Eric Ramsey said his five years at Auburn were a "living hell" because of a football program that is racist and condescending to blacks. In a term paper for a sociology class, Ramsey, who is black, cited the absence of black cheerleaders on the sidelines and segregated living arrangements.
He received an "A" for his five-page essay, "Life on the Plains: A Non-fictional Account of One Black Athlete's Experience at Auburn University."
An assistant coach said he was surprised at Ramsey's criticisms, and a school spokesman said Wednesday "the only colors that matter at Auburn are orange and blue," the school colors.
"Every program has had unhappy players before and will have unhappy players again _ both black and white," said David Housel, the school's sports information director. "You can't measure an entire program by the players who, for whatever reason, have been unhappy."
Ramsey, a cornerback who started the last two years, said he felt compelled to speak out "because this is going to continue forever if no one says anything about it."
Ramsey, 22, was a 10th-round draft choice by the Kansas City Chiefs. He plans to graduate this summer with a criminal-justice degree.
"It's been on my mind for so long," he told the Montgomery Advertiser on Monday. "It's a five-page paper, but it only took 20 minutes to write. I've been thinking about this and living through this for five years."
Steve Dennis, Auburn's secondary coach, said Ramsey's criticisms surprised him.
"I love Eric to death and I hope everything works out for him with Kansas City," he said. "I don't know why Eric's got a bad taste in his mouth about Auburn. I feel Auburn has really done a lot for Eric."
Auburn head coach Pat Dye is recuperating at home following surgery and will have no comment, Housel said.
"We knew Eric was unhappy," Housel said. "He has made no secret about being unhappy. Whatever happened to make Eric unhappy, you'll have to talk to him about."
Dennis Wallace, an Auburn safety who completed his final season this year, said Ramsey's experiences are not an isolated incident. Wallace, who also is black, said black and white players "are only together on the field" and "whites stayed at one end of the dorm and blacks at the other."
He also said coaches discouraged black players from dating white students.
"On the field we were together, but when the game was over we went to different parties and social gatherings," Wallace said. "I don't think it should be that way."
But Housel denied there was any attempt to divide players along racial lines and control their social lives.
"There's no attempt to tell them who they socialize with. What they do on their own time is entirely up to them," he said.
"We've had black players room with white players before. That's entirely a player's decision, who he rooms with."
Ramsey said none of the Auburn coaches called him to offer encouragement after the NFL draft in April.
"I've played here five years and the draft has been over all this time and my (position) coach and Coach Dye still haven't called to congratulate me," Ramsey said.
Dennis said he tried to call after the draft but could not get in touch with Ramsey.