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Louisville President Meets With Disgruntled Alum Beard

Paul Steinbach

The day after asking the University of Louisville to strip his name from its records over concerns about the athletic department's hiring practices and its failure to acknowledge former Black players, '60s-era men's basketball star Butch Beard met Thursday with university president Neeli Bendapudi for what he termed a "nice" conversation.

"I think there were a number of issues that were brought up that she's more aware of now than she was," Beard said, as reported by ESPN.

Still, Beard said he wants his name removed "until I see change."

Related: Hall of Famer Admonishes U. of Louisville Over Race

In a letter to Bendapudi on Wednesday, the former Louisville standout and NBA All-Star and champion said the school needed more Black coaches to serve as role models for its student-athletes.

"The university has been remiss and negligent in its hiring practices within the athletic department," Beard, a former college and NBA head coach, wrote in the letter obtained by ESPN. "No black role models exist for the student athletes playing men's 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 model 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."

Both Charlie Strong and Ron Cooper have been Black head coaches for Louisville's football program. Chris Mack is the third head coach in the men's basketball program since Denny Crum was hired in 1971. All three have been white.

Beard, who coached the New Jersey Nets from 2004 to 2006 and had stints as a head coach at Howard and Morgan State, told ESPN his concerns about the school's hiring practices extend beyond the major sports on campus. Beard, 73, said he hopes Louisville's leadership will make a stronger effort to diversify its hiring pools as more jobs open up at the school in the future.

"I want them to get to know some Black people," Beard told ESPN. "Whether they hire them or not, get to know them."

"I deeply appreciate the heartfelt letter from Mr. Beard," Bendapudi said in a statement released prior to her conversation with Beard on Thursday. "He is a Cardinal legend and will always be remembered for his many accomplishments on the court and in the classroom. Mr. Beard rightly points out that in the past, the university may not have always lived up to its responsibility to provide an equal opportunity to Black candidates seeking jobs at the highest levels of our athletic department.

"I can say with total confidence that [athletic director Vince Tyra] and I are committed to changing that narrative. Our goal is for the University of Louisville to achieve its full potential as an antiracist university. That means that no job candidate should ever have an advantage (or disadvantage) during the hiring process based on their race."

Another complaint included in Beard's letter centered on what he called the school's failure to properly acknowledge former star Wes Unseld, Beard's roommate during their time at Louisville in the 1960s when they were two of the first African-American players in school history. His letter said the school had done a disservice to its Black athletes by not doing more to highlight some of the program's Black pioneers.

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