Why Catholic Colleges Excel at Basketball

“Basketball was the sport they picked because it was so cheap,” Byrne, the Hofstra professor, said. “They could do it in incredibly limited space with incredibly limited equipment.”

Over time, the schools became a magnet for black players, including luminaries such as Bill Russell (University of San Francisco) and the championship Loyola-Chicago team of 1963, which broke an unspoken rule by starting four black players.

Black athletes, Catholic or not, often landed at these colleges partly because they frequently played basketball for the local chapter of the Catholic Youth Organization, which was originally founded as a kind of urban, Catholic parallel to the predominantly Protestant Y.M.C.A.s. The C.Y.O.s set many black players on the path toward Catholic colleges.

“As more and more ethnic Catholics moved out of cities but parishes and schools stayed put, black kids were admitted regardless of religious affiliation beginning in the ’60s,” James T. Fisher, an American Studies professor at Fordham, said in an email. “Then the church turned demographic fact into theological virtue by embracing urban advocacy and racial justice.”

It also made competitive sense. Much as a New Yorker, Frank McGuire, won the 1957 title at the University of North Carolina by taking several first- and second-generation Irish- and Jewish-Americans from the New York metropolitan area down to Chapel Hill, another coach from New York, Al McGuire (no relation), used his personality — his charism? — to recruit black players to Marquette, in Milwaukee, in the 1960s and ’70s, when many state schools still had unwritten quotas.


Marquette University’s former coach, Al McGuire, on top of the scorer’s table after a win over Wisconsin, heavily recruited African-American players.

Paul Shane/Associated Press

“He sold kids and families on the fact that: ‘Hey, I’m a white Irish Catholic. I didn’t grow up in the neighborhood, but I grew up next door to it,’ ” Fisher said.

There is nothing in Catholic dogma that specifically elucidates the virtues of basketball. Yet several scholars pointed to elements of American Catholicism that helped persuade schools to embrace sports.

Jesuit philosophy — embedded at so many top basketball schools, such as Gonzaga, Xavier, Creighton and Georgetown — extends to all aspects of life. It preaches cura personalis, or “care for the person” — in not only the intellectual and spiritual sense, but the physical one, too.

Catholicism in America taught that all aspects of life could be sacred, Byrne said, maybe even basketball.

“It’s not that sports were particularly holy, but you could see it as a holy thing to do. It could have the potential to give glory to God,” said Byrne, referencing the Jesuit phrase “ad majorem Dei gloriam, or “for the greater glory of God.”

For St. Joseph’s Coach Phil Martelli, these teachings comport with the sport that he called the “greatest societal experiment.”

“In basketball, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, rich or poor, city or suburbs,” said Martelli, whose wife, Judy Marra Martelli, played on those three Immaculata champions. “And in the Catholic faith, you shouldn’t be measured by those things — your W-2 or what you drive. You should be measured by your character.”

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Editorial: Victims Get a Voice in Chicago Police Reform


Chicago police officers and detectives investigate a crime scene where a man was shot and killed on Thursday.

Joshua Lott for The New York Times

The Chicago Police Department has a history of corruption, brutality and torture dating back decades. But the pressure for reform has ratcheted up since 2015, when a police video withheld by the city for more than a year showed an officer executing a black teenager named Laquan McDonald on the street — contradicting the official story that the young man had been killed while menacing officers with a knife. The officer was finally charged with murder — but only after a judge ordered the video released.

A Justice Department investigation has since found that the police routinely used excessive force against black and Latino citizens. The effort to remake this deeply troubled agency entered a new phase last week when a coalition of community groups — one representing families of people killed by police officers — was granted a formal role in a process that could soon produce a sweeping, court-enforceable police reform agreement. By including community groups, the city and the Illinois State attorney general — which have primary responsibility for forging the agreement — might overcome deeply held public skepticism about the department’s ability to change.

The Justice Department uncovered a number of cases, like the McDonald shooting, where the department accepted police versions of events that were later undercut by video. The investigation found that the city often failed to investigate cases.

If there was ever a police department that warranted federal supervision through a court-enforceable consent decree, this was it. Mayor Rahm Emanuel initially embraced that idea, but equivocated after the Trump administration made clear that it had no appetite for such agreements. Three different parties — two coalitions of community groups and the state attorney general, Lisa Madigan — sued the city, urging it to accept court oversight. As Ms. Madigan pointed out, Chicago had never had real police reform because it had never been mandated by an enforceable order.

The city had little choice but to embrace the lawsuit. The two parties are working out details about the use of force, training, supervision, accountability and other areas.

