Dr. Miles Harrison, Jr. is a practicing surgeon and the co-author, with Chip Silverman, of the widely acclaimed book Ten Bears (available at Amazon.com). Ten Bears recounts the story of the Morgan State College lacrosse team of the 1970s.  He agreed to participate in a Q&A session with us that was sponsored and arranged by forum member Jordan Industries, Inc.

Dr. Harrison was introduced to lacrosse in his sophomore year by his Forest Park High School football coach Charles Waeche, the long time voice of Washington College lacrosse.  Harrison had just completed quarterbacking his high school football team, coached by Mr. Waeche, to a conference championship and was challenged by his coach to learn how to keep a lacrosse ball in his stick by the next February.  Harrison accepted the challenge and went on to play attack and take face-offs for his team.  By his senior year he was selected all conference MSA at midfield, an interesting honor for an attackman.  Harrison was also Forest Park's Scholar Athlete selection and 1967 Athlete of the Year.

Upon arriving at Morgan State College, Harrison found he was not quite tall enough to be an effective quarterback at Morgan State.  The Bears at the time had players such as Willie Lanier, eventual All-Pro middle linebacker with Kansas City and Hall of Fame member, Raymond Chester, future All-Pro tight end with the Baltimore Colts, and Mark Washington, later an All-Pro defensive back with the Dallas Cowboys.

After his sophomore year, he re-connected with other lacrosse players at Morgan he had played against in high school.  At least six of them were accomplished, and the idea of forming a club team arose, and in 1969 the Morgan State College lacrosse team began to develop.

The dream of a team was realized in 1970 when 20 student athletes, with Chip Silverman as coach, began spring club lacrosse practice.  Seven players had achieved All-MSA awards, and seven others played in high school.  Others had not played but were high quality football student athletes.  Because of his prior experience, Harrison played attack and took face-offs.  In their first year of play, the team had a 6-4 record playing local club teams, Division I freshman teams, and teams that today would be considered Division III.  It was good enough to get the NCAA's approval.

The team saw its first year of NCAA lacrosse in 1970, finishing 8-4.  They were as athletically talented, though less polished, than their competitors.  Harrison was selected to the North-South All-Star team at midfield, another rather interesting honor, for the game played at Tufts.  The team was beginning to get national recognition.

Harrison graduated in 1971 and went to the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.  Morgan State continued to play well for five more years, culminating in the huge win in 1975 over Washington and Lee, the team that upset Johns Hopkins in the NCAA playoffs that year.  Silverman left the program in 1975, but the team continued until 1980, although there were no more winning seasons after Silverman's departure.  In 2002, Harrison was the first of the lacrosse players to be inducted in to the Morgan State College Athletic Hall of Fame.

1. Your book title Ten Bears is identical to the name of a nineteenth century Comanche leader.  Ten Bears (the Comanche leader) was a Native American patriot who resisted the White man's intrusion into his people's world.  Symbolically speaking, there are similarities between the Morgan State Ten Bears using lacrosse as a means of expression and resistance and the Comanche Ten Bears using his oratorical skills and poetry to do the same.  Is this merely a coincidence, or were you aware of the Comanche leader when you titled the book?  In other words, is the book title a play on words given the Native American origins of the sport and the similarities between Native American and African American attempts to shirk the yoke of racial subordination?

We are certainly aware of the Comanche leader “Ten Bears”, but we were not that smart in naming our book.  Ten is the number of players on a lacrosse team, and the Golden Bear is the mascot of Morgan State University.  The title Ten Bears refers not only to the original starting 10, but also symbolically to all the players who came through the Morgan State program over the years.

2. Recently a national publication published a story saying that lacrosse is the fastest growing game in the country, particularly on the youth level.  In your opinion, what could youth organizations and, perhaps even the game itself, do to include more players of color within this growth?

One of the most visible programs to address creating diversity in the sport is the Bridge Initiative begun at the US Lacrosse National Conference in 2003.  Affiliate programs in underserved and non-traditional lacrosse communities have joined with US Lacrosse and other organizations to promote diversity among players, coaches, officials, and supporters.  My son and I had the wonderful experience of being invited to speak at an awards banquet at the end of his freshman year.  We were invited by Kevin Graham of the Brooklyn Admirals Lacrosse Club in Brooklyn, New York.  Damien Davis, then a junior at Princeton, and John Christmas of Virginia also spoke to the group.  In Baltimore, another of the Ten Bears, Donnie Brown, helps organize and administer many urban club lacrosse programs in association with the Bridge Initiative.

