In the world we live today, major sports programs in college are Alabama, Oklahoma, Clemson for football and North Carolina, Duke, Syracuse for major basketball, but what about the other programs in major college athletics.
For quiet some time now, we have come accustom to these teams being labeled the cream of the crop, getting sponsorship deals and major t.v. time. It’s almost guaranteed these programs will get the best athletes coming out of high school year in and year out. But why? Most of the players on these teams are, let’s just say it, black. For many years, Black athletes could not play for any of these programs let alone go to the school. So what changed.
Back in the 60s, southern teams began to integrate their athletic programs mainly because schools in the north and in the west had started to recruit black athletes. These athletes were faster and more athletic to say the least. Two of the biggest schools at the time Auburn and Alabama, had a decision to make. Before 1968, neither team had an black player. After USC crushed Alabama 42-21, coach Bear Bryant knew he had to change or Alabama as we know it today would have probably never existed.
Before desegregation of collegiate sports, most Black players went to HBCUs. Many of the greatest athletes ever in sports attended an HBCU. Jerry Rice, the greatest wide receiver of all-time, attended Mississippi Valley State. Even the great Shannon Sharpe attended HBCU Savannah State.
The Brown vs The Board of education had a severe impact on HBCUs academically and athletically. This decision at the time did not seem as if it would change HBCUs too much, but it did. Because of the Brown decision, more black students began to attend predominantly white institutions or PWI’s.
Many HBCUs felt this change in student population on both the field and in the classrooms. The best and brightest athletes who were black no longer considered HBCUs because they believe their road to success was at an PWI.
Now in 2018, the Brown vs Board decision is still being felt 64 years later. Most recently, North Carolina A&T, arguably the best HBCU football program in the country suffered their first loss after winning 15 straight games. NC A&T had beaten a few FBS programs along their journey of 15 consecutive wins. Most would applaud the streak, but some wonder if it will have a bigger affect on the perception of HBCU programs.
Many reporters and athletic programs view HBCU athletics as second their to the Alabama’s and the national powers. One top high school recruit, who is rated in the top-10 by most, visited FAMU. FAMU is arguably one of the top-3 HBCU schools in the country. Their band is second to none. The highly recruited player conceded the MEAC team because of how the feel of the community at the school was. Like most players, the only thing that drags them away from playing at a HBCU is the their goal of playing in the pros. Whether it’s football or basketball, many players choose PWI’s because the knowledge they will have a better chance at going pro.
My question to all who reads this piece is, What can we do to bring HBCU programs and schools back to the top?
In a beautiful written piece by theUndefeated’s Donavan Dooley, “Transferring to Power 5 schools is a path to the pros for HBCU basketball players” gives insight to what makes a HBCU player leave his HBCU for a PWI. The answer is exposure. HBCUs do not get the exposure they deserve. Most HBCU games are not televised to the masses like their PWI counter parts. One most of the players in the article liked the HBCU atmosphere but because of the lack of exposure, many top players leave.