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Black to the Future

Posted in New Posts, News on March 25th, 2012 by Jerald Wrightsil

Earl Monroe :Winston-Salem State 1967


The Aftermath:   Historically Black Colleges & the NCAA


On the eve of the NCAA Basketball’s Showcase, globally known as March Madness, brackets are established and the lines of competition are formally drawn.  One annual line item that is a consistently intriguing question for me is: “Why is it that the Historically Black Colleges always placed in a position that seems destined for failure?”  When is the last time that an HBC school won two (2) games in the NCAA tournament?  When is the last time that an HBC advanced into the round of 16?  Is that possibility even within the realm of being realistic in today’s sports climate?  The answer to that question is the obvious “NO”!

In an era of high stakes, complex economic, major tv rights NCAA sports, we must come to the realization that the NCAA has no economic value in even the existence of the once prominent list of Historically Black Colleges.  Sixty (60) years ago schools such as Grambling, Morgan State, Florida A&M, Howard, and Winston-Salem were the driving factor for every young African American aspiring athlete’s path to success.  Now, and its very well documented, that time has long passed these schools as the once off-limit universities finally realized that big time athletes equate into big time financial success for institutions across the nations.  Race is secondary to dollars!!!

The pain of watching these schools athletic programs dwindle is further maddening with the fact that we have to endure the painful process of being the bystanders that watch as those schools administrators and staff sit idle and do nothing to change the tide.  Desperate times should call for desperate measures.  With that being said, lets take a closer look at one viable (although radical) solution that should be considered by each HBC’s President and Board of Trustees.

Big time college sports is all about recruiting, its not about  X’s & O’s as much as its about Jim’s and Joe’s.  Recruiting cost money and most HBC’s don’t have large recruiting budgets.  At the elite level, at least in basketball, the “one and done” athlete is more concerned about playing in a situation that gives him some type of immediate access to the labor market known as the NBA.  Thus align yourself with a program that has a cast of great players, you get tv time and all the scouts get to see you repeatedly.  What elite level high school athlete will ever attend an HBC with just that one component on their mind?   Yeah, yeah, yeah, college sports is about the student-athlete and academic excellence.   That is true but its also true that major college sports is all about economics and HBC’s need to take a hard look at how to position their colleges to enhance their economic value within the supply chain to the NBA.

One way to enhance their position is as follows:

  1. Every HBC should unite and disassociate themselves with the NCAA thereby creating their own league that is mutually exclusive from the NCAA, its rules, and its institutions.  Your first response will be that such a radical decision is unnecessary and athletic suicide.  But when you really think about it you will understand that most HBC’s get minimum support (mostly handouts) from the NCAA to begin with.
  2. By creating their own league with its own “Championships” and its own governing body with rules that reflect an athletic scenario more in line with the European Club model for soccer and basketball, HBC’s will have the ability to actually develop players without the fear of NCAA sanctions, loss of scholarships, post season bans, etc.  Players can work with coaches based on the need for development, attend school based upon the need for an education, and be groomed for athletic success or athletic success based upon their preference.
  3. You eliminate the “minor sports’ #1 fear” of having no fans for games as you have a base of fans known as your existing student body.  Just because you aren’t affiliated with the NCAA doesn’t mean fans (in this case your students) won’t attend your games.
  4. You give kids a viable alternative to the existing status quo.  Now when a coach from Alcorn State goes to recruit a kid versus a coach from Mississippi State you actually have something to discuss athletically.  The coach from Alcorn can truthfully say that he has the capacity to train the kid as much as needed to develop him.  The kids college attendance financial package is connected to the athletic endeavor therefore the kid isn’t living in fear of getting a ride or a soda or a pair of sunglasses from the coach.
  5. The amateurism purist will say that you are creating a professional league but isn’t the NCAA’s the NFL and NBA’s minor leagues?  Didn’t Roger Goddell impose an NCAA penalty on Terrell Pryor, somewhat a defacto punishment for his minor league colleagues.
  6. With the creation of your own league the HBC’s have a better opportunity to control their economic development via sports and enrollment based upon the success of those programs.  Non-dependant on the NCAA.  Championship tournaments would have true value to the institutions and if you took a true modeling of the economic rewards you would find that HBCs would benefit more from such a program than they do in today’s process.

This concept would bring great anger from the current establishment as the power to be would fight tooth and nail to keep the “boys” down on the farm.   Then there would be another growing sector that would call this another form of segregation.  The reality is that HBCs need to take drastic measure to ensure that their athletic programs can have a chance to thrive again within an environment that leaves them currently under capitalized with a lack of resources & talent.  Self sufficiency is what it should be named.

Jerald Wrightsil, 46  is a former Division I  (University of Hawaii ’88) and overseas player (Japan, Turkey, Austria). Served as a Player Rep (Team Express 1997-2004). Currently Chief Executive Officer, Eco-Merge- Austin, TX.
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