The longstanding disparities between HBCUs and PWIs is too often only discussed whenever a lopsided athletic contest’s final score is reported.
Sports journalist Chloe Clark said in her April 2021 article, “Athletic Programs: PWI versus HBCU,” reported that “Without the proper funding…HBCUs remain unequal. The difference in facilities…is a pure example of systematic racism that persists even within college athletics.”
Back in 2020, Rickey L. Jones, an opinion contributor for the Louisville Courier-Journal, strongly suggested that the 65 Power Five schools, including the University of Minnesota, should share their sports wealth with HBCU schools.
“It breaks my heart as a coach, because I can’t provide [my players] with the things that were second nature to us when I was at Troy,” said Grambling WBB coach Courtney Simmons, now in her first year after 10 years as an assistant coach at Troy University, a PWI.
Her Tigers played Minnesota last week, a first-time meeting between the two schools. The Gophers prevailed 96-64 in the “Field Trip Game” for thousands of youth at the mid-morning non-conference contest.
For many of these youth, who literally cheered and screamed from the time they got off the bus until they got back on it, this might have been the first time they saw an all-Black female basketball team with a Black coaching staff in action.
“I wish the score could have been a little bit closer, because I think they might have cheered a little bit more [for us],” Simmons afterwards told the MSR. “For me, just trying to be a better representation, showing that it is possible people that look like you can be successful and do that at a high level.”
“I just finished telling my team that all of this that we’re doing is so much bigger than the game of basketball,” the Tigers HC said.
During our postgame interview, Simmons stressed that Black schools such as hers need more financial support. She pointed out that if the tables were turned, and PWI coaches changed places with her and her fellow HBCU coaches, disparities would still exist.
“I’ll tell a lot of people that if you take the SWAC coaches who are designed to do a lot with very little or nothing and you give them the resources that a Minnesota has,” things would look remarkably different in the HBCUs’ favor. “We don’t have the resources, but it just means we play a lot harder.
“I think just getting people to understand that financial support is almost more important than the cheering section,” continued the coach. As a result, a spotlight should always be shined on HBCU coaches like Tomekia Reed at Jackson State, said Simmons.
“I look at what Reed has done at Jackson State and she should get all her flowers right now, because she’s done a tremendous job. She was doing this before Deion Sanders [now at Colorado] got there.
“If we can get more people to shine a light on the fact that finally we need support. We need those donors. Need those boosters to come in and help us,” said Simmons.
Simmons appreciated that the state’s oldest Black newspaper wanted to speak to her that day, because no other local media reached out to her before or after the game. “This is the first game that we played [this season] where the other teams’ reporters said nothing. I do appreciate any type of recognition that we can get.”