3. What has to happen for Historically Black Colleges to field lacrosse teams?

Unfortunately, there are greater challenges today than there were in my era.  Title IX compliance is probably the most formidable hurdle for NCAA consideration, but both Morgan and Howard universities currently have club teams.  Morgan had a successful club team in 1970 before being admitted to the NCAA in 1971.  Both Morgan and Howard have at least taken the initial steps in the process.

4. I recently read that Ten Bears was optioned by a major studio.  Who would your ideal cast be to play the major roles in the movie version?

Chip Silverman (Coach) – Michael J. Fox
Miles Harrison – Taye Diggs
Wayne Jackson – James Todd Smith ("LL Cool J")
Stanley Cherry – Dwayne Johnson (The Rock)
Val Emery – Malcolm Jamal Warner
Tony Fulton – undecided
Clarence “Tiger” Davis – O'Shea Jackson (“Ice Cube”)

5. My question for Dr. Harrison relates to his book and his son.  Ten Bears feels real for its time frame, the 1970s.  Recreational drug use and other "deviant" behavior exhibited in the book ring true to someone like me, who also attended college in the 1970s.  My question is how were you able to reconcile the behaviors of the time while keeping your son on the straight and narrow?  "Do as I say, not as I do" doesn't quite work when your child is intelligent.  Talk about how you were able to go through that period unscathed and then raise your boy to play a game that is not very diverse.  His accomplishments speak for themselves, but your insights into his path as it relates to your own is of interest to me, as I am a Black Ivy Leaguer with a son who plays high school lacrosse in Connecticut.

Although my high school, college, and medical school days were during a time when there was a lot of self-indulgent, destructive behavior, I was fortunate enough to emerge unscathed.  I am from a loving, educated but no-nonsense family.  They instilled good values and judgment.  I was a three-sport athlete and a science honor student in high school.  That left little time for anything else.  My circle of friends, including my fraternity brothers in Kappa Alpha Psi, included mostly goal-oriented students.

The same family influences have shaped Kyle’s behavior and judgment, and he has chosen his associates wisely.  It was not difficult to direct Kyle’s activity; he has always gravitated to appropriate and productive activities.

6. The piece that ESPN did on Ten Bears a few months ago mentioned that the formation and success of that team was a significant event for African-American athletes.  The piece only pointed to your son as the result of African-American growth in the sport.  Although what your son has accomplished is a great achievement, have you seen any significant growth in participation from underprivileged kids - white or black?

Refer to my answer in question #2.  I personally see the interest and growth on a daily basis because of my deep involvement in the game.  I constantly get calls and e-mails from minority parents regarding the best way to get their children to participate in the sport.  Fortunately, Kyle’s accomplishments and the success of our book provide me with the credibility necessary to become an effective agent for change.

7. Your son is playing almost 30 years after that team was formed.  Was there any initial impact on the lacrosse scene during the Ten Bears reign?  Were there any lasting effects after the team was disbanded?

Except for the teams we played from 1971-1980, who understood our total commitment to the game, there was little demonstrable impact at the time.  With the success of Ten Bears, which got great exposure during Black History Month in February on ESPN, the pride and consciousness of African-Americans in lacrosse has been raised.  The evidence goes beyond Kyle’s playing at Hopkins.  Oliver Bacon at Towson (his father John played with me at Morgan), John Walker at Army, John Christmas at Virginia, and Damien Davis from Princeton, among many others, are examples of the increasing diversity in the sport, and there are many waiting in the wings.

8. Were the teams you played really overtly racist?  Where you treated with respect from the other teams?

Overt is in the eyes of the beholder, but racially charged language was used with us, and we did not receive respect when we were an unknown commodity.  Respect is earned, and we had the good fortune to earn respect during our first NCAA lacrosse season in 1971.  The satisfaction of watching a team’s swagger turn to concern and sometimes fear because of our ability we considered measures of respect.

9. The ESPN story said that many of the players felt they had been movers during the civil rights movement.  Was this true at the time?  Also is the book fiction or non-fiction.

Ten Bears is the true story of the activities of real students at Morgan State College from 1969 to 1975, when we upset Washington & Lee University.  A good part of the book’s appeal is due to the time in which it happened.  The Black Power movement was at its height, civil unrest and riots were occurring in cities like Baltimore and Washington D.C. after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and campuses were experiencing resistance to the Vietnam War.  As these two movements intermingled, we became movers to some extent (students and student athletes).  Our coach, Chip Silverman, assured our participation by saying anyone caught in the act of demonstrating or protesting in public would be off the team.  I only had one year left to play and watched the revolution from my dorm window.

