What if more Black athletes attended HBCUs?

What if more Black athletes attended  HBCUs?
July 01
14:34 2020

Black athletes have been making billions of dollars for Predominately White Institutions (PWI) for over half a century. Before that, Black athletes had to shine at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) to make it to the professional ranks, because most were not allowed to play at PWI’s. Now, hopefully, we may see a resurgence of the top Black athletes returning to HBCUs to play sports out of choice, instead of their only option.

Over the past couple of years, several high profile Black high school players across the sports landscape, either chose to attend an HBCU or seriously considered it. For instance, Mikey Williams, one of the top 15-year-old players in the country, tweeted that he might go to an HBCU. That would be a great catalyst to hopefully have more do the same in the near future.

That news sparked several thoughts in my head. What if more of the top Black high school players in football and basketball, considering those are the highest revenue generating sports, attended HBCUs? What would the effects be for both HBCUs and PWIs? Would those young Black men who chose to attend an HBCU still have the same attention paid to them as those who attend PWIs?

I am not advocating for all the top players to totally reject PWIs and only attend HBCUs, because that may not be the best environment for all. I would, however, love to see 25% to 50% of those athletes choose an HBCU. The main reason for that is it would not diminish the product from the Power 5 conferences that are all PWIs, but it would dramatically change the landscape of HBCU football and basketball.

I attended two HBCUs in my life, St. Augustine’s University and The North Carolina A&T State University. Both of those institutions of higher learning were great environments for me. St. Aug competes on the D II level and A&T competes on the DI level. St. Aug has one of the best track and field programs in the nation, regardless of division, and A&T has routinely defeated PWIs on the football field and has won the HBCU National Championship four times. Imagine how much better those programs would be if more of our top Black athletes decided to go to school there and other HBCUs.

One of the major differences I have seen between HBCUs and PWIs, when it comes to athletics, is facilities. When I was in college and had the opportunity to travel to compete at events at PWIs, it was a stark contrast to what we had at our school. Not to say our facilities were not good, but compared to places such as Virginia Tech, Ohio State, Duke, UNC Chapel Hill, NC State or University of Virginia, my schools were far behind those institutions.

If more of our Black players chose HBCUs, more money for these institutions would follow. That would allow the schools to upgrade the weight room, upgrade dining halls, improve athlete housing and upgrade dilapidated stadiums and gymnasiums. That would force some of these major networks to take a deeper look at showcasing the talent these schools have to offer.

With the number of transfers rising year after year, I think if Black high school athletes chose HBCUs, that number would fall. The Power 5 conferences would still have their surplus of athletes to recruit and that would allow HBCUs to benefit financially from having those high-profile athletes on campus. It would be nice to see a SWAC Network or a MEAC Network like they have with the BIG 10, SEC and ACC. 

Another benefit from having these athletes on campus is that it would prevent the exodus of HBCUs from Black conferences. Earlier this year, A&T announced they will be leaving the MEAC to join the Big South next year. It is a sign of the times with several thriving HBCUs. They must make the choice to risk staying in a conference that may lose several members due to financial issues or move to a more stable conference. With more revenue coming in from sports, this would not be a problem.

One of the major recruiting problems HBCUs have is they can’t promise their athletes that they will be shown on TV as often as PWIs. It is important for many athletes to play at big PWIs to garner as much attention as possible.  What many of these athletes fail to realize is if they chose to attend an HBCU, the scouts would follow.  

My hope is that there is a shift toward more Black athletes attending HBCUs, mostly because several of these institutions are in danger of closing due to funding. The influx of dollars from having more top Black athletes attend these schools would save these schools. I know many people think that HBCUs are no longer needed, but I beg to differ. These institutions have a storied history that needs to be preserved. Along with having great history in sports, many of these schools boast some of the best educational programs in the nation in areas like engineering, nursing and law. 

So, yes HBCUs are still needed and my hope is that they are still around generations from now.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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