QU athletics website celebrates Black athletes from program history

Riley Millette, Sports Editor

Gobobcats.com is a website that a lot of Quinnipiac University students, parents and athletes frequently visit. You can find scores, updates, team rosters and schedules, game recaps, anything to do with the sports teams on campus. But if you went to gobobcats.com in the month of February, there was an interesting graphic at the top of the website. It read “Celebrating Black History Month.”

The article is led off by a graphic featuring former Black athletes who once donned a Quinnipiac jersey, all of whom are in recent memory.

“I was taken away by just the colors, it’s amazing,” Assistant Athletic Director for Academic Support Kristen Casamento said. “I’m so happy with how it looks and the ability to share it on so many platforms.”

Courtesy of QU Athletics

From Graciano Brito of the men’s soccer 2009 graduating class to Jen Fay of the women’s basketball 2019 graduating class, there was a decade-long span of athletes who had something to reflect upon.

“I think it’s important to remember and celebrate the Black men and women who paved the way and continue to pave the way for not only Black student athletes but minorities as a whole in this country,” former men’s basketball forward Ike Azotam said to QU Athletics. “Without their sacrifices, there are no Black student athletes, there is no sports, there is no education.”

Casamento had the idea for the website, as she is the chairperson of the athletic department’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity Committee (DEI).

“We decided to focus on alumni because they’re the ones that built the programs here,” Casamento said. “They built a legacy.”

Fay, an assistant coach for the women’s basketball team, reflected on the history that preceded her at Quinnipiac.

“I’m starting to be able to connect and see athletes from 10, 20, 30 years ago,” Fay said. “African American athletes that we’ve gone back, and now we’re still kind of intertwined with the Quinnipiac community.”

The website is mostly centered around younger athletes who some alumni and current staff might remember. But the Quinnipiac Athletics Twitter page has delved into what Casamento calls the “Hall of Fame” of former Black athletes. The lineage stretches back to 1973, the year that former men’s basketball players Clifton Mosley and Frank Johnson graduated.

Johnson, a member of the Quinnipiac 1,000-point club, nearly averaged a double-double as a senior. His 9.8 rebounds per game (RPG) and 13.6 points per game (PPG) averages that year were a centerpiece of Quinnipiac’s National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) title, one of two that he won as a Bobcat.

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity committee honored former men’s basketball player Clifton Mosley (1973). (Courtesy of QU Athletics)

Mosley was the leading scorer in both the 1972 and 1973 seasons. During his junior campaign, Mosley averaged 26.7 PPG and followed it with 20.6 PPG during his senior year.

Even after all these years, Casamento reiterates that being a part of the Bobcat community once means being a part of it forever.

“When you leave Quinnipiac, we are going to celebrate you forever and remember everything that you brought to the university and the athletic department,” Casamento said. “I hope that they want to come back and talk about their experience, because I think that is the best part about being a part of the athletic department.”

Assistant Director for Athletic Communications Maggie Pruitt, the designer of the website, said that it was fulfilling to be a part of the process and learned a lot about the priorities and perspectives of athletes.

“A lot of people said their parents and the challenges their parents faced, whether they were coming over from a different country, if they were here and faced struggles, through growing up raising their children, wherever they were,” Pruitt said. “It was cool to just see how much of an impact their parents made on their growth and development and how they got to Quinnipiac.”

Even if you fast forward to today, there’s a small community that has been formed around the athletic department. While a lot of athletes that used to play in Hamden have moved on to other programs, even some in other countries, Fay remains in touch and rallies around the Bobcat icon.

“Aryn (McClure) is now in Ireland, playing basketball overseas,” Fay said. “And I know Cam Young is overseas. But that Quinnipiac community, that ‘Q’ logo will bond us all forever.”

Associate Athletic Director of Athletic Communications Nick Sczerbinski said that the community allows for former athletes to be able to stick around. He cites Fay’s dedication to the program as a result of the department’s commitment to forming a family.

“She’s literally been here for like eight years in a row without leaving,” Sczerbinski said. “You can tell based on how willing and ready they are to do this kind of stuff.”

Sczerbinski reached out to former athletes for comments and quotes for the website. He acknowledged that although this is a project highlighting the accomplishments of Black athletes during Black History Month, the effort should extend to fit the rest of the calendar, not just during February.

“This is one month, and I think especially in terms of the Black history and recognizing those athletes and celebrating them, we need to make it all the time and not just right now,” Sczerbinski said.

Quinnipiac women’s basketball assistant coach Jen Fay has been in the program for seven straight years as a player or coach. (Morgan Tencza (2018))

Casamento created the DEI committee in October 2020, and this is one of the first major projects that the committee has rolled out. Sczerbinski says the goal is to continue to keep gobobcats.com the way it is now — Black athletes celebrated at the top of the page, where the viewer’s eyes are immediately drawn to, with the sports scores and news taking the backseat.

Casamento backed up this initiative. The committee is planning to do a program similar to this one for Women’s History Month in March, as well as other heritage months throughout the year.

But the first program honoring and celebrating former Quinnipiac athletes who are a part of the Black community was widely commended and appreciated by those involved. Both former athletes and committee members are very eager to see where the initiative can go from here.

“Everyone is just excited by the fact that we’re getting to share different perspectives,” Fay said. “I think everyone’s getting represented at this time now, and I think our players are really getting to see, ‘Oh, this player played 20 years ago?’ ‘I think I watched this player 10 years ago.’ The former athletes, we’re being able to connect with the past.”