WATERLOO – A New York Times article on Iowa State’s Jack Trice Stadium included one fact that is sure to shock college football fans across the nation. I know it surprised me. Jack Trice Stadium in Ames is the only major college football stadium that is named after an African American. Given what is going on in our nation today, the story of Jack Trice is more important now than ever.
I admit that I didn’t know the tragic story of Iowa State offensive lineman Jack Trice. He was the first black athlete at Iowa State and played tackle for the Cyclones in the 1920s. The Times article points out that Trice was majoring in Animal Husbandry and wanted to head back south to help southern farmers upon his graduation. Instead, tragedy struck instead.
Jack Trice died on October 8th, 1923, two days after being trampled during a football game against Minnesota. Trice suffered severe bruising of his intestines and inflammation of his abdomen. The Times points out it was just the second varsity game of his career. Jack Trice died at the age of 21. Many question whether he was targeted during the game because of the color of his skin. There is no definitive proof that was the case. But the Times points out that many black players who played during the era of Jim Crow were injured severely.
For nearly 50 years Jack Trice was forgotten at Iowa State. Then, students, both black and white, took up his cause and campaigned to get the stadium named for him. That fight lasted 24 years. In 1997, dedication finally came. Jack Trice Stadium became a reality. Flash forward to 2020. A year filled with racial divides that run deep. Iowa State remains the one major college football program to honor an African American on their stadium. One out of 130. Its time for those numbers to change.