ABOUT THE BLACK 14
History of the Black 14
During the three years prior to the football game between the University of Wyoming (UW) and Brigham Young University (BYU) in Laramie on October 18, 1969, the Cowboys had won 31 of 36 games, had played in the Sun Bowl and the Sugar Bowl and up to that point in 1969 had four wins, no losses and were ranked #12 in the UPI Board of Coaches' Poll.
Going into the game, seven of the 14 African-American players on the team had started. John Griffin was the leading receiver and his cohort Ron Hill led in kickoff returns and scored Wyoming’s first touchdown in college football’s centennial year. Joe Williams (a tri-captain), Tony Gibson and Ted Williams were among the top four rushers. Tony McGee tackled the Air Force quarterback for a loss seven times in UW's come-from-behind win at AFA.
Early that week, the Black Students' Alliance (BSA) announced plans to protest UW's participation in the game because of a tenet held by the church that owns BYU which then provided that African-Americans could not ascend to the priesthood. The BSA release stated that using university facilities and student monies to play host to BYU sanctioned that tenet. (The tenet was revoked by the LDS Church after a revelation in 1978). At mid-morning on the Friday of that week, the 14 African-American players on the team went to the office of head coach Lloyd Eaton to discuss how they might show solidarity with the B.S.A. They were in civilian clothes and were wearing black armbands. Only one of them was a senior and half of them were under 21 (considered to be minors under the law at that time). Eaton was 51. Before they could say anything, Coach Eaton took the group into the upper stands of the Fieldhouse and told them they were all off the team. He based this action on their violation of two of his rules: 1) scholarship players could not participate in demonstrations, and 2) players could not form factions within the team. Realizing that these rules were probably unconstitutional, the rules were withdrawn by UW authorities the next week, but the players were not reinstated for the 1969 season. Three of them returned the next year.
Within minutes, word of what had happened reached UW President William Carlson. A special meeting of the Trustees was called for that evening and Gov. Stan Hathaway headed for Laramie in a snowstorm. After meeting with the players and coaches, the Trustees and Hathaway decided to uphold the coach's action.
Playing without the 14, the natural turf of War Memorial Stadium was trodden only by white players the next day. UW soundly defeated BYU, and also won its last home game a week later, defeating San Jose State. The SJS players wore multi-colored or black armbands during the game to protest the ousting of the Black 14. An airplane pulling a banner saying "Yea Eaton" flew overhead to a standing ovation.
The dismissals were covered nationally by television networks and newspapers, including an article with pictures in the November 3rd issue of Sports Illustrated. The Denver Post carried an editorial asking whether football was more important in Wyoming than human rights.
UW suffered lop-sided losses in its final four games in 1969 and had only one win against nine losses in 1970, its worst season since 1939. Eaton was transferred to a position in the athletic director's office. He left UW and Wyoming the next year and worked in administrative capacities in pro football, but never coached again. Following the dismissal of the "Black 14", the Cowboys lost 26 of their next 38 games through 1972.
The book "Black 14" by Ryan Thorburn (published 2009) is available online.