Like many a sports historian, Victoria Jackson has opinions.
She’s praised the U.S. Women’s National Team’s fight for equal pay through a federal lawsuit; written in support of Colin Kaepernick and athlete activism; and likened the NCAA concept of amateurism to 21st-century Jim Crow.
Unlike many a sports historian, she’s also a former NCAA champion and professional runner, whose direct experience as a student-athlete at North Carolina and Arizona State has added to years of research in the realm of big-time college sports.
In other words: when Jackson writes a new column for the Washington Post or Los Angeles Times, appears on a podcast or launches into a thread on her aptly named Twitter account, @HistoryRunner, people listen.
Over the last two years, she’s quickly made a name for herself among hundreds as a “public intellectual,” as her colleague Brooks Simpson, an ASU Foundation professor of history, put it. Healthy or not, Jackson joked, she’s thinking about and engaging with the issues at hand every day.
Her confidence to make such arguments, she said, stems from a combination of her own athletic career plus a pure, unadulterated love of history and the archival research that comes with it. But the Jackson of now isn’t the Jackson of old.
In Chapel Hill and Tempe, Ariz., alike, she can cite turning points on a journey of awareness that led her to a major realization: her picture-perfect stint as a student-athlete was rooted in her privilege. And now, as a clinical assistant professor at ASU, she’s working eventually create a system where everyone in college athletics gets that experience.
“The way it’s supposed to work shouldn’t be the exception to the rule,” she said. “It should be the rule.”
And as she’s moved up the university ranks — her assistant clinical professor position is new as of July — the field reporting aspect of her job hasn’t stopped. Jackson is using a $20,000 grant from ASU’s Global Sport Institute to travel the country and research a book proposal on racial injustice in college sports.