Black Student Athletics: Whaylon Coleman

Though most of the star Black student-athletes that played for the University of Idaho signed on after 1960, there was an exception in basketball player Whaylon Coleman. Coleman was originally from Kentucky, where he attended Dunbar elementary school and Western High School before pursuing his degree in higher education.1 He enrolled at the University in 1955 and played for the Vandals basketball team through the 1959 season. As a junior, he led the Vandals to a 17-9 record and also helped in securing a fourth-place finish in the Pacific Coast Conference, with victories over University of Southern California, Stanford, University of California at Los Angeles, University of California at Berkeley and University of Oregon, and rival Washington State University.

During that season, Coleman ranked second on the team in scoring and led the team with a .424 field goal percentage (72 out of 170 shots made). His teammates honored him at the end of the season by nominating him as the Jay Gano Award winner, which is the award given to the player voted most inspirational by the team. During his senior year in 1958-59, Coleman led the Vandal men with a 12.3 points-per-game scoring average, or with his 319 points scored in 26 games. He also led the team with a .431 field goal percentage and a .724 free throw percentage. During his entire Vandals career, he scored 806 points.2

After graduating from the University of Idaho with his bachelor’s degree, Coleman enrolled at Western Kentucky University and obtained his master’s degree in education in 1971 and his Rank 1 certificate in secondary school administration in 1973.3 During his life, he received many awards and recognitions, including being the first African-American captain of a University of Idaho Vandals varsity sports team; he was also handpicked by the coaches of other teams for the Basketball All-Conference Second Team for his outstanding play.

Coleman was inducted into the University of Idaho Hall of Fame and into the Idaho Legends Hall of Fame; he also received the Golden Apple Award from the Owensboro Board of Education and the Owensboro High School Hall of Achievement. After working for the Owensboro Riverport Authority’s board of directors for 33 years, the Green River Steel property was renamed the Whaylon Coleman Terminal. Coleman unfortunately passed away in 2012, leaving behind a notable legacy in Idaho athletics and the Owensboro community.


  1. “Obituaries: Whaylon Coleman Sr.,” Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro, KY), Apr. 29, 2012. 
  2. “Whaylon Coleman,” University of Idaho Hall of Fame, 2008,
  3. “Obituaries: Whaylon Coleman Sr.,” Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro, KY), Apr. 29, 2012. 


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The Seminal History and Prospective Future of Blacks at the University of Idaho Copyright © 2023 by Brody Gasper and Sydney Freeman Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.