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Is UT Ready to Admit John Rudley into Its Hall of Fame?

Sojourner’s Truth Staff

Within weeks, The University of Toledo Athletic Hall of Fame Committee will meet and vote on this year’s inductees to the Hall. Dozens of Toledo community members have stepped up to nominate John Rudley, PhD, to the Hall. Their nomination letter, signed by Birdel Jackson, III, a UT Trustee and class of 1968; Vincent Davis, UT MBA Class of 2003; Ray Wood, president of the Toledo Chapter of the NAACP, reads in part:

“John was recruited by the revered basketball coach Bobby Nichols and served as the co-captain of the basketball team which is now considered one of the best teams to ever represent the University, the 1966-67 Mid-American Conference Championship team.

“Coach Nichols recruited John Rudley because he was the point guard and floor leader of the greatest basketball team in the history of Michigan High School basketball. He distributed the ball in a manner that made his team and teammates outstanding as Benton Harbor won the Class A state championship two years in a row and averaged 90 points a game before the 3-point shot.

“John was a leader while starting four years on the basketball team. After he graduated in 1970, he was a leader in his chosen profession of accounting. John was employed by the U.S. Department of Education and served as a special assistant to the Secretary of Education during the Bush “41” Administration. John served as Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance for the sixth largest system postsecondary education in the nation, the Tennessee Board of Regents. He was a leader while serving as CFO for the University of Houston and then interim Chancellor of the four campuses of the University of Houston System. John was a leader while serving as the President of Texas Southern University.

“Clearly, Dr. John Rudley had been a leader on and off the court and exemplifies the leadership qualities deserving of the recognition by the University of Toledo Athletic Hall of Fame. We believe that many of the Hall of Fame members who attended our university during the 1965-67 years and know “Rudd” would be proud to have Dr. Rudley as a fellow member of our Athletic Hall of Fame.”

The letter is also endorsed by an all-star lineup of Toledo notables including former mayors Carty Finkbeiner, Mike Bell and Paula Hicks-Hudson, ministers Robert Culp, James Willis, Willie Perryman, along with dozens of members of Rudley’s fraternity – Omega Psi Phi, among others.

Rudley has penned his own letter to the HOF Committee, writing in part:

“Similar to my high school honors, the championship program at UT was considered the greatest basketball program in UT history. My job, playing with a number of excellent shooters, was to distribute the ball to ‘the hot hand’, and keeping everyone’s head into the game. As sophomores (freshmen were not eligible back then) we won the Mid-Am championship with a record of 23-2. Over the next three seasons our team won 71 percent of our games. I averaged 12 ppg and 5 rebounds per game. Assists were not officially counted back in those years. I believe I was right around double digit average in assists with my job being ‘the ball distributor.’ I was elected co-captain both y junior and senior years. Two of my teammates, Steve Mix and John Brisker, played on the professional level. Steve played a number of successful years and John led the fledgling ABA in scoring his rookie season.”

The University of Toledo’s grudge against John Rudley, his supporters claim, has gone on far too long. It’s a grudge that started in the 1960’s and seemingly persists to this day, preventing his entry into the Hall of Fame.

It was a trying time for black athletes – the second half of the 1960s. When Muhammad Ali spoke up, became a member of the Nation of Islam and denounced racism and the Vietnam War, a standard of behavior was set. A symbol of heroism has been accepted, almost universally.

Within a few years, Ali regained the chance to continue fighting, gained and reclaimed the heavyweight crown and earned plaudits as an American hero.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in the air on the Olympic podium when the U.S. National Anthem was being played. As the decades have passed, that symbol of protest against racism has become an iconic portrait of two heroes’ decision to sacrifice everything for a cause much larger than their personal ambitions.

Football’s Jim Brown and basketball’s Bill Russell spoke out against oppression, injustice and racism and spent time with protesters, such as Ali, seconding his calls for change. Years later, Russell and Brown, both in their pro sports’ Halls of Fame, are remembered fondly for their athletic exploits as well as their involvement in various causes.

However, for John Rudley and his teammates, who formed the core of a University of Toledo basketball team that went 23-2 in 1966-67 and win the MAC Championship, no such future athletic plaudits have been forthcoming. Indeed that 1966-67 team, during Rudley’s sophomore year, has been called the best team that has ever taken the court at UT and, for too many at the university, it’s as if they never existed.

Those Super Sophs, when they won that championship in 66-67, frayed a bit by the time they were seniors. Brisker, a volatile mix at best with Nichols had left the team. Calvin Lawshe had suffered a serious knee injury and his career was over. In early 1969, the coach learned that Bob Miller had been skipping classes, confronted him on that fact, ordered him to start attending and suspended him from the team when he learned that Miller had skipped again.

Rudley joined protesters at mid court before the next game – several dozen black students and teammate Jim Miller – and walked out of the gym, missing one game. The team finished in the doldrums – 13-11 and fifth in the MAC.

Rudley went on to graduate school, a career as a certified public accountant, a second stellar career in academia as the interim president of the University of Houston and then an eight-and-a-half-year tenure as president of Texas Southern University, retiring three years ago.




Copyright © 2019 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 04/30/20 22:09:37 -0400.

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