“Diversity” in College Sports

A new report from the University of
Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, Black
Male Student-Athletes and Racial Inequities in NCAA Division I College Sports
,
points with horror at the “racial inequities” in big-time college sports,
finding it “shocking” and “astonishing” that college leaders, the NCAA, and the
public at large have “accepted as normal the widespread inequities” endemic to
revenue-producing college sports. Perhaps, it concludes, there would be “more
outrage” if more people were aware of how much college athletic programs
“persistently disadvantage” black male athletes.

The picture of this disadvantage is dramatic.
Based on 2007 – 2010 data from the 76 institutional members of the six largest
athletic conferences, black men were 2.8% of full-time undergraduate students
but 57.1% of football teams and 64.3% of basketball teams. 50.2% of black male
athletes graduated within six years, compared to 66.9% of student-athletes
overall, 72.8% of undergraduate students, and 55.5% of black undergraduate men
overall.

“We hear over and over again that
colleges and universities just cannot find qualified, college-ready black men
to come to their institutions,” Shaun Harper, the report’s lead author,
told Inside Higher Ed, but “they can find them when they want the
black men to generate revenue for them.” In a “Message” that introduces
the report, Wharton professor Kenneth Shropshire
echoes the view that the graduation gap reveals glaring “racial inequities,”
that intercollegiate athletics “take advantage” of black athletes “without
serious care for their personal and academic success.”

One of the “racial inequities” is what thirty
years ago Harry Edwards called the “dumb
jock caricature
” — the “insidiously racist … myth of ‘innate Black
athletic superiority’ and the more blatantly racist stereotype of the ‘dumb
Negro.'” Because black men are so “overrepresented” in college sports, the new report
finds, this stereotype “also negatively affects blacks who are not
student-athletes.” It is common, Harper told Inside Higher Ed, “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.”

Ostensibly preferential treatment of blacks
thus actually exploits them for the benefit of others. Academically
under-qualified, they cluster in the bottom of their classes and fail to
graduate in alarming numbers despite receiving remedial classes, targeted
advising, and tutoring not available to others. Their preferential treatment in
and after admission combined with academic performance far below that of their
peers brands them with a stereotype of racial inferiority so pervasive it also
tarnishes other blacks who needed and received no preferential treatment.

If 
this indictment sounds familiar it’s because we’ve heard it before.
Shaun Harper and his co-authors, in short, eerily and no doubt unwittingly
channel Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor Jr.’s Mismatch.
“Dumb Jock,” meet “Affirmative Action Admit.”
 

Far from criticizing race-based special
treatment, however, Harper insisted to Inside Higher Ed that his study
“in no way seeks to suggest that there are too many black athletes.” To
the contrary, he wants admissions offices to recruit non-athlete black men as
vigorously as coaches recruit athletes, and he wants to extend the preferential
support services black athletes receive “in equal measure to black
non-athletes.” There is no glimmer of recognition in this report, or in the
fawning Inside Higher Ed and Chronicle
of Higher Education
articles that highlight its complaints of “racial
inequities,” that there is anything wrong or even problematical in colleges
bestowing special treatment on blacks because of the benefits they bring to
others, whether entertaining and “generating revenue” or providing “diversity.”

John S. Rosenberg

John S. Rosenberg

John Rosenberg blogs at Discriminations.

One thought on ““Diversity” in College Sports”

  1. As is so often the case, the report in question here uses the word “inequity” to describe inequalities. The former means unfairness or injustice. Is it really an injustice that fewer blacks succeed in graduating than other students? I think not, but the abuse of the language for political ends will continue apace.

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