Cynthia Cooper-Dyke could have been the missing piece to move the needle on national attention for historically black colleges and universities. Not just the women’s ranks – all black college sports.
And now, she’s leaving another HBCU, Texas Southern, for a dream gig at the school where she made a national name as a world-class athlete, the University of Southern California. It is the second gut-punch departure for Cooper-Dyke from a Texas HBCU. The first, Prairie View A&M University, she left as the greatest coach in the history of its women’s basketball program. There she delivered to the Panthers three regular season SWAC championships, two SWAC tournament titles, two conference coach of the year awards, and four straight NCAA postseason tournament appearances in either the national championship or the women’s national invitational tournaments.
This past season at Texas Southern, her first at the university, she captured the regular season championship and turned a 5-26 roster from 2012 into a 20-12, number one seed in the SWAC women’s basketball tournament. The Lady Tigers also appeared in the WNIT.
And now, the coaching legend who also earned the title of PVAMU alumnae during her journey, is gone again.
For as much as Cooper-Dyke has done for HBCU athletics and women’s basketball as a player and coach, it’s painful to consider that her stops at black colleges were only and always stepping-stones to greater opportunities. She is one of a literal handful of coaches, male or female, to move from an HBCU sports program to one of the NCAA’s power conferences with her return to USC, where she starred as an All-America guard and led the Lady Trojans to two national titles in the 80’s.
It is not to judge Cooper-Dyke’s defection back to California. As a competitor and proven program builder, it’s only natural to expect her to seek out and embrace the biggest challenges in front of the largest audiences. But within the black college ranks, she had an opportunity to help build a culture – a legacy that would have transformed conditions and perceptions about black college sports, black college student athletes, and black colleges as institutions of national importance and value.
She’s gone again. And probably for good this time.