Why I Should Have Attended An HBCU
The Truth About A “Student-Athletes” Experience
By Jimmy King
I recently read an article about Maurice Robinson, a highly recruited prospect out of Mobile, Alabama who turned down several Power 5 offers including Alabama, LSU, and Florida. He opted instead to attend Grambling State University an HBCU. I wondered why his choice was an exception to the rule rather than the rule especially when several notable stars have come out of an HBCU. Most recently there are stories like R.J. Cole another highly touted basketball recruit who chose to attend Howard University and subsequently led all Division 1 freshman in scoring averaging, almost 25 points a game. Then there is Caylin Newton, the younger brother of Carolina Panthers star Cam Newton, who also enrolled at an HBCU. As a freshman, he led Howard to the biggest upset in college football history when Howard a 45 point underdog defeated UNLV.
Why didn’t it ever occur to me coming out of high school to go to an HBCU? Was the grass greener in Michigan than in Morehouse, Fort Valley State, or Tuskegee or was I conditioned to believe so? Many would argue the facilities and opportunities of a major conference school are incomparable to an HBCU, but I can tell you from personal experience the dorms I lived in at the University of Michigan are not the ones you see now. …Michigan’s beautiful facilities of today are a direct consequence of the many highly touted high school recruits that decided to play there.
Now let’s talk about the opportunities Power 5 schools provide and for who.
Like Jay-Z stated, men lie, women lie, numbers don’t.
So let’s crunch some numbers.
Less than 1% of the student-athletes go pro. So when they say you get better exposure at a top D1 Power 5 school, that translates to having a better chance at a 1% opportunity.
There are no stats on the percentage of black men who are starters but black men make up about 60% of Division 1 basketball players and over 50% of Division 1 football players.
Approximately 90% of D1 head football coaches and about 85% of head basketball coaches are white men. And while the Power 5 conference athletic directors earn on average 700k per year, these positions are also held by 90% of white men.
On average, the Power 5 football head coaches earn 3.7 million per year.
The Power 5 head coaches of the men’s basketball teams earn an average of 2.7 million per year.
The Power 5 conference commissioners earn on average 2.5 million per year, and none are black.
“Zip, Zero, stingy with dinero.”
This is in stark contrast to HBCUs.
All of HBCU presidents are black, the super majority of coaches, athletic directors, back and front office are black employees.
Although black athletes were the majority of revenue sports participants at Michigan, we were the minority of the student body. As a result, many of us had to bear the additional burden of observing a striking lack of diversity on campus. Racial disparity between the percentage of black athletes on the football and basketball team relative to the general student body left us to conclude that perhaps the only value which schools like Michigan may have recognized in young men who looked like me was confined to our ability to generate revenue.
The Fab Five was not created by Michigan, although we did make the University of Michigan a lot of money. The Fab Five was a bond between brothers that could have been created anywhere. This brotherhood still exists to this day and grew during a time when we evolved from boys to men while playing the sport we loved. As men, we realized we were being exploited under the guise of being called a student-athlete when as a student-athlete we couldn’t even pick our own academic major but could pick sneakers & apparel to wear that generated millions of dollars. As Malcolm X changed his named after his revelation, we coined the name 5X (5 Times) after ours. We woke up to what was really going on, so in our youthful exuberance, we shaved our heads and wore black socks and baggy shorts in protest. All of which became a part of popular culture but didn’t advance our own culture. We still didn’t get a piece of the pie or even a seat at the table. I wondered if we would have been called simply the “trendsetters” on a black campus instead of “thugs” on Michigan’s majority white campus?
I’ve often thought my athletic, and personal development would have been much better served had I attended an HBCU. The entire Fab Five – all us – seriously discussed in our dormitory one evening about transferring to an HBCU. Looking back now over 25 years removed, we not only could have made history by leading an HBCU to the Final Four (which I’m convinced we could have accomplished), but we could have also made an emphatic statement endorsing the importance of black colleges and proving that Michigan, Duke or Kentucky did not have a monopoly on providing professional opportunities on or off the court. For example, an HBCU (North Carolina A&T) not only produced last year’s NFL’s (NFC) rookie of the year Tarik Cohen but these schools also take great pride in graduating the highest percentage of black doctors, lawyers, engineers, and judges.
Whether this small ripple becomes a big wave of black players choosing to play for an HBCU, only time will tell. One of my mottos, when I wake up, is to try to do something for somebody else every day, and judging from the above numbers if I had chosen to go along, with my brothers to an HBCU, on a larger scale I would have done something to help the others that came after me. Hindsight is 20/20.
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