During this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament there have been plenty of upsets, fantastic finishes, and excellent individual performances. Many of those excellent individual performances will be done by basketball players of numerous backgrounds and ethnicities, especially black athletes. However, a recent study by University of Pennsylvania researcher Shaun Harper shows that many of the black basketball players at the most prominent college programs will struggle to earn their college degree at the school they represent on the court and the same is for the college football players at prominent college football programs. This is a study that shows how much the athlete in student-athlete is being emphasized for black males in college sports.
According to an analysis of the 2014-15 academic year by University of Pennsylvania researcher Shaun Harper, while 58 percent of black male undergraduates at the 65 schools in the Power Five conferences got degrees within six years, 54 percent of black male student-athletes at the same schools graduated. The Power 5 conferences are comprised of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big 12, the Big Ten, the Pac 12, and the Southeastern Conference, which are the major college sports conferences that dominate the TV and media attention during the college football and college basketball seasons. This means that while an extremely small percentage of the college athletes that college basketball and college football fans root for will go on to play in the NBA or the NFL, many more will not even graduate from the college they represent.
It is possible that many of the black college football and college basketball players are ill equipped to handle the rigors of balancing a heavy schedule of their academic and athletic requirements. It is also possible that coaches are bringing in young black athletes that will struggle to keep up with a college course load due to their struggles in high schools. Of course, it is the coach’s job to win by acquiring the best talent for the best team and not acquiring the best students. It does not mean that all college coaches do not care about the well being of their players, but their number-one priority is to win over virtually anything else. There needs to be a complete support system for the black male athletes from the academic institutions of the universities and colleges for the black males coming into college to adjust to life on campus, managing their time, and getting them on course to graduate with a college degree.