A Successful Few

Black Ivy League Quarterbacks

When John McCluskey '66 was named the starting quarterback for the 1964 Harvard football team, the Boston media had a good time poking fun at the University.

The Boston papers often referred to McCluskey as "the first Black quarterback in 300 years of Harvard history."

"It wasn't that long," jokes McCluskey, now a professor in the Afro-American Department at Indiana University. "You've got to remember that Harvard has only been playing football since the turn of the century, so it had actually been only 70 or 80 years."

In addition to being the first Black to play quarterback at Harvard, McCluskey also may have been the first to play the position in the Ivy League, although no such statistics are recorded.

Although it is unclear exactly when the first Black played quarterback in the Ivy League, it is apparent that few have played the position in one of the nation's most prestigious athletic conferences.


Of the eight Ivy League schools, six have had at least one Black quarterback. The sports information directors at Dartmouth and Columbia are unsure if their schools have had a Black quarterback.

Throughout the 32-year history of Ivy League football, fewer than 15 Blacks have played quarterback, an average of one every two years. Only twice since the conference was formed in 1956 have two Blacks lined up behind center in the same game.

The first time was in 1970, when Harvard's Roderic Foster '73--the second, as well as last, Black to play quarterback at Harvard--and Princeton's Rod Plummer met on the Ivy gridiron.

The second time came last weekend when Danny Clark of Brown and Malcolm Glover of Penn met head-to-head. Ivy League leader and unbeaten Penn (4-0 overall, 3-0 Ivy) won the game, 10-0.

Although there have not been many Black quarterbacks in the Ivy League, a few of them became stars. Marty Vaughn of Penn is the school's all-time passing leader. In two seasons, Vaughn, who graduated in 1975, passed for 3429 yards and 29 touchdowns.

Kurt Schmoke, now the Mayor of Baltimore, played quarterback at Yale during the late 1960s but was eventually switched to defensive back.

The lack of Blacks playing quarterback is not an Ivy-only phenomenon. It is a rarity to see Blacks playing quarterback at any level--high school, college or professional.

In the NFL, for instance, 52 percent of the players are Black, but only five Blacks currently play quarterback--the most to ever play in the league at one time.

When present Houston Oilers quarterback Warren Moon graduated from the University of Washington in 1978, professional teams were interested in drafting him--but only as a defensive back. Moon instructed NFL teams not to draft him, instead opting for the Canadian Football League. Moon played quarterback and led the Edmonton Eskimos to five consecutive championships.

While Moon enjoyed great success in the CFL and later in the NFL, it was Doug Williams' MVP performance in the Super Bowl last January that shattered many of the myths surrounding Blacks.