Fixing the Plight of HBCUs is not the Responsibility of Black Athletes

There have been a lot of discussions recently surrounding black athletes abandoning PWI’s and lending their talents exclusively to HBCUs. While this is nice in theory, it’s not practical. I get it. I really do but there are several reasons why this isn’t happening. And the main reason isn’t rooted in the decision making of 18 year olds.

Anybody who knows me knows I love Jemele Hill dearly as a journalist. She wrote a piece for The Atlantic on this subject. While I appreciate her insight and passion, I don’t totally agree with her ideology. On the surface, the athletes simply choosing to attend HBCUs is the easiest way out. That absolves everyone else and puts the load on the shoulders of kids. That’s unrealistic and unfair pressure. You want a kid who grew up idolizing MJ to go to NCCU instead of UNC? For what? I understand the benefits of five star recruits choosing to go to these institutions. I also understand that the benefit would weigh heavily in favor of the university and not the athlete.

While I want HBCUs to flourish, we have to be honest about the state of these colleges in the realm of athletics. Everyone talks about the money it would bring to the school but nobody wants to discuss what the athlete would be sacrificing from a facilities and exposure standpoint. Instead we want fresh out of high school guys to ignore the bells and whistles and attend a school that would not be able to offer them the tools and resources to perform their job (because sports at that level is definitely a job) at the highest level in the name of the greater good of improving black colleges. Hell if we’re being honest, we’d be asking them to take a pay cut as well. C’mon now, don’t act like this is news. Now think about yourself for a second. Would you leave your job (those of you with good jobs that you actually like) and go to another place of employment for less money and subpar facilities? Show me the person who says yes and I will show you a liar.

Another interesting thing I’ve noticed is we try to force players to HBCUs but don’t have the same energy for coaches. Nobody thinks a prominent black coach shunning the high profile schools for a black college would help recruiting, media coverage and garner alumni interest? If it’s just me I’ll shut up. When Shaka Smart left VCU for the University of Texas nobody said “Bro should have gone to Howard. That really would have helped the school out. Why would he go to that white school?” Weird right? While I acknowledge that there aren’t many black coaches in the college ranks, especially at the Power Five level, that still doesn’t explain why we don’t have the same interest in driving the ones we do have to black schools like we do with athletes. Nobody questioned Penny for going to Memphis. I don’t know man. The way we treat black college athletes kinda reeks of victim blaming to me.

Also, I feel like not enough is made of the lack of alumni donating to these schools. In Jemele’s article, she spoke about how Kayvon Thibodeaux’s visit to FAMU energized and invigorated the alumni. So they only care about the school when a blue chipper steps onto campus? Most people I know who attended HBCUs speak very highly of the school they attended and cherish their experiences. Do the rich people who went to these schools not feel that way? And I know we want to harp on celebrities and tell them what to do with their money. But really, would you donate millions to an institution that hasn’t been a part of your life in any way? It would be a great gesture but it’s not their responsibility.

I also understand that pretty much all of these universities are severely underfunded and need the additional financial support. But again tell me how that’s the athlete’s problem? We talk vigorously about fleeing from white schools because they and the NCAA are earning billions from the blood, sweat and tears of black athletes and they aren’t being compensated. Would we feel better if they were only being exploited at black schools? It’s not like they’re going to get a cut of the proceeds just because they signed to a school where the marching band is a little funkier and the Divine Nine is heavy on campus. The schools would thrive while the same fundamental issues with collegiate athletics would still exist. If the goal is to make black schools profitable then by all means, continue to beat this drum. But if we want to improve the situation for black athletes in the college ranks then this isn’t a solution.

And let’s circle back to the coaches for a second. They should have a lot of blame placed at their feet. I’m going to speak in regards to basketball in this instance because that’s the sport I’m most familiar with. A lot of coaches at black colleges do a horrible job of recruiting. I know the deck is stacked against them for the aforementioned reasons of funding and facilitative deficiencies but we have to be honest about a few things. They’ll send letters and packages to Zion Williamson before they will even look at a kid they actually have a chance of getting. Let’s be real. A player like that is not going to a HBCU. Not at this point. But there are plenty of other talented kids that can play and would flourish in those settings. Another thing that really bothers me about how some of these coaches approach recruiting is they won’t show any interest until a bigger school does. They’ll see a kid who has some promise but won’t pursue them. Then when a larger program steps in they want to go all in. When the kid favors the bigger school they try to paint the kid as arrogant and say “We reached out but he big timed us.” Well duuuuhhhh. You waited too late. Seriously, you have to get to them ASAP. There are a lot of kids who could be at black schools but the coaches dropped the ball. Don’t tell me it doesn’t happen. I’ve seen it.

Now what I’m going to say next is going to offend some people and honestly I hope it does. Some black coaches are arrogant and entitled when they have no reason to be. They feel they shouldn’t even have to recruit. They feel like many of you. That kids should automatically flock to them because they’re black. And the wild part is they are shocked and disgusted when they don’t. I get the same vibe from them that I get from people who think you need to support black businesses regardless of if their product and service is inferior simply because they’re black. You ever seen an ugly girl that’s stuck up? That’s how some basketball coaches at HBCUs act. You don’t have to like it. Just know that it’s true. For real man, some of these coaches need to pay for everything on dates, wash and fold your clothes, keep gas in the car, cook, clean, have a great personality, be funny, have money and treat you right. That’s how ugly women get and keep a man and that’s the only way these coaches are going to get better talent in their gyms. They have to put on the full court press. And if they don’t, they can’t complain about getting scraps. They’re already at a deficit. The fact that they feel like they can rest on their laurels and let players come to them is mind boggling.

A lot has been said here and I hope it was received with an open mind. But if it wasn’t, I’ll still sleep good tonight. But we have to stop placing the fate of HBCUs in the hands of teenagers. It’s human nature to go with the option that appeals to the senses. You expect these kids to look past multi-million dollar facilities, nationally broadcasted games and overwhelming fanfare? That’s a huge ask of anyone. Trying to shame them through the doors of HBCUs isn’t going to work either. This is a layered issue that requires several steps in order to be rectified. But what we can’t continue to do is expect these kids to use dial up when wifi is available.

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