The New York Times’ William Rhoden cites the tragic case of Maurice Clarett in today’s profile of Ohio State C Greg Oden, though with all due respect to the analogy, the situation seems somewhat less volatile.
As soon as Oden committed to Ohio State, Gene Smith, the university™s athletic director since 2005, convened a meeting that included faculty members, student-affairs counselors, basketball coaches, a compliance director and an academic-affairs director.
œWe talked about Greg Oden coming to our campus and what it would be like, Smith said Saturday. œWe said: ˜Look, he can™t hide. He™s a 7-foot 1-inch, 270-pound black man. In a lot of classes, he™s going to be sitting in a class where he™s the only black guy.™
œWe talked about where he was going to live, making sure we knew who was going to be on the floor with him, how we can communicate and let them know ” this individual™s coming to your class and there™s possibly going to be people standing outside your door trying to get his autograph.
Shortly after the school year began, Smith ” one of 11 African-American athletic directors who work at predominantly white Division I universities ” pulled Oden aside and laid out what was about to happen.
œWe taught him how to say no, Smith said. œHe™s really a nice kid. He™s 19; when he came to us he was 18. One of the things that happens on our campus is all these eBay people come in with four and five basketballs in a bag ” they want to get his autograph, and next thing you know it™s on eBay. We had to teach him ” you walk into class, you™re going to encounter that ” say no.
œYou™re going to class, somebody™s going to want to take your picture, and some girl™s going to want to hug you ” you™re going to end up on MySpace.com. Just say, ˜Hey, I just can™t do that,™ and explain why.
Gene Smith seems like a pretty smart guy.