Hoosiers basketball icon Garrett to be honored with marker

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — A state historical marker honoring Indiana University’s first black basketball player will be unveiled in front of a building bearing the name of a former university trustee who vehemently opposed racial integration.

The marker honoring Bill Garrett will be placed in a grassy area southwest of the Ora L. Wildermuth Intramural Center, The Herald-Times reported.

Garrett’s children and the two men who submitted the application for the marker feel it should be placed at the center, which is the old fieldhouse where Garrett played from 1948 through 1951. The cast-aluminum sign will be unveiled Saturday after a public ceremony.

“I think it’s the right thing that’s happening,” said Laurie Garrett-Cobbina, Garrett’s daughter.

Garrett helped Shelbyville High School earn its first state title in 1947. He was crowned the state’s Mr. Basketball, but no major school offered him a scholarship. At the time, Big Ten coaches adhered to an agreement to prevent black students from participating in basketball, swimming and wrestling.

“It’s a sickening thing to think there was a time when that was a prevailing thing happening,” said Bob Hammel, a former Herald-Times sports editor who helped write the application for Garrett’s historical marker.

The university’s head basketball coach at the time, Branch McCracken, gave Garrett a chance but not a scholarship. Until then, only one black student — the University of Iowa’s Dick Culberson — had played on a Big Ten varsity basketball team.

The decision to create a marker for Garrett was a “no-brainer,” said Casey Pfeiffer, head of the Indiana Historical Bureau’s marker program.

“There’s so much significance,” she said. “It’s wonderful to be able to commemorate Garrett in this way.”