Pac-12 / SWAC Legacy Series bigger than basketball

Legacy Series platform for education, connection between two institutions



WSU guard Charlisse Leger-Walker drives to the hoop during an NCAA women’s basketball game against Prairie View A&M, Nov. 13. 2022

SAM TAYLOR, Evergreen sports co-editor

Given the competitive nature of sports, athletes rarely have the time to get to know their opponents on a personal level, much less have a meal with them. This season, members of WSU men’s and women’s basketball got the chance to play the Prairie View A&M University Panthers and share a meal with their opponent after the game.

This was thanks to the Pac-12 / Southwestern Athletic Conference Legacy Series, which provides a chance for basketball players from the Pac-12 Conference and the SWAC, a conference of historically Black colleges and universities in the southern U.S. to compete in the regular season and use the game to promote anti-racism and social justice.

On Nov. 13, 2022, WSU women’s basketball became one of the first Pac-12 programs to host a SWAC program as part of the legacy series.

WSU men’s basketball traveled to Prairie View, Texas to face the Panthers on Nov. 15, 2022.

“The whole idea of it, like doing a game versus the SWAC conference is great,” TJ Bamba said at the Pac-12 Media Day. “I’m from New York, the Bronx, it’s primarily Black people there and you know not a lot of people get the same opportunities.”

The educational opportunities offered by some of the Black student organizations and programs at WSU played a significant part in the women’s weekend as WSU players learned about the significance of Prairie View A&M as a historically Black university and how HBCUs impacted the civil rights movement and U.S. history.

“Our players need to understand the history of our country,” said Kamie Ethridge, WSU women’s head coach.

The Pac-12 and SWAC Players participated in discussions centered around the role of HBCUs in the U.S. and got the chance to share a meal with each other prior to the game and a reception after the game.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that HBCU was actually derived from African Americans not being able to actually go to American schools, to where they had to pretty much start their own schools,” said Freddie Murray, Grambling State head coach in a Cronkite News article.

Next season, the WSU women’s team will visit Prairie View and the WSU men’s team will host Panthers in Pullman.

The competitive nature of these games, particularly on the men’s side has been excellent. WSU joined fellow Pac-12 teams Colorado and Arizona State in losing their respective SWAC road games.

“We knew it was going to be a tough challenge the second game on the road against a team that doesn’t get a lot of opportunities like this,” WSU men’s head coach Kyle Smith said. “They really out-competed us. I can’t put it any other way. I thought we should have a little more fight in us but we got humbled tonight.”

On the other hand, WSU women’s basketball scored more points in a single quarter (39 points) than they have ever scored before in their games against the Panthers in which Leger-Walker also surpassed 1,000 career points scored.

While the series presents few competitive opportunities and advantages in the larger scheme of a basketball regular season and the Prairie View A&M loss may haunt Wazzu in any semblance of a postseason resume they have (which has gained life given the Cougs’ recent conquering of the then No. 5 Arizona team on the road) the game itself is bigger than basketball.

“There’s the side that says coaches and programs will be upset because they’re probably playing games they otherwise would have never played,” Arizona men’s head coach Tommy Lloyd said. “The idea of the home at home with the SWAC schools is great. At some point, they deserve an opportunity, too.”

The origin of the series was a trip to Selma and Montgomery, Alabama called the Pac-12 ImPACt Experience in which Pac-12 student-athletes and administrators immersed themselves in the area at the heart of the civil rights movement.

The athletes also visited the  Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum, the organization the conference has partnered with to sponsor the Pac-12 / SWAC Legacy Series.

The trip to the south provided an opportunity for student-athletes at University of Utah to learn more about Martin Luther King Jr., the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the racism experienced by members of the African American community.

“I think the sports world gives a big platform that draws a little extra attention and we have the opportunity to be able to use that to highlight important topics such as social justice,” said Utah guard Kennady McQueen in a video produced by Utah Athletics.