Is it true that the UW had the first Black head coach in Big Ten basketball?
That’s indeed true! In March 1976, UW–Madison hired Bill Cofield — then just 36 years old — away from the University of Virginia to lead the men’s basketball team. The Badgers had been in an extended funk: in the previous 15 years, they had managed just one winning season in conference play, and in they had run up a dispiriting 14-game losing streak just prior to Cofield’s arrival. Cofield had previously broken barriers as the nation’s first Black athletic director at a predominantly white institution, when the College of Racine named him AD and head basketball coach in 1973. Unfortunately for Cofield, the College of Racine closed in 1974. Two years later, Cofield returned to Wisconsin, where he declared that the Badgers’ struggles would end: his squad would be “competitive, not outhustled, in shape, and not outfought.” But his tenure was rocky, and the team saw limited success on court: he compiled a record of 63–101. Cofield resigned in March 1982 and died of cancer in June 1983. But his UW legacy echoes down the years. While at Racine, he gave the first collegiate-level coaching job to a young assistant: Bo Ryan, who followed Cofield to UW–Madison and in 2001, became the UW’s head coach.