Old Pueblo Abuelo: Fred Snowden was hired 50 years ago and Title IX opened doors for all

Fred Snowden (UA Collections 1973)

This is the 25th installment of “Old Pueblo Abuelo,” a thought on positive things happening in the Old Pueblo from a sometimes cranky and often times humorous grandfather actually born in Tucson and writing from my desk in Tucson, the Old Pueblo.

The songs we know by heart are the ones that started out as a melody first, with natural spaces for words added later. That is the natural and correct progression. To do otherwise, to force a song around lyrics, almost never works and the result is often unpleasant to the ear. This is how we find people, heroes even, who make a difference in our lives. These people never set out to make a difference but they become the difference, naturally.

In my life, a couple of magical things happened 50 years ago. I was only in second grade but I knew my life changed forever the day the late Fred Snowden was hired to coach the University of Arizona men’s basketball team. March 21, 1972.

The magic of McKale Center didn’t start with Lute Olson, to suggest otherwise would be to purposely ignore the significance of a university hiring the first black man to lead a major college basketball team. The first sold out crowds didn’t take place in the 1980s. The first Elite 8 appearance didn’t take place in the 1990s. Try the 1970s. Try a coach who brought in his Kiddie Korps and, thanks to KZAZ Channel 11, almost one third of the population of Tucson saw every game. Every game.

More “Old Pueblo Abuelo” can be found here.

One of the best days of my life was when Snowden brought my brothers and me into his locker room after a game. My heart still races just remembering it.

Snowden didn’t set out to make a difference. He didn’t force it. He became the difference. Within weeks, John Thompson was hired at Georgetown and George Raveling was hired at Washington State. Snowden made it OK for athletic directors to hire the right people to lead their programs. The. Right. Person.

For me, I was groomed from an early age to read and write with the hopes of someday going to law school. I never knew this until my father told me that was the plan in the final months of his life over a decade ago. Georgetown Law? That’s where I was supposed to go but I didn’t go. The byproduct of an education became the love of education and that’s what I wanted to do. I knew I would never be a professional athlete but a life in education kept me close to where I wanted to be. If it wasn’t for Snowden, I would probably be a lawyer, lost without the proper words for my melody.

I started out teaching and working with the most forgotten children in our society. The children born with differences and those who had differences placed upon them through illness or tragedy. I never would have been the best version of myself if I had never met Snowden. I never would have met all those kids.

Some of those children died of “natural” causes brought on by the constant struggles of life we all face but are multiplied many times over in fragile little bodies so I made the move to teaching “normal” children, as society describes them, but what is normal?

I estimate I have taught over 3,000 kids in 34 plus years of service in my gym and a handful of them went on to play college sports. I’ve spent extra care to provide a nurturing environment for all regardless of what they looked like.

I know a lot of what I have done over the last 34 years or so would not have been possible, or even legal, if things didn’t change for the better on June 23, 1972. Public Law No. 92‑318, or “Title IX,” prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or other education program that receives funding from the federal government. In 50 years, a law to prevent discrimination paved the way for women of all ages to experience the joys, and pain, I and other men enjoyed in the world of athletics.

Here we are some 50 years later and we have Adia Barnes giving the same feeling of wonder to a new generation of children much like I felt when I was a child running through the Arizona locker room. She is the product of what so many people fought for. So many of the right people made sure she had a chance to be the right person.

My wife is in the University of Arizona Sports Hall of Fame and my three children experienced state championships and All-State recognitions. One played a sport in college. They are all the product of someone making a positive difference so long ago.

Sam Thomas and Cate Reese. (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson)

When I saw Sam Thomas holding Cate Reese after the Wildcats lost in the NCAA tournament I saw my own daughters. I saw all the girls I have had in my gym at my school. Their tears of sadness and joy would not have been there if it wasn’t for a simple law that forced the wrong people to do the right thing for all children.

Some of those “wrong” people are still with us unfortunately. The ones who purposely ignore the significance of the first black man to get a chance and the ones who get triggered when women get a chance to roar and, heaven forbid, cry.

But it’s all good. Their hate is a learned response, often taught at home. To love the differences we see in each other comes naturally, as naturally as a melody we know by heart.


Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014, he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017, a 2019 AZ Education News award winner and he has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. He was the first in Arizona to write about high school beach volleyball and high school girls wrestling. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy is the Southern Arizona voting member of the Ed Doherty Award, recognizing the top football player in Arizona, and he was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Andy was named an Honorary Flowing Wells Caballero in 2019, became a member of the Sunnyside Los Mezquites Cross Country Hall of Fame in 2021 and he was a member of the Amphi COVID-19 Blue Ribbon Committee and he earned a Distinguished Service Award from Amphitheater. Contact Andy Morales at amoralesmytucson@yahoo.com

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
To Top