March Madness 2014, basketball edition, is over, but the real madness in college sports is still disgracefully alive.
Dr. Richard Lapchick’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport annual NCAA tournament graduation rate study, released last month, shows that White basketball players graduate almost 25 percent more often than Black players at many Division I schools. Last weekend’s four finalists all posted “disparity gap” graduation rates among their Black players.
“When you look at the schools participating in the Final Four, and you look at the graduation rates of Black males…it’s a travesty,” noted Black Star Project Executive Director Phillip Jackson in a recent MSR interview.
Then there’s the rarely-discussed North Carolina academic scandal. An earlier “View” column last month featured our interview with former school tutor Mary Willingham, who worked with Tar Heels athletes and later blew the whistle on the school’s fake classes scam run through the UNC Black Studies department. She also found that for nearly a decade the school admitted Black football and basketball players who read at a mid-grade-school level.
“I think they’re athletes and not necessarily students, and we used them for their athletic ability,” says Willingham.
Jackson, who runs an enrichment program for Black youngsters in Chicago, discussed his “letter” sent to several newspapers, including the MSR, who published it last month on our editorial page. He strongly criticized a UNC Black faculty group’s “declaration of support” for their employers. “None of the Black faculty signed [the declaration],” he pointed out. “I think that is disingenuous.”
On one hand, you can understand why they didn’t sign their John Hancocks: There are more UNC Black football players (68) and basketball players (12) combined than there are Black professors (23), associate professors
(41) and assistant professors (39).
On the other hand, this Black faculty can’t act like ostriches and walk in politically correct lockstep with Tar Heels higher-ups, coaches and fans, even though their intention is to support the school’s African, African American and Diaspora Studies department, which hosted the fake classes and has been solely blamed for the scandal, its former director forced out and now facing criminal charges.
But why isn’t the Carolina athletic department under attack? Why aren’t coaches being called out? And if you think one Black man single-handedly devised a two-decade academic Ponzi scheme and the coaches didn’t know anything about it, well, this just doesn’t pass the smell test.
“Black students are being cheated. Black students are being exploited,” said Jackson. “It’s not just the University of North Carolina. This is [happening at] most big-money sports [at] colleges and universities.
“These universities are pimping these young Black male athletes,” he argued. “They have no intention of educating these young men. The sole purpose is to fill up the seats in the stadium and to win games.”
But this pimpin’ starts way before they get to college: Even if the Black youngster shows blinding speed or mad hops, if they can’t read Dick and Jane in grade school, we can’t expect them to later read Socrates in college. “If you can’t read, you’re in trouble, and we are producing legions of Black boys who can’t read. We have turned our backs to these young Black men in their formative years,” stated Jackson.
He calls big-time college sports, especially with Black athletes, an “industrial complex.” Willingham calls the NCAA “a very scary cartel” that makes billions from TV contracts and “hides behind that ‘student-athlete’ [designation].”
“The way the system is now, it doesn’t work” for Black players, concluded Jackson.
Read more on the Northwestern football players’ continuing effort to unionize on “Another View Extra” on this week’s MSR website.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.