THE BLACK BOYCOTT
The volatile issue of civil rights made headlines for the football team. On April 2, Nagel announced that two black players would not participate in spring practice because of "personal problems." Though Nagel did not identify what those problems were, it is known that one player was having trouble meeting academic expectations, while the other had written bad checks.
Two weeks later, following reminders by the coach that unexcused absences from scheduled practices would result in dismissal from the squad, 16 black players failed to show up for the first drill. Nagel immediately declared the men "off the team."
Within days, a newly formed Black Athletes Union presented an open letter to the public:
"It has been stated that the university has an integrated football team and an integrated community. We maintain that this is not completely true...
"Brought into focus here is the slave-master relationship. The black athlete, for example, is the gladiator who performs in the arena for the pleasure of the white masses....
"When Jesse Owens resisted the white pig-master following the 1936 Olympics, he was stripped of his athletic standing and allowed only to race horses. Psychologically emasculated, he represents no challenge. Today, the black athlete will not accept the same treatment."
The painful rhetoric of the 1960s cut like a knife through Iowa's football program. Ultimately, the university and the Big Ten responded positively to nearly all the black athletes' requests concerning academic counseling and scholarship support.
In August, after the issue simmered unresolved all summer, Nagel insisted that each of the boycotted players make an independent appeal to the team for reinstatement. Seven of the 12 men who requested to return to the squad were voted back.