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Get Your Hand Out Of My Pocket: Black Athletes and HBCUs

What you’re about to read is the most overly ambitious, incredibly naïve, yet most authentic and challenging post I’ve ever written. If the answers to this problem were already out there, then it would be one thing. In essence, this is part thinking aloud/talking with folks who teach or went to school at HBCUs/my own personal views. The irony of all this is I don’t even know if this can work. Hell, it may not, but the object is to try. With that said, let’s begin.

There’s been quite a bit of talk about HBCU’s and their financial obstacles, issues, and problems they face. On the athletic circuit, the problem is there as well, which can be looked at for a variety of reasons. Some people say once predominately White institutions were able to come snatch Black athletes, it, in turn, had a severe effect on HBCU’s, due to the fact that HBCU’s were the ones who were able to give Black athletes a platform to play ball and get an education when PWI’s kept them out. There’s a lot of truth to that, and the notion that it doesn’t is disingenuous. At the same time, there’s got to be a way for Black athletes and HBCUs to have a meaningful relationship, even in this day and age when a kid’s goal (and the goal of his handlers, family, and hangers-on) is to go pro as soon as possible.

As far as the title of this post goes, it works both ways. For HBCUs, they simply can’t do what the big schools do, in regards to getting a five-star recruit, or even many four-stars, to go to school there. Texas, Oklahoma, USC, Alabama, and all these other schools that you see at the top of recruiting lists every year have endless amounts of resources they can use to persuade a 17-18 year-old kid to come to school there, and quite a bit of those are, in some ways, financial. I’m not mad at them for it. They're doing what they've got to do to get kids there, and from that standpoint, HBCUs can’t compete with them. At the same time, HBCUs never have to worry about selling their soul, because, hell; let people tell it, they don’t have any money to do so anyway.

On the flip side, I find it hard to take the side of HBCUs if they don’t try as hard as they can to recruit these kids, regardless of what's against them. People take care of their own, especially in athletics. When schools land a big-time recruit, and that recruit makes it pro, they’re taken care of (ex. Suh giving Nebraska $2.6 million and Carmelo giving Syracuse over $1 million to build a new athletic facility at their university). We can talk about how Black athletes should have an obligation to take care of their own all day, and they do; it’s just not in the manner that some people like. Maybe that can change, but it’ll take an effort on both sides.

Ed and I had a talk about this, and we agreed on some things and disagreed heavily on others. I’m of the belief that HBCUs can get players in there to turn athletic programs around, and by that, I mean mid-level talent, simply because there are so many players in that pool available. There are some things they can’t control, but if you’ve ever been to a, say, Wiley, Langston, Hampton, Howard, Southern, Grambling and other HBCUs, the social atmosphere is pretty much second-to-none. Schools have to use what they’ve got, and from that standpoint, HBCU’s have a great advantage (one example you can see above, as it's my favorite celebratory video during a college basketball game of all-time).

Sure, an HBCU won’t be able to give the kid’s parents, guardians, or handlers a job, car, or whatever other perks that big schools can (lets be for real; folks get gifts under the table everyday), but you can give those same people your word that your kid will be able to play, be in a climate that’s conducive to their growth, and, most importantly, a college degree. Plus, if they’re good enough, and the team is successful, the pros will come.

So what’s it going to take for this to happen? Is there an HBCU that can take the steps that a Butler (basketball), or an East Carolina (football), Northern Iowa (basketball), or other schools that are considered mid-majors took and are continuing to take? These athletic programs aren’t household names, but they’re making their mark anyway. Butler was a Gordon Heyward half-court shot away from WINNING the National Championship; not making the title game, not competing in it, but winning that joint! Of course, it isn’t nearly this easy, which is why I call this overly ambitious and incredibly naïve, but someone has to start somewhere, right?

Be easy.
-K. Masenda

P.S. As a reminder, checkout the livest sports talk (and hopefully on the radio soon) show around, "The Unsportsmanlike Conduct Show" as we are live Wednesday's at 9pm Eastern at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/edthesportsfan! Download our podcasts if you missed the live show as well!


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