The situation of black male athletes in America is an interesting one. In one sense, they are heroes – to their communities and the nation – but in another sense, they are comparable to slaves. No, I did not just call black male athletes, slaves. I said the situation is comparable.
Imagine it this way: The predominantly white institution is the plantation, the white head coach is the slave master and the black athlete is the slave. The crops being reaped: Money, prestige and reputation.
It is generally known that there are more black athletes competing on national collegiate and professional teams than there are owners and coaches of these teams. For example, of 32 teams in the NFL, there are only six black head coaches, whereas black athletes make about 66 percent of the NFL (as of 2006).
Where are the black men wearing the collared knit tops and the crisp khakis, carrying the clipboards and wearing the headphones? Why aren’t they on the sidelines, dictating orders?
In collegiate division one football, where there are 119 member institutions, less than 10 of the head coaches are black. There is nothing wrong with playing ball at a predominantly white, nationally recognized university, but when the scenario reflects a social problem – it is time to start thinking.
I think the following represents a social problem: Out of 95 football athletes competing for the Virginia Tech football team, 66 are black. But of Virginia Tech’s 2007-2008 undergraduate class, just 967 of over 22,987 students, is black.
Congratulations, VT! Your overall percentage of black students is a whopping 4.6 percent, and the percentage of the football team? Oh, just a meager 69 percent.
Come on people, we have got to do better. VA Tech is a school that enrolled its first black scholarship football player in 1970. That was only 38 years ago. Meanwhile universities that were created especially to educate, uplift and inspire black students and athletes linger somewhere in the background, viewed as not good enough for the talents of star black football recruits.
The facilities, in comparison, are mediocre (just take a look at Bragg and then drive over to Florida State’s Doak Campbell Stadium). And the visibility that a majority institution can provide is priceless, but when these institutions did not give two pennies about black athletes, HBCUs were there.
If majority institutions like Virginia Tech exerted half as much energy into recruiting black students as does the football coach, there would be no need for this column.
Still, what does it say about us a race when universities would rather recruit us for our bodies than our minds? It says we have a long way to go in producing children that are valued for more than how fast they can run a football to the end zone.