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Group to discuss firing

Black alliance to debate causes of coach's dismissal

November 6, 2002

Members of Black Student Alliance are hosting a town hall meeting Thursday to discuss possible injustices in Bobby Williams' termination as MSU's head football coach.

Marcelle Bryant, the group's programming director, said she personally was angered with the manner in which Williams was fired Monday, but said she wasn't convinced the act had anything to do with race. Bryant said the group will also talk about the coverage of Williams on the State News' Opinion Page.

"I thought you were supposed to have four years to get a program together, and he got fired in the middle of his third season," the advertising senior said. "I think they could have at least waited to the end of the season and save him some dignity, not tell him three minutes before they're going to announce it that he's fired.

"l don't know if it had to do with race or not. But it was definitely bad taste."

MSU Trustee Joel Ferguson, the only black member of the Board of Trustees, is invited to the 6:30 p.m. Thursday meeting in Heritage Café, located in the Union basement, but Bryant hadn't heard confirmation from him.

Ferguson could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

He released a statement Monday night that implied the firing was racially motivated. It said MSU chose to "ignore the facts, ignore the precedent and damage its reputation of fairness and commitment to diversity."

Williams was one of four Division I-A black coaches. He coached 33 games at MSU, beginning with a win in the 2000 Citrus Bowl and ending with the school's worst loss to Michigan in 55 years Saturday. He finished his career with a 16-17 record.

MSU Athletics Director Ron Mason said no one incident prompted him to fire Williams, whose job he publicly defended until Monday. Mason could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but said at Monday's press conference that race played no part in his decision.

"It's my job to do what's in the best interest of the department, football program and university," Mason said.

Floyd Keith, executive director of the Black Coaches' Association, said he is disappointed MSU fired Williams, but understands and respects the decision.

With a tradition of diversity in athletics administration, Keith said he believes MSU has the right commitment to providing opportunities to minorities.

He would not respond to Ferguson's statement.

"The BCA believed, and still believes, he's an excellent coach and will continue to support him individually 100 percent," Keith said. "I understand and respect the decision MSU made and for their examples of diversity in the past and for providing the opportunity for coach to work and be in that capacity at MSU.

"But we are disappointed that it didn't work out."

Keith also said he wished Williams could have fulfilled his contract, but having coached, understood that decision as well.

Bryant said the discussion concerning The State News comes after an abundance of anti-Williams letters filled the opinion page following losses. She said there is concern coverage contributed to the poor public perception of Williams because few letters were pro-Williams.

She also said members of the alliance often try to submit letters, but some never see print.

State News Editor in Chief Jeremy Steele said, "We always try, to the best of our ability, to run every letter that we get.

"When that is not possible, we try to run letters on various subjects in the proportion that we receive them," he said. "I am very happy to talk about it further with anyone from BSA."

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