First Black Athlete At MSU Up For College Football Hall Of Fame
In 1913, Michigan Agricultural College Football recorded it's first win against the University of Michigan. Though 34 wins against its rival would follow in years to come, another first from the 1913 season would have more lasting effects. That year, Gideon Smith became the first black varsity athlete at Michigan State.
Chris Solari of the Detroit Free Press reported today that Smith will be appearing for the first time on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot this year. Smith's contributions to the team set the stage for several notable black athletes to follow in both the Spartan athletics program and nationwide.
If selected for entry, the Hall of Fame will induct Smith for his accomplishments coaching at Hampton University where he won a Black College National Championship in 1922.
"Smith remains the longest-tenured coach and second all-time in wins in Hampton history," Solari wrote.
During his day, news organizations covered him and his dominance with the then-Aggies football team with somewhat amusement at the rarity of a black collegiate athlete. Online columnist Steve Grinczel of MSUSpartans.com discovered some of these quotes for his piece celebrating the 100 anniversary of Smith's entrance with the team.
"[The] giant negro tackle of MAC" is how The Lansing Press described Smith after a major victory.
Despite his importance to the team's success, Smith fell victim to the second-class citizen treatment many other black athletes faced for decades during segregation. Grinczel details how Smith had to find his own lodging on trips and "would not be seen by Aggies again except at practice, at the game and on the train ride back to East Lansing".
If selected, Smith, also a brief teammate of Jim Thorpe, will be announced as part of the induction class this upcoming January.