The Memphis branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, alleging black players on the Memphis State University basektball team are exploited, has asked the University to consider dismissing Coach Dana Kirk.
In a letter delivered to university President Thomas Carpenter Monday and made public today, the NAACP said its fact-finding committee cited five specific concerns with a program that was 31-4 last season and gained the NCAA Final Four.
Those points included charges that a vast majority of black athletes do not graduate at Memphis State and that Kirk, coach the past six seasons, "does not take an interest in the players, their families or their potential for a professional career."
The letter, which also says the employment of blacks in the athletic department "leaves much to be desired," concludes: "We fail to see how a head coach with such disregard and lack of concern for his players should be continued to that position. We ask your serious concern as regards his retention. We expect immediate and positive actions."
As he walked into the WHBQ radio studio tonight for his weekly call-in show, Kirk disputed that the letter called for his resignation and denied he had a disregard or a lack of concern for his players.
"Read the letter. See what the letter says," Kirk said. "This is a basketball city. I'm glad there's that much interest. I don't mind that concern at all. It doesn't say anything about me resigning in there. You better check that out.
"I've got a five-year contract here. I'm going to be here for a while."
Carpenter, who was out of town, was unavailable for comment, but Athletic Director Charlie Cavagnaro told WREG-TV, "They (the NAACP) are concerned about the black children of Memphis. I know Coach Kirk shares that concern. I share that concern, and I have to do a better job myself of communicating that concern."
The NAACP did not cite a figure for the graduation rate of black athletes. A school spokesman said 30.6 percent of the black athletes have graduated in the past "10 to 15 years." But the Memphis Commercial Appeal quoted a source as saying only four basketball players -- all white -- have graduated in the past 13 years.
On his radio show, Kirk said no black player recruited by him has graduated.
The disclosure of the letter took much of the attention here away from a federal grand jury investigation into major bookmaking operations in this area, and what has been reported as their possible ties to Memphis State and Colonial Country Club, of which Kirk is a member.
Kirk has denied any improprieties. Ben Hale, a retired FBI agent who works for the university, said today, "We haven't connected anyone connected with Memphis State University to any gambling activities."
Six witnesses were called today, including three Colonial members and two employes. Al Curi, a Colonial CC member and one of today's witnesses, said later he was asked "about gambling and bookmaking at Colonial." He said he was not asked about any specific basketball games. He said he is not a Memphis State booster, and apparently only one of today's witnesses is a booster.