Nearly two dozen University of Wisconsin student-athletes, including basketball standout Nigel Hayes, have released a statement decrying what they feel is a racist environment on campus. The message was released in response to a home football game during Halloween weekend in which two fans wore a costume depicting Barack Obama in a noose.

Hayes and others spoke out against the discrimination they have experienced on campus.

“When I got it, I got to tell you: I was proud of them,” Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I was very proud of the thought they put into it, how they expressed themselves. That’s why you come to college: to learn to think for yourself and express yourself. As an administrator and somebody on this campus, they’re not talking about just an issue at the University of Wisconsin. This is a national issue. Now it’s to take it a step further: What can I do? What can our administration do? What can they do? What can our campus do? I took it as a very positive that the athletes put enough thought in it that they put out a very sensitive and intelligent statement.”

But what can be done to alleviate the pain these student-athletes feel?

“I think we have to have serious dialogue and people have to listen and come up with solutions, how each of us . . . can do our part and try to make things better,” Alvarez said. “Rather than point the finger, I think we need to sit down and come up with solutions. We’re putting together a meeting right now so the administration can sit down and visit with our athletes, and our campus has got to do something and our athletes will have to do something. I hope we can be productive with it.”

Alvarez, who is also a member of the College Football Playoff committee, discussed Texas A&M’s 35-28 loss at Mississippi State this past weekend. The Aggies, who debuted at No. 4 in the CFP rankings, fell to No. 8 as a result.

“Nothing surprises me in college football,” Alvarez said. “You can back years ago. West Virginia looked like they had a shoe-in to get into (the national championship) and playing a very average Pitt team in a rivalry game. They didn’t think it would be a game, and it was a no-contest for Pitt. We see it every week because it’s different than pro football. College football – the styles, the match-ups and just the emotion of the game and the grind of it – it didn’t surprise me at all. It never surprises me with an upset.”

Alvarez said that the committee takes the entire ranking process – from 1 to 25 – very seriously. It’s not just about the top four or the top six or the top eight; it’s about the top 25.

“I think if you go back and look at where Ohio State was in our first rankings the first year, they were in the teens,” Alvarez said. “So if we’re going to do the rankings and you’re going to do 25, you want to get it right. It’s not just about ranking the top four. It’s about trying to get 25 ranked what we think is accordingly.”


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