U-Md. board of regents votes to strip Byrd name from football stadium

11 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Maryland to change Byrd Stadium to Maryland Stadium.

The University of Maryland board of regents Friday overwhelmingly approved renaming the school’s stadium that for 90 years has honored a football star who later as president of the university sought to deny black students admission to the state’s flagship campus. The board voted 12-5 Friday morning on a motion to change the name of the facility commemorating Harry Clifton “Curley” Byrd to “Maryland Stadium.” The measure had widespread support not only on the Maryland campus in College Park but statewide as well. Loh said in emails and letters to the university community and the Board that the College Park stadium, where the school’s football and lacrosse teams play, should be renamed Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium, in part because Byrd worked to maintain racial segregation and endorsed “separate but equal” education. He sparked tremendous growth in the college and is credited with transforming it into a modern university — but is also known for his opposition to racial integration.

Byrd was the school’s president from 1936-1954 after serving as the school’s football and baseball coaches. “For some African-Americans and other people of color, the name ‘Byrd stadium’ conveys a racial message hidden in plain sight,” Loh wrote in a letter to the board, noting that the 2015 freshman class represented the most diverse in the school’s history, with 25 percent being black and Hispanic. “Yet, we know that these dramatic changes have not eliminated racial tensions. Today’s progress cannot fully undo memories of yesterday’s wrongs.” The Post also said both of Maryland’s U.S. senators were proponents of the name change in addition to two members of the House. During a 43-year career at the school, Loh wrote, Byrd oversaw the school’s rapid expansion after World War II, including the construction of 60 buildings, and adopted the terrapin as the institution’s mascot.

Loh formed a work group this year to consider reasons for changing the name — and for not changing it — and said he considered the group’s findings as he made his recommendation. The recommendations come as the university recently unveiled a statue honoring abolitionist Frederick Douglass and named a building after Parren Mitchell, the first black person elected to Congress from Maryland and the first African-American student to earn a graduate degree from the college. As racial unrest unfolded in nearby Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody, a racist, sexist email sent by a white fraternity member exacerbated tensions on campus. Byrd, a 1908 graduate of Maryland, was a captain of the football team and All-American who served as a coach before rising in the university leadership to the presidency.

The workgroup also noted in its report that Frances Scott Key was a prominent defender of slavery and proponent of sending free blacks and slaves back to Africa. The board majority sided with the idea that the name was sending the wrong message to current students, something that outweighed honoring Byrd on the school’s “front porch.” Kumea Shorter-Gooden, chief diversity officer at Maryland, who served on the name-change work group, told board members that “residuals of our segregationist, Jim Crow racist history linger.” Shorter-Gooden continued that “changing the name will be deeply meaningful to many.

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