The Athletic Hair Policy

The 1968-69 Basketball Team

Maintaining natural black hair became a statement of cultural pride with the rise of Black Power. Stokley Carmichael stated, "We have to stop being ashamed of being black. We are not going to fry our hair anymore but they can start wearing their hair to look like us" (Joseph, 152).

The fall of 1968 marked the beginning of notable tensions between black students and the college. On September 30, Mr. John Coe, Director of Athletics and Assistant Professor of Physical Education, sent a letter to Monsignor Justin A. Driscoll, president of Loras College, to inform him of student disapproval of the current athletic hair policy.

Coe stated:

I want to communicate to you on our Athletic Policy regarding Team Members who desire to wear beards, goatees, long 'fussy' side burns, and excessive long hair (a well groomed mustache is not considered in this category).
The Athletic Department has the responsibility of establishing and enforcing codes of dress and conduct. We have greater exposure to the public than other discipline[s]. All safeguards must be taken to ensure that the image of Loras College is continually enhanced.
I feel strongly that all members of our Athletic Team must have that 'clean cut' appearance. Our current Athletic Staff gives support to this policy. These individuals who do not wish to sacrifice their beards, long hair, etc., for the duration of a respective sports season, will not be allowed to participate.
I have had several discussions on the matter, with Greg Rhodes, a Senior member of our 1968-69 Varsity Basketball Squad. The beard has great significance for Greg and he has decided to continue wearing the beard. I respect Greg Rhode's conviction and I am sure he understands our Athletic Department viewpoint.
…The remaining members of the 1968-69 Basketball team have heard our justification for the policy and their reaction is favorable.
I welcome the opportunity for further discussion on the matter at your convenience (1).
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1968 Loras College Purgold

On November 20th, President Driscoll notified the campus body that he made a committee "to decide whether or not the present policy on grooming is necessary for the advancement of a favorable image of Loras College” (2).

President Driscoll appointed the following members to the committee:

  • Mr. John Coe (Athletic Director)

  • Mr. Robert Davies (Senate President)

  • Monsignor Timothy Gannon (Chairmen of the Athletic Committee)

  • Mr. Thomas Jackson (Basketball Captain)

  • Rev. Eugene C. Kutsch (Dean of Men)

The Ad Hoc Committee stated, “…after due consideration of the issues involved regarding the hair policy of the Loras College coaching staff does recommend to the staff that it abolish the policy in question” (3).

They continued:

It is recommended that a new policy be formulated by the Athletic Department and that
(a) it be a general statement on personal grooming
(b) it take into consideration the cultural differences regarding style of appearance
In conclusion we recognize the right of the Athletic Department to have and enforce a general policy on personal grooming and we commend the Athletic Department for their concern and solicitude for the enhancement of the image of Loras College (3).

In late March of 1969, nearly four months later, the Student Senate presented a fact-sheet on the lack of communication from the Loras College administration in regards to a handful of student concerns, one of which was the Athletic Department's hair policy. The fact-sheet stated, "After student inquiries were brought to his attention, President Driscoll appointed a committee to study the Athletic Department's policy. The committee recommended that the policy be changed and gave reasons for their recommendation. It was ignored by the president, however, who upheld the policy as it now stands" (4).

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Greg Rhodes, 1968 Loras College Purgold

President Driscoll responded to the Student Senate fact-sheet, stating,

"It is true that on November 20, 1968, I asked a 'Special Committee' to study the Athletic Department’s policy on grooming and hairstyles. I received that Committee's report, but I did not ignore it." He continued, "I weighed it long and carefully. I did not follow it; and I told the Athletic Department and the Loras Community that it is the 'considered judgment of this office that the present policy be allowed to stand for the duration of the year" (3).

The Ad Hoc Committee's recommendation for the policy to become "a general statement on personal grooming" was not implemented until the 1969-70 school year.

Greg Rhodes, the senior member of the varsity squad who took issue with the initial grooming policy in the fall of 1968, decided to quit the basketball team to maintain his facial hair. Rev. Kutsch, Dean of Men and member of the Ad Hoc Committee, later explained Rhodes's goatee to be “somewhat a cultural thing.”