In what might be the last color barrier to be broken in college football, BYU will make Jaren Hall the program’s first African-American starting quarterback this week when the team travels to USF on Saturday.
The news, as The Salt Lake Tribune reports, comes as previous starter Zach Wilson will be sidelined for several weeks after breaking his thumb in a loss at Toledo. Hall took over in that game and played in two others as a freshman last season before redshirting.
“I’m very proud of my ancestors, very proud of my ethnicity and all the things that come with that,” Hall told the paper. “So, it is an honor and a privilege to be here and to be playing in this wonderful university.”
The 6-foot-1, 205 pound freshman is the son of Cougars fullback Kalin Hall (his mother is a former BYU gymnast as well) and has thrown seven passes this season for 58 yards.
While it’s not known if BYU is definitely the last FBS program to start a black quarterback, the Tribune does get into some of the demographic factors at the school that have contributed in the long delay. Namely that just one percent of Latter-day Saints members in the United States are African-American, limiting a recruiting pool for a school where 99% of the students are members of the church.
BYU’s first black player was added to the team in 1970 according to the paper and the 2019 edition includes “more than 50 players of African-American, Pacific Island or Hispanic heritage.”
While it’s not often you would peg a BYU-USF football game as historically significant, that is certainly the case on Saturday in Tampa as the Cougars end a somewhat ignominious distinction at the most important position on the field.