Monday, April 25, 2011

William Bradford Huie's "How To Keep Football Stars in College"

On Jan. 4, 1941 William Bradford Huie's first story in a major magazine was published and it immediately set off a firestorm of criticism. The University of Alabama graduate's piece in Collier's: The National Weekly magazine, "How to Keep Football Stars in College," accused the Crimson Tide football program of a litany of abuses.

Using a lively and colorful manner that became his hallmark, Huie alleged Alabama engaged in a regular practice of paying players,  used local high schools to process ineligible players from out-of-state and a relentless purging of players who were unable to perform on the football field. Huie even claimed to have been hired by the school as a tutor charged with keeping academically inept athletes qualified scholastically so they could play.

"I guess I'm trying to kid myself into believing there is more good than bad in the collegiate football system," he wrote.

A university faculty committee issued an exhaustive report a month later finding all the accusations in the article baseless. Three months later, Collier's retracted the story and offered apology to the school for publishing it:

Huie would go onto a long and distinguished career as a muckraking journalist, screenwriter and author, including numerous groundbreaking works on the civil rights movement. He was inducted into the University of Alabama's College of Communication and Information Sciences Hall of Fame in 1998.

This is the text of the Collier's April 5 ,1941 retraction of the Huie article, "How To Keep Football Stars in College":
In a recent issue Collier's published an article by William Bradford Huie entitled "How to Keep Football Stars in College" The article was primarily an indictment of the University of Alabama and its athletic policies and academic practice as related to athletes. On the basis of information which was considered reliable, Collier's accepted and published the article in good faith.

University authorities convince us that Mr. Huie was never connected with the athletic department. Further searching inquiry did not confirm Mr. Huie's statements of unfair dealings by the university with student athletes. Nor was there a confirmation of Mr. Huie's allegations that the university's football players were not held to the same academic standards as its other students.

Alabama, in common with other members of the Southeastern Conference, under the rules of the conference, supervised by a commissioner, frankly offers scholarships to promising athletes. We have found, however, no basis for the charge that Alabama had adopted a special and lax method of dealing with the scholastic activities of its athletes. Nor have we found any basis for the charge that the Tuscaloosa High School is a "hatchery" for university athletics, nor for the charge that the university maintains a "farm" system for the procurement of athletes.

Collier's is convinced that a serious injustice was done the University of Alabama, its faculty, its athletic coaches, its students and its alumni by the publication of the article referred to, and for this reason we sincerely regret its publication and are happy to make this statement.