University announces reconciliation with the 'IU 10'

  • May 29, 2015

Editor's note: This story from The Bloomington Herald-Times is being published here as a courtesy for readers of IU in the News.

By Andy Graham

It is never too late to say or do the right thing, even after almost a half century.

And due to a reconciliation effort spearheaded by former Indiana University football player Mike Adams, the school announced Thursday it has formally welcomed back the “IU 10,” a group of African-American players who felt compelled to boycott the final three games of the 1969 season.

Adams, a sophomore on IU’s 1967 Big Ten champion team that earned the school’s lone Rose Bowl bid, started as a junior and senior until he joined nine teammates in a boycott prompted primarily by personnel decisions they perceived as racially oriented rather than performance based.

Indiana coach John Pont kept the players on scholarship, but the dispute affected both the players’ careers and Pont's program adversely amid what were often turbulent times on campus and in the nation as a whole.

Don Silas, a standout linebacker who led the 1968 team in tackles and one of the 10 who joined the 1969 walk-out, sent a personal letter to Pont and reconciled with the coach before Pont’s death in 2008. He also joined five of the eight surviving members of “The IU 10” in reconciliation meetings with university officials last month.

"I am so pleased that the university was willing to listen to us now in a way I felt they wouldn't in 1969," Silas said in IU’s press release Thursday. "I feel like the cloud has lifted. I'm glad that Coach Pont and I were able to make peace by both saying we were sorry before he passed."

Adams, Charlie Murphy, Benny Norman and Clarence Price joined Silas in the April meetings at IU, while Gordon May, Greg Harvey and Larry Highbaugh did not attend. Greg Thaxton and Bobby Pernell are deceased.

"The idea of reconciliation concerning the 1969 football boycott has haunted me for 46 years," Adams said in the press release. "The sacrifice made by the IU 10 definitely hindered their potential to pursue professional football careers. In retrospect, the long term impact of the boycott has had a positive effect in race relations and civil rights at IU, as exemplified by the addition of the Neal Marshall Cultural Center and the diversity positions in both academia and athletics.

"It should be emphasized that I never felt any racial problems from any teammates, black or white. I feel close to all of them and cherish their friendships."

Harry Gonso, IU's only Rose Bowl quarterback, echoed those statements in the release: "Like Mike, I never believed there were ever any racial issues among us as teammates. I'm very pleased this reconciliation is taking place. It was great seeing most of these guys at our Rose Bowl Reunions in 2007 and 2012, and I hope to see all of them at our 50th in 2017."

The April meetings culminated with a celebration in IU President Michael McRobbie's office, with McRobbie joined by the former players, representatives of university administration, current football coach Kevin Wilson and men's basketball coach Tom Crean.

"The sharing, listening, and understanding that occurred over the three days was nothing less than extraordinary and is one of the great experiences of my professional life," IU athletic director Fred Glass said in the press release. "While the process is not complete, the reconciliation we were able to achieve is a testament to what can be accomplished when people of good will, come together in good faith, to address even the most sensitive and complicated issues."