UW's Romar 'overwhelmed' with Obama's inauguration


by Associated Press


Posted on August 15, 2009 at 3:03 PM

Updated Monday, Sep 21 at 11:32 AM

SEATTLE - Sure, Lorenzo Romar has known for months that Barack Obama would become president.

Yet when Washington's coach watched television alone on Tuesday morning as Obama was sworn in as the nation's first black president, he had chills. And a personal epiphany.

"Me being African American, it was a little overwhelming at times," Romar said, calling it "the ultimate: an African-American president.

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"I don't know why it hit me all of a sudden this morning when I watched it by myself, but it hit me."

The 50-year-old Romar has been part of a milestone in racial history in college athletics. Until football coach Tyrone Willingham's firing became effective last month, Romar, Willingham and Huskies women's basketball coach Tia Jackson made Washington the first major university to have blacks as coaches in the three biggest revenue-producing sports.

"Realizing for so long that certain opportunities may not be out there for you or for others, you kind of just take it as that's just how it is. And to see what went on this morning, it hits you really hard that, 'Wow, that's a huge change!"' Romar said of watching Obama's inauguration speech.

"There are a lot of African-American men who are 40, 50 years old who can't look you in the eye because their self-esteem is so low, because they've been told they can't."

The coach then noted that 84-year-old Huskies athletics staffer George Hickman was front and center at Tuesday's inauguration, one of those who got coveted tickets to the historic event on the steps of the Capitol at Obama's request. The new president invited Hickman and about 330 of his colleagues as original Tuskegee Airmen, the nation's first black fighter pilots in World War II.

"He does ushering now. But he fought for our country, yet when he came back home there was still segregation," Romar said of Hickman. "While he was fighting it was, 'everybody is on the same team.' But when he went back (home) even in the military, there was segregation.

"You go through that, and now you see (this). This is the ultimate: an African-American president. ... It's not just good for African Americans. It's good for any group, because now everyone also sees that maybe everyone is equal."