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Basketball

Photo of Jim BiggsFor many years the schools in the Big Ten observed an unofficial "gentleman's agreement" not to play African-Americans in varsity basketball. The conference's color line was not broken for good until Indiana suited up All-American center Bill Garrett from 1948-50. During the following decade, the other schools in the Big Ten added black players to their rosters. In the 1958/59 season, Jim Biggs and Ivan Jefferson were the first African-Americans to represent Wisconsin on the hardwood. Jefferson, who had captained the freshman squad in 1957/58, played only one year for the Badgers, but Biggs remained on the team for three seasons.

Photo of Ivan JeffersonOn UW's first road trip in the winter of 1958, Biggs and Jefferson suffered the indignity of not being allowed to stay at a hotel with their teammates prior to a game against Rice University in Houston, Texas. When the squad returned to Madison, the trip's Jim Crow accommodations became a cause celebre, and, soon after, the athletic board adopted a resolution requiring that road games be played only in cities where the entire team could stay under one roof.

African-American athletes quickly made their presence felt on UW basketball teams, and black players have routinely starred for the Badgers since Biggs' and Jefferson's trailblazing season.

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