On Black Male Athletes and College Sports
Who’s afraid of black male athletes?
The debate on black men and collegiate sports rages on. Here to add fuel to the discourse is a new University of Pennsylvania study, “Black Male Student-Athletes and Racial Inequities in NCAA Division I College Sports.”
The study seeks to expose the racial inequities in college sports. It disputes the assertion that black male student-athletes are more likely to graduate than same-race male peers who don’t participate in intercollegiate sports competitions.
For this study, Penn researchers first summarized the findings of previous studies. Then, they analyzed data from big time NCAA sports conferences: Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big East Conference, Big Ten Conference, Big 12 Conference, Pac 12 Conference, and the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Using data from the U.S. Department of Education, the researchers looked at information from 76 institutions in the six conferences. They pored over a four-year report on academic performances, graduation rates, black athletes’ athletic representation, etcetera.
The study does two things: 1) It explores the representation of black men at the highest level of collegiate sports; 2) It looks at the racial makeup of the entire student body at sports colleges. Harper and co found that, while black males make up 57% of football teams and 64% of basketball teams (not exactly a shocker to anyone who’s seen a college game recently), they only constitute 2.8% of full-time, degree-seeking undergraduates at the 76 institutions.
More than anything else, the stats reaffirm widely held beliefs about the correlation between black athletes and big money sports. “We hear over and over again that colleges and universities just cannot find qualified, college-ready black men to come to their institutions,” says Shaun R. Harper, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education and lead author of the study. “But it seems that they can find them when they want the black men to generate revenue for them.”
Harper and co also bemoan the stereotypes of black men perceived as athletes based solely on skin color. “It’s not uncommon for a black man to get congratulated for a football victory while walking across campus on a Monday morning, despite the fact that he’s 5-foot-6 and skinny,” says Harper.
Ultimately, this study reveal startling stats that back up what most of us already suspected. The study doesn’t stop there; it calls for accountability in college sports going forward. “Perharps more outrage and accountability would ensue if there were greater awareness of the actual extent to which college sports persistently disadvantage Black male student-athletes,” writes Harper. Here’s hoping college officials will listen.