The former high school football coach who inspired Denzel Washington’s character in the popular sports film “Remember the Titans” will bring a stirring pep talk to SUNY Cortland on Wednesday, Oct. 12.
Herman Boone, the black coach who led an integrated squad during a time of high racial tension in the 1970s, will discuss the film he inspired, team building and lessons in diversity in the Corey Union Function Room at 7 p.m. Sponsored by the Student Activities Board, his talk is free and open to the public.
Walt Disney Pictures produced the sports movie based on Boone’s 1971 football team from Alexandria, Va. That was the year Boone was tabbed head coach of the T.C. Williams High School, a newly integrated school formed from the consolidation of three institutions.
Public outcry followed the move, as some community members thought Bill Yoast, the white head coach at one of the consolidated schools, was unfairly passed over for the Titans’ head coaching job. Yoast, however, was appointed as an assistant on the team’s staff.
The two coaches put aside their differences in an attempt to fix the strain between their black and white players and the larger Alexandria community. “Remember the Titans” recounts more than a high school football team’s quest for a state championship; it considers race relations and tolerance during a volatile period in the 1970s.
Boone, now 75 years old, is retired, but continues to travel the country as a motivational speaker. He enjoyed high school teaching and coaching careers in Virginia and North Carolina for more than two decades.
A native of Rocky Mount, N.C., Boone earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from North Carolina Central University.
The first 50 people who arrive at Boone’s talk will receive a free t-shirt from SUNY Cortland’s Student Activities Board. For more information, contact Mary Kate Boland, the assistant director of leadership and community development, at (607) 753- 2034.