(Photo of Butch Beard: Getty Images via The Sporting News)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - In a letter emailed to University of Louisville president Dr. Neeli Bendapudi, former Louisville men's basketball All-American & Hall of Famer Alfred "Butch" Beard requested that the school "remove my name and accomplishments from any existing or future mention.”
Beard cited that “the university’s commitment to young black men" being "far from what it should look like in 2021" as his reasoning for wanting disassociation from his alma mater, and gave a couple examples as to why.
First, the Hardinsburg, Ky. native stated how he was disappointed at how the university "hasn't deemed it important to honor Wes Unseld", who passed away last summer. He is just one of just four players in program history to have his jersey number retired, alongside Charlie Tyra, Darrell Griffith and Pervis Ellison.
"Without Wes Unseld or Butch Beard there would never have been a Denny Crum era of basketball," Beard said in his letter. "These are simply the facts, yet the university refuses to recognize someone like Wes Unseld who’s shoulders every player stands on today."
He then followed that up with stating that Louisville "has been remiss and negligent in its hiring practices within the athletic department", and that they have not hired more African Americans to head coaching positions.
"You may think assistant coaches in these sports are sufficient, they are not," he said. "Players need and want head coaches to confide in on real life issues on and off the court. Respect comes from the top; the head coach."
Winning Kentucky's Mr. Basketball in 1965 with Breckinridge County, Beard played three seasons with the Cardinals and ranks 17th in all-time scoring with 1,583 points. He was the 10th overall pick of the 1969 NBA Draft and played 10 years in the league.
Following his playing career, he has head coaching stops at HBCUs Howard & Morgan State, as well as the NBA's New Jersey Nets. He was inducted into the Louisville Athletics Hall of Fame in 1981 as well as the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame in 1988.
Beard's name appears 35 times in the 2020-21 men's basketball media guide, and his No. 14 jersey is honored on a banner at the KFC Yum! Center, Louisville's home arena. In an interview with WDRB, he said that he wants "my pictures and everything taken down", and that he was unsure why former Louisville quarterback Johnny Unitas has a statue in his honor, but not Unseld.
"Who do you think did more for the University of Louisville when they played at the University of Louisville?" Beard told WDRB. "Wes Unseld or Johnny Unitas? It's not even about Butch Beard."
Below is the letter from Beard to Bendapudi in its entirety:
Dear Dr Bendapudi,
Allow me to introduce myself; my name is Butch Beard. I am a former alumni and All American basketball player at the university during 1965-1969.
To begin, I would like to congratulate you in being named president in April 2018.
I know you came to the university during challenging times and more specifically; the athletic department. As you are aware, this will be an ongoing effort into the unforeseeable future to rectify the ills of the past.
Please indulge me as I share a few of my career highlights.
* University of Louisville 1965-1969
* All American 1968-1969
* NBA Player 1969-1978
*Golden State Warrior
NBA Champion 1975
* Howard University
Head Basketball Coach 1990-1994
* Howard University
NCAA Tournament 1992
* New Jersey Nets
Head Basketball Coach 1994-1996
* Morgan State University
Head Basketball Coach 2000-2005
The reason I humbly share this list of accomplishments is to give you an understanding of my credentials in the world of basketball, both at the college and professional level, and the many years I’ve devoted to a sport I love and have dedicated the lion share of my adult life.
For me, it all began at UofL. I am still connected to several former alumni; Wade Houston, Eddie Whitehead and Dave Gilbert. These men helped to integrate the basketball in the 1960’s. However, the basketball program didn’t achieve national recognition until Wes Unseld walked onto the campus in 1964; followed by myself in 1965.
To be direct, it was home grown black Kentuckians that changed the history of the basketball program. I find it hard to believe that the university hasn’t deemed it important to honor Wes Unseld. Today’s black student athletes have no idea who blazed the trail for them. It’s important to put this in context. In the 1960’s UofL coaches were recruiting based on the premise that the University of Kentucky was a racist institution and UofL was a promise of a more progressive university. There were fifteen black athletes on scholarships during my time at the university. Without Wes Unseld or Butch Beard there would never have been a Denny Crum era of basketball. These are simply the facts, yet the university refuses to recognize someone like Wes Unseld who’s shoulders every player stands on today.
In addition, prior coaches such as Coach Drumo talked about the university helping players further their careers in and out of the university. It’s unfortunate that never came to fruition.
Which leads me to the reason for writing to you. The university has been remiss and negligent in its hiring practices within the athletic department. No black role models exist for the student athletes playing mens basketball or football. You may think assistant coaches in these sports are sufficient, they are not. Players need and want head coaches to confide in on real life issues on and off the court. Respect comes from the top; the head coach.
I speak from the experience I have had as that role mode, at two HBCU schools. I saw first generation black kids attend college and witnessed the type of guidance that’s necessary. Not every black kid playing a sport has the promise or should have the promise of going professional. Many times this is the false narrative when the real goal should be getting an education. Without relatable guidance from a person who looks like you and has traveled this road this imperative can be lost.
The university must do a better job of mentoring the student athletes and help them to be successful on and off the basketball court. UofL was the first college in the state of Kentucky to offer black student scholarships but last to have a black basketball head coach or even interview one.
I say the following both in sadness and anger but I feel I have no recourse.
Given the lack of acknowledgement to the legacy of former black players and the lack of commitment in diversity hiring I am asking the university to remove my name and accomplishments from any existing or future mention.
The university’s commitment to young black men is far from what it should look like in 2021.
I know the university in the past has attracted players by using my name, and although it may not be as relevant now, this for me is a matter of principle.
This to some may appear an act of being ungrateful. This could not be further from the truth. The truth is that the university has failed to move forward or demonstrate a commitment to a diverse athletic department and coaching staff as well as recognizing the contributions of former black players.
Quoting Doc Rivers “ Why should I love you, when you don’t love me back”.
I had always hoped for so much more from the university.
Thank you for your time
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