10. Stanley Cherry has a prominent place in your book.  Could you speak to his ability as a lacrosse player, what he brought to the team and his self-chosen role as an intimidator?

Stan was an imposing and colorful character.  He was 6’5” tall, weighed 230 lbs., and had a body fat of 4%.  That alone made him imposing and perhaps intimidating.  He was a three-time CIAA heavyweight wrestling champion and an All-American middle linebacker.  He was drafted in the NFL’s second round to play outside linebacker.  He was all “right” and an average lacrosse player.  I was overjoyed to play with him after having to endure his very physical play in high school.

11. You twice were awarded honors for your lacrosse play but for playing a position you did not play.  Did you ever find out why that happened?  If not, what is your theory?

Although I played attack and had developed a reliable off hand by my senior year in high school, I was still called on the face-off and ran some midfield because of my speed and ground ball ability and to give other middies a rest.  I think I was selected to the North-South All-Star Game at midfield, because I still would face-off at Morgan and then move to attack.  They also needed my speed at midfield.  The South team had a full compliment of accomplished attackers, and I had both hands.

12. Can you briefly tell us about the other “accomplished” lacrosse players on your team?

Wayne Jackson – Many compare him to Jim Brown in his dominance at midfield.  He was an All-Maryland selection in high school, played in the college North-South Game, and received All-American honors.

Val Emery – Was an All-Maryland player at defense.  He was the only defenseman I ever met who could run with me.  If we needed to clear the ball, Val got the job done.

Courtenay Servary – Played goalie at Boys’ Latin in Baltimore and became an All-American at the position.

John Bacon – Came from Brentwood High School on Long Island.  He was an All-Long Island football and lacrosse player but had a blown ACL when he arrived at Morgan and blew the other one out during freshman football.  His son Oliver is a starting middie at Towson.

Joe Alex – (The “Polar Bear” – he was white) Was an All-MSA defenseman at Patterson High School in Baltimore but only played in 1970 because the NFL was pursuing him.

Dave Raymond – Was from Hampstead High School on Long Island and an All-Long Island attackman.  He was the first out of state recruit arriving in 1972 and later making All-American.

William Bennett – My attack mate in 1971 was a high school teammate of Stan Cherry and Wayne Jackson at Edmondson High School in Baltimore.

Dickie Hall – Was also an Edmondson High School grad and played crease attack.  He was the team’s unsung hero and tenacious on ground balls.

Joe Fowlkes – Played 1975-1979 and was a three time All-American.  He was on the cover of Lacrosse Guide and was the second lacrosse played inducted into the Morgan Hall of Fame.  I was the first inductee, and Wayne Jackson was the third.

13. Was Chip Silverman so crucial to the team that when he left there was no one able to replace him as a foundation to the program?  Was he the foundation that elevated the team?

Chip was our coach and my co-author.  He was inducted in the Hall of Fame many years before the players.  He is reputed to be the only white coach or player in a historically Black college’s hall of fame.  Chip’s organizational skills, ability to manage the varied personalities and to be a surrogate father when necessary is what was so missed when he stepped down as coach.  The administration’s change in support for the program also contributed to the lacrosse program’s demise.

14. Can you tell us what has most impressed you about Kyle’s development as a player?

Kyle has always been able to affect and control virtually all phases of the game because of his athletic gifts.  He now better understands the offensive, defensive, and transition patterns of the game, and that makes him an even more effective player.  He has also developed a faster and more accurate shot over the last four years.

15. Have you enjoyed Kyle’s experience as a player at Hopkins?

Mrs. Harrison (Wanda) and I are fortunate to have a son who has provided so many wonderful experiences in his middle and high school careers.  Being a part of the Blue Jay family the last four years has been the ultimate joy.  The dedicated coaching staff, the administration, the alumni, and the great young men on the team made the experience first rate.  Even though Kyle has graduated, we will be Blue Jays forever.

16. You faced off and played attack.  Were you also a good defensive middie?

My high school coach Chuck Waeschle called me his “defensive ace” my sophomore and junior years when I still ran midfield.  Kyle and I have been blessed with speed, vision, quick feet and hands, all of which are essential to playing good defense.

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