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At Rallies, Students With a Different View of Gun Violence: As Urban Reality

Students from Baltimore, as well as young people who attended a rally in Chicago, were vocal on Saturday about the need for steps to reduce gun violence, much in the same way as students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where a gunman killed 17 people last month. But they had a different idea of the problem.

Destini Philpot, another student at Baltimore City College, was joined on Saturday in Washington by Carrie Zaremba, a student at the Friends School of Baltimore, a predominantly white Quaker institution. The two said they had helped organize a citywide walkout this month that involved both public and private schools.

“It shouldn’t take a mass shooting in a predominantly white area like Parkland to start caring about gun violence,” Ms. Zaremba said.

Ms. Philpot said that many of those at the rally were thinking of gun violence in the only way they knew how: as mass shootings.


His Brother Was Shot in Chicago. He’s Marching With Students From Parkland.

Ke’Shon Newman’s brother was shot nine times on Chicago’s South Side, where gun violence is a daily threat. Now, Ke’Shon is heading to Washington to march with high school students from Parkland, Fla.

By SAMEEN AMIN and YOUSUR AL-HLOU on Publish Date March 22, 2018.


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“When they talk about gun violence, they’re talking about schools,” she said.

Private donors paid for 60 buses that carried around 3,000 Baltimore students to the Washington event. Some Baltimore organizers skipped their city’s satellite march to attend the one in the capital, hoping to reach an audience largely unfamiliar with the kind of violence that visits them with gruesome regularity.

One of those organizers, Erricka Bridgeford, has helped work on a campaign called Baltimore Ceasefire, which holds quarterly “cease-fire” weekends that call for a stop to killings for a three-day period.

On Saturday, she recalled what had brought her to Washington: the lasting agony from losing her brother, stepson and friends to gun violence.

“I’ve seen dead bodies and blood,” she said. “These are things you never recover from. You learn how to live your life differently, because the air looks different once you experience that kind of trauma. I have to do something with the pain. I don’t want to be a prisoner to it.”

Ms. Bridgeford said shootings were a never-ending feature of life in her Baltimore neighborhood.

“There’s no such thing as post-traumatic stress in a lot of communities in America, because there’s no ‘post,’” she said. “You don’t get a chance to experience the aftermath before there’s another trauma because of gun violence.”

One of the students walking with Ms. Bridgeford was Shanika Walker, who attends the Excel Academy at Francis M. Wood High School in Baltimore, which recently lost seven students to homicide in 15 months.

“Only the scared people have guns, and they kill people they’re scared of,” she said. “There’s a lot of fear.”

On Chicago’s Near West Side on Saturday, just a few miles from neighborhoods where shootings are common, thousands filled Union Park to protest a problem just as local.

Many came to the rally bearing personal stories of tragedy and loss, years of frustration with unchanged gun laws and hope replenished by recent student-led activism.


Photos From the ‘March for Our Lives’ Protests Around the World

Crowds gathered in cities across the United States and around the world.

OPEN Photographs

“We have been fighting for a long, long time,” said Maria Pike, whose son, Ricky, 24, was shot to death in 2012. “And their voice is a fresh voice, is a true voice, is a transparent voice. And it comes from the heart.”

Speaker after speaker at the Chicago rally mentioned relatives or classmates who had been wounded or killed in shootings, frustrated that past calls to action had not led to change.

“Chicago has been plagued with gun violence way before the Parkland shooting,” said Juan Reyes, a high school student. “Suddenly, people are talking about students not feeling safe in schools. But in reality, students in our city’s South and West Sides have never felt safe.”

One high school student, Denzel Russell, told the crowd, “I have watched one of my friends get murdered while we were playing on the basketball court. That experience had me frozen and speechless.”

Mr. Russell added: “We can come together for a march. But are we willing to come together to take action?”

Emerson Toomey, 17, who helped organize the Chicago march, said her mother was grazed by a bullet in a drive-by shooting on the North Side of the city.

“It’s more about the journey to school for some kids than it is about the actual day at school,” she said.

But for the teachers who believe they must now think as much about school shootings as they do about urban gun violence, Saturday’s rallies in Washington and Chicago felt like the meeting of two threats, now inseparable.

“I see the look on the students’ faces,” said Jeremy McConnell, a special education teacher at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Baltimore. “They come from these communities. They come from these families that engage in this kind of violence. They might be a sibling or neighbor removed.”

“They know gun violence is real. They see it in the streets,” added Mr. McConnell, who, as the voice behind public address announcements at the school, reminds students to be vigilant after news of shootings in Baltimore and across the country. “But they haven’t seen it in school. They think any day now it’s coming here.”

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