Afrcan American, Social Action

Where are all the Black Faces? HWCUs and Black Athletes for Sale

Every year during March Madness I am constantly reminded of the never-ending talent of young athletes as they compete in the world’s greatest sporting event the NCAA Basketball Championship aka March Madness. No other event, save the World Cup, offers so little to so many: bragging rights for a year and a ton of illegal gaming activity. For me one of the most astonishing aspects of the tournament is the seemingly never-ending display of NBA ready basketball talent.

This year’s tournament features a number of well-known NBA potentials that include perennial standouts from programs like Duke and Kentucky.   Yet, with all the hype and talk about “The One and Done” (star athletes that only stay for a year and move on to the NBA) my focus always is drawn away from the athletes and toward the audience and the racial disparity.

What always strikes me is that while the best athletes on the court are black most of those sitting in the student sections or the general audiences are white. Other than parents and family members that show up you really have to pay close attention to find any blacks faces. Take for example Duke and Kentucky. While Duke has an unbelievably strong student section and Kentucky’s fans are notorious for filling every seat just for practices one would be hard pressed to find a more than a handful of black faces.   I know its really hard to blame both Duke and Kentucky after all they both are part of CBB’s most enduring legends: Tobacco Road. And in times past the only blacks that could be found at both universities were out on tobacco road, literally. How else do you think both universities were built? But outside of the actual athletic events with the exception of black colleges March Madness illustrates the almost one-sided racialized nature of college admissions and the role that black athletes and their families play in the non-athlete recruiting game, none.

Why does this even matter you may ask? Take for example the recent racist rant by Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity members. The chant that got those frat boys in trouble smacked of exclusion. But exclusion from what? It seems to me that those young white kids placed a value in their fraternities’ ability to exclude blacks from its membership rolls. Exclusion to them equaled prestige, because that’s what exclusivity is really all about: having something that everyone wants but few have. But how many black students are being admitted to OU, let alone being asked to join SAE? Very few–is the answer if you’re reading my mind. While the University of Oklahoma is a fine institution it has never been known as an academic powerhouse so how can members of SAE make claims to prestige? They can and do so because the prestige of the University is generated by the strength of its athletic programs and in particular football. One can argue about the fine points of an OU degree and its relative worth in the marketplace but from my point of view the prestige of their degrees is quite frankly achieved on the backs of black youth and their families that have supported these kids from the junior leagues to college.

Yet, the return that these families receive on their investment is, for at least 50% of black college athletes worse than downgraded Russian government (i.e. Junk) bonds. For example, the NCAA reported that 50% of all black college athletes fail to earn degrees. This is a national embarrassment. Low graduation rates among black athletes speak volumes of the fatuousness of black families that continue to feed their children into one of the most exploitive systems in America. It also speaks volumes of the failure of black leadership in creating the means by which black youth are seen as a precious human commodity not to be handed over to the highest bidder. Take for example, LeBron James Jr. (aka Bronny). As a 10 year old he is already receiving offers from colleges and this cannot be because he is strong pre-law standout. The college coaches are in effect acting as if Bronny is Ganymeade (Meade) the son of Lucrezia Borgia on the plantation Falconhurst. The irony is absurd. It’s obvious why this is being done–Landing the son of LeBron James would be a boon for any college.

I am not suggesting that Bronny or any black college recruit should forgo the use of their talents for a shot at the NBA or for that matter a college education. But Black leaders must begin educating the black community and unsuspecting mothers that truly believe that these Universities have their children’s best interest at heart because they don’t. Just ask the father of one of University of Michigan’s high school football recruits Daishon Neal. Daishon’s father heard it for himself when the coaching staff of Michigan told him that his son probably wouldn’t be able to get into the school without football.  In other words Michigan would not have even bothered sitting in his living room discussing his son’s future but for football. Daishon might not have been Michigan academic material but why recruit him in the first place? After all the Daishon still would still have to earn his degree. Or to put it bluntly, perhaps Michigan doesn’t care whether his son earned a degree or not. Caveat emptor!

Here is some food for thought:

In the south, where college football reigns as the national pastime, every single Governor is Republican. Republicans control southern State Legislatures that have, quite frankly, been rather hostile to black life (i.e. Stand Your Ground Laws).   Yet, with every black recruit that attends a southern university they bring prestige, dollars and add value to their state college and universities systems. So while black athletes run, jump and throw, Republican alumni from their own universities pass laws intended to circumscribe black life. The unanimity of Republicans nationwide to repeal Obamacare is a prime example. (Southern state legislature earn degrees from these universities)

Black athletes increase revenue at these college campuses. The increase in revenue helps to attract better faculty. Top faculty invents, write, build and create industry and jobs for the State. Top students are attracted to top faculty. Top students earn higher salaries that in turn increases revenue for the state none of which goes back into the black community, save for an increase in the amount of riot and police equipment. It’s a zero sum game for regular students and their siblings that are shut out of the loop.   Just ask Silicon Valley, where few if any blacks work. What was a Rose Bowl worth to Stanford? I’m sure they’ll choke on Jerry Lawson’s video game cartridge attempting to find a black spokesperson to answer that question.

Here are the sobering statistics on the value that black athletes bring to athletic programs:

Compiled by Forbes Business magazine:

School- Current Value- Governor

  1. University of Texas: $129 Million  Republican
  2. University of Notre Dame $112 Million Republican
  3. Penn State $53 Million Democrat
  4. Louisiana State University $96 Million Republican
  5. University of Michigan $94 Million Republican
  6. University of Alabama $93 Million Republican
  7. University of Georgia $93 Million Republican
  8. University of Arkansas $89 Million Republican
  9. Auburn University $37 Million Republican
  10. University of Oklahoma $87 Million Republican

Now take a look at the same schools and their recruiting of minority non-athletes:

Black % Students

  1. University of Texas:             4.5%
  2. University of Notre Dame     3%
  3. Penn State                       4%
  4. Louisiana State University   11%
  5. University of Michigan           4%
  6. University of Alabama           12%
  7. University of Georgia            7%
  8. University of Arkansas           5%
  9. Auburn University                7%
  10. University of Oklahoma         5%

Of to 10 football schools all have a Republican Governor save Penn State. (Pennsylvania has, historically, been an anti-black state) Each of these Governors supports a Republican Party that is consistently hostile to black, minority, immigrant, poor and working class families and in particular black men. Why do black women continue to send their sons and daughters to educational institutions that if their sons or daughters were not athletes would never be allowed to enroll as students?

I offer at least 10 questions as a litmus test for College Recruiters:

  1. What are the Governors and State legislators attitudes toward black families in general?
  2. Do they support schools with predominately large black enrollments?
  3. Is the college or university good stewards of the environment, in particular do they support environmental policies that threaten the health a dwell being of black communities?
  4. Do they support gender, racial, ethnic, and religious equality?
  5. What laws have state legislators passed that would be considered friendly to black families?
  6. What is the percentage of non-black athletes enrolled on academic or need based scholarships?
  7. How many black males police has shot in the last five years in your state?
  8. How many police have been prosecuted for an illegal discharge of their weapon?
  9. If my son or daughter fails at college sports will the university pay for them to complete their education?
  10. Are you a registered Republican or Democrat?

It’s a sad commentary on both communities when white colleges and universities don’t place as much effort into recruiting gifted African American students as they do black athletes and when the black community does not value its most prized possession it young people. However, some of us that attended HBCU have got the memo.

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