As the nation gears up for March Madness, a recent news report says college athletics is failing young Black men.
The Associated Press reports that Black male student-athletes have lower graduation rates than regular Black male students. According to a study of the 2014-15 academic year by University of Pennsylvania researcher Shaun Harper, only 54 percent of Black student-athletes at Power 5 conferences achieved degrees within six years. The graduation rate for regular Black male students was 58 percent.
Harper said the problem is widespread and not just localized at big schools.
“It happens just about everywhere,” said Harper. “Generations of young Black men and their parents and families are repeatedly duped by a system that lies to them about what their life chances are and what their athletic outcomes are likely to be.”
Black males are being recruited by big-time college programs because of their athletic prowess, not because of their academic abilities. Although they are called student-athletes, they are more athlete than student.
“When coaches are looking for the best athletic talent, that’s what they’re looking for,” Harper said. “They’re not really concerned with academic talent.”
And while many of the students are sold on the idea of using college as a springboard to a career in the NBA or the NFL, in reality few of them make it to the big leagues.
According to data from the NCAA, only 1.2 percent of college men’s basketball players get drafted by the NBA, and only 1.6 percent of college football players are recruited by the NFL.
Harry Swayne, who played for Rutgers University and in the NFL, told The AP colleges need to do a better job of telling student-athletes that most of them are not going to have careers in professional sports.
“Statistically, more than likely, they won’t make it,” Swayne said. “We don’t want to talk them out of their dreams; we just want to give them some reality, too. We want to introduce them to some other possibilities for when football is over, because it is coming to an end sooner than they think and sooner than they’re ready for.”
Dr. Boyce Watkins, a former business professor at Syracuse University, has been a long-time critic of college athletics. He said when you consider the billions of dollars college football and basketball generate, and how little money the players get, the system is exploitative.
“The billions generated by March Madness rival the money earned from the post season of nearly every professional sports league in the world,” said Watkins in a Huffington Post article. “At $613 million, the NCAA is earning over 40 percent more ad revenue than the entire NBA playoffs and over 60 percent more ad revenue than the entire post season for Major League Baseball.”
Watkins has called on schools to start paying college athletes a salary. He said by labeling players “student athletes,” the NCAA has created a system that denies them the rights of regular workers. College athletics operates, like many American businesses, on low labor costs and huge profits for corporations. The players only get scholarships, but the coaches and administrators get million-dollar and six-figure salaries.
“Athletes and their families deserve labor rights,” said Watkins. “The truth is that college athletes in revenue-generating sports are treated as neither Americans nor college students. Their ability to enjoy college is stripped by the rigors of their professional sports schedules and Draconian training regimen, thrust upon them by money-hungry coaches who could care less about education. The idea that Congress has conspired with the NCAA to allow athlete labor rights to be taken away in a manner that would be illegal in nearly any other industry adds insult to injury. Keeping athletes and their families in poverty while coaches and administrators get rich is not only fundamentally un-American, it is an embarrassment to us all.”