson, baseball has abandoned Black players and instead has targeted Latin countries for its surplus of talent.
We all thought that Serena and Venus Williams would attract young Black kids to the sports of tennis in droves but that just has not happened and today both the William sisters have more in common than there white contemporaries than a kid coming from Compton. Hell the City of Compton can’t even get them to return.
Tiger Woods was surely the symbol we needed to integrate country clubs throughout the nation in golf? What has changed since Tiger in the sport of golf, except for the ratting when he plays?
Michael Jordan owns the Charlotte Hornets, but how many coaches of color or general managers has he empowered to run his franchise?
If an owner of a professional sports team cannot or will not do what LeBron James has done with his own career then what does it really mean?
Jarmond, is just 39 years old, brilliant and an extremely capable fundraiser.
He will be the highest-paid athletic director at a public school in the Pac-12 Conference after inking a six-year contract that will pay him $1.2 million in the first year and rises to $1.7 million in the final year.
Jarmond was the youngest athletic director in the Power Five conferences and the first black athletic director in Boston College history.
He has been successful along every stop that included Michigan State and Ohio State.
However he will inherit an athletic department with a huge $18.9-million deficit for the 2019 fiscal year, requiring an interest-bearing loan from the university.
That debt will increase when and if COVID-19 ever ends.
It’s like the election of President Barack Obama in 2008, where he inherited a country on the brink of a recession.
Obama got little credit bailing America out and producing the landmark Affordable Care Act, and nearly four years after he’s been gone the current president is blaming him for everything that goes wrong now.
Jarmond is an outsider, the first AD without UCLA ties since 1919 and it remains to be seen if the powerful alumni will give him the same support it did his predecessors.
I personally never imagined that UCLA would ever hire a Black in a prominent role in its athletic department regardless of qualifications.
It should have hired Earl Watson to pilot the basketball team, but didn’t.
In 2003 UCLA did hire Karl Dorrell to be its football coach, but by 2007 after a mediocre 35-27 record he was gone.
Current football coach Chip Kelly has gone 7-17 since 2018 and is making a fortune and there isn’t even speculation of firing him. He’s white.
Jarmond will be mostly measured by how much money he can raise. The signature basketball program has already been accepted as a muddling conference survivor instead of a national championship contender.
Crosstown rival USC has dwarfed the Bruins in basketball recruiting of national talent and most specifically cleaning up in their own backyard.
Love the hire, but don’t have any grandiose expectations of Jarmond making bold African American hires, qualified or not.
It has not happened before him and I am not holding my breath that it will occur because of him.