TAMPA ― Thanks to a progressive story line unfolding at BYU, USF’s Homecoming game Saturday against the Cougars will serve as a historical backdrop.
Very historical. For the first time in BYU’s nearly 100-year football existence, an African-American will start at quarterback for the Cougars.
Redshirt freshman Jaren Hall will enter BYU annals, replacing normal starter Zach Wilson (fractured thumb). He’ll represent a demographic that still makes up only 1 percent of the student population, according to the school’s website.
“I am very proud of my ancestors, very proud of my ethnicity and all the things that come with that,” Hall told the Deseret News of Salt Lake City. “So it is an honor and a privilege to be here and to be playing this sport at this wonderful university.”
Hall’s starting assignment represents another prominent social stride for a university that remains 82 percent Caucasian and possesses a history widely viewed as discriminatory.
A private university, BYU is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), which emphasizes global missions work. As recently as the civil rights era of the 1960s and early 1970s, the LDS church had a policy excluding black men of African descent from its priesthood. For decades, it also condemned interracial marriage (Hall has an African-American dad and white mother).
Today, however, the LDS church is far more diverse. So is BYU’s roster, which added its first African-American player 49 years ago.
Roughly 40 members of the current roster are of Polynesian descent, according to the school. And diversity carries over to the coaching staff, which includes Kalani Sitake, the first Tongan head football coach in the NCAA.
“(Hall) is extremely confident and I think he’s ready for this moment,” Sitake told reporters in Provo earlier this week. “I’m really excited for this and I know he’s excited and the players are responding well.”
Contact Joey Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.