You’ve only been the president of Dillard for about a year. What’s your view of the rivalry with Xavier?
It reminds me of the rivalries at home in Atlanta between Morehouse, CAU and Morris Brown. Dillard and Xavier are two top academic liberal arts schools, both HBCUs, and about 10 minutes from each other. Digging through the archives, I think the rivalry was bigger when both had football. In 1958, they played a Turkey Day game and the winning team kept a trophy called the “Bone of Contention” for the next year. Both schools quit playing football in the mid-1960s so the rivalry probably changed some.
What do you see as the place of athletics at schools like Dillard and Xavier?
For schools like ours, athletics can be a rallying point. But we have real scholar-athletes, not semiprofessional or professionals in waiting to be eligible (one year basketball, three years football). Several of our athletes are planning to go to law school, become engineers, etc. They are really scholars.
What is your own athletic background?
I am the leading receiver in the history of Rodney Drive (Southwest Atlanta), where we played 4 down, touchdown touch football from telephone pole to telephone pole, with tackling on the sidelines.
In reality I played little league football two years, little league baseball one, church league basketball in high school, and most recently in Arkansas city league softball in the summers with a law firm, and part of a team with Philander Smith College students in the fall of 2011.
So could you take Dr. Francis one-on-one?
Dr. Francis is such a superstar he would call LeBron James and have him play for him. In that case, I get destroyed.
Who is your all-time favorite athlete?
Muhammad Ali. The bravado and ability to back it up was great, but he also had a conviction of his beliefs, which led to him being stripped of his title. As a kid, I actually cried the night Larry Holmes beat him because Ali was defenseless.
What’s your prediction for Saturday’s games and would you like to put a bet on it?
Xavier has quietly built a very strong athletic program. Their basketball teams are skilled and deep, and watching them over at our place I saw few flaws. I predict we will compete with them, but we’re clearly underdogs.