Should black athletes go to HBCUs?

Reporter Tye Richmond gives his thoughts on Jemele Hill's controversial statements about Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

jerry rice for obama 2012
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Jerry Rice is considered one of the greatest wide receivers to ever play in the NFL.

Staff Reporter

With Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) week just ending last week in Wilmington, it’s a good time to talk about a big issue surrounding HBCUs and sports in general. Over the past few weeks, Jemele Hill, a former ESPN writer and current writer for The Atlantic, has come under fire for her article, “It’s Time For Black Athletes to Leave White Colleges.”

In her article, Hill claimed that African American athletes should go to HBCUs instead of Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs). Some comments about the article claim that she is a racist and advocating for segregation.

“If promising black student athletes chose to attend HBCUs in greater numbers, they would, at a minimum, bring some welcome attention and money to beleaguered black colleges, which invested in black people when there was no athletic profit to reap,” Hill said.

“More revolutionarily, perhaps they could disrupt the reign of an ‘amateur’ sports system that uses the labor of black folks to make white folks rich,” Hill said.

I do agree with Hill that the NCAA has come under criticism for the way their system operates for years. For example, they bring more than $1 billion in revenue from television deals, apparel companies and sponsors, with none of it going to the players.

In college basketball, especially if you are a top player, the NCAA just uses you for that one year to bring in revenue. Then, you are gone. Most, if not all, of the one-and-done players are black athletes. Those athletes have to go to the NCAA for that one year because of the rules in place being you have to be 19 to enter the NBA draft. Now the NBA is trying to lower that age back to 18.

Hill also said, “Black athletes have attracted money and attention to the predominantly white universities that showcase them. Meanwhile, black colleges are struggling. Alabama’s athletic department generated $174 million in the 2016-17 school year, whereas the HBCU that generated the most money from athletics that year, Prairie View A&M, brought in less than $18 million.”

According to Delaware Online, in 2017, out of the 347 NCAA Division I schools, the university ranked 77th in total revenue with $34,309,705 earned in 2016, while Delaware State’s athletic program ranked 173rd with $14.1 million earned.

Even in our own state you can see the revenue differences between HBCUs and PWIs. I do understand why most black athletes go to a top PWI instead of an HBCU. Heck, I’m a black student at a PWI, so I get it, I chose the University of Delaware over Delaware State University. At most PWIs, you will get a better education, facilities, athletic programs and maybe better opportunities outside of college. For me, I picked the university because it was closer to home and it is a great school to go to.

If black athletes would leave the university, then I believe its revenue would take a hit. In a USA Today article, Delaware ranked 70th in the NCAA in school revenue from sports with over $44 million dollars. So taking away all the black athletes from the university could cut millions of revenue out.

But I don’t think some black athletes truly understand the power we hold. Hill said, “Black athletes never had as much power and influence as they do now. While NCAA rules prevent them from making money off their own labor at the college level, they are essential to the massive amount of revenue generated by college football and basketball. This gives them leverage, if only they could be moved to use it.”

So if black athletes are going to make the NCAA money anyway, why not go to an HBCU where they actually need it?

LeVelle Moton, the head basketball coach at North Carolina Central, an HBCU that has won three consecutive Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference titles, told Hill: “Black people, I love us, but everyone else understands that we’re the culture, except for us. (Audiences and money) are going to come wherever the product is. We don’t understand that, and we continue to give ourselves away for free.”

I’m not saying that all black athletes should go to HBCUs like Jemelle Hill is because as a society it would probably cause more problems that we already have. But what I am trying to do is bring light to an issue of the indifferences in revenue between HBCUs and PWIs.

Black athletes do have the power to change that if they do leave. PWIs are great and needed not only for whites but for blacks too. PWIs show a different environment and experience that some blacks aren’t used to seeing. I personally love and enjoy the PWI that I go to.

Some athletes might not know or realize that don’t have to go to a PWI to be a successful athlete. Jerry Rice, Walter Payton, Earl Monroe and others all went to HBCUs and are considered one of the greats at their sports. Whatever an athlete decides, we shouldn’t criticize them because that was their decision to make a better future for themselves.


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