Rudolph, Barnett Make All-Time HBCU Athletes List

Olympic great Wilma Rudolph

By Ron Wynn

NASHVILLE, TN — Olympic great Wilma Rudolph, shown, and all-time leading Tiger scorer Dr. Dick Barnett are among a distinguished group of 25 selected last week to the HBCU all-time greatest team. The list was compiled for ESPN’s The Undefeated website and represented the choices of longtime sports writer Donald Hunt, a writer for the Philadelphia Tribune who’s devoted many years to covering HBCU sports. Hunt also has been both thorough and fair in his picks, including both men and women, and not just focusing on football and basketball, but also track and field, baseball, and tennis. As the list reveals, many of these athletes weren’t just great in college, but achieved fame in various pro leagues. Some like Jerry Rice are arguably the greatest at their position, if not in their sport.

Wilma Rudolph finished third on the list and is both the highest-ranking woman selection and top choice from the world of track and field. Her exploits as a Tigerbelle are legendary. At the 1960 Olympics she earned three gold medals, set one individual world record in the 200 meters, and was part of the record-setting 400-meter relay team. Her story off the field is equally extraordinary. At one time she was told she might not even be able to walk correctly, let alone run due to having polio as a child. But she persevered to become the world’s fastest woman during her career.

Dr. Dick Barnett was a three-time Little All-American selection, scoring 3,209 points in a glittering career at TSU that included three straight NAIA championships from 1957-59. He also teamed with Walt Frazier in the backcourt to anchor the New York Knicks 1970-71 championship squad. He was 13th on the list.

Recognizing the difficulty of capping the team at 25, and understanding that it’s meant to reflect all HBCUs, this is overall an excellent list. But a TSU fan might quibble about the absence of these individuals in either the Top 25 or honorable mention. portion:

Ralph Boston – Six-time AAU national long jump champion, Olympic gold and bronze medalist, USA Track and Field and Olympic Hall of Famer.

Richard Dent – Super Bowl MVP, Pro Football and Georgia Sports Hall of Famer, 

Ed “Too Tall” Jones – Two-time All American, anchor of two Black college title teams, three-time All-Pro.

Chandra Cheeseborough – Three time Olympian, gold and silver medal winner, equally distinguished record of achievement as a coach  a pioneer coaching both men’s and women’s track at TSU.

Citing these athletes doesn’t demean or take anything away from Hunt’s choices. There’s no doubt fans of other HBCUs are doing the same thing. It just shows how much talent there’s been at HBCU schools for decades, much of it going unnoticed by mainstream publications and outlets until or unless they became pro stars or Olympic standouts.

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