Off Court Schools Lacking Color Most Players Are Black, But Few Male Students Are

By Mark Alesia
Updated: March 23, 2005

Off Court, Schools Lacking Color

Most Players Are Black, But Few Male Students Are

INDIANAPOLISIt happens all the time to Eddie Comeaux, a 31-year-old doctoral candidate at UCLA who’s black: People ask him if he’s on the basketball team.

When Comeaux, a former minor-league baseball player, brought that up while guest-lecturing in a sociology class, a black student said the same thing happens to him.

“And I’m 5-(foot)-8,” Comeaux recalled the student saying.

To people such as Comeaux, who has studied how professors perceive college athletes, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament — which begins last Thrusday at four sites, including Indianapolis — illustrates a disparity on campuses around the country. While blacks have accounted for about 60 percent of the players in the tournament, they constituted just 5 percent of all male students at the same schools, according to an Indianapolis Star analysis of enrollment and ethnicity statistics from 1991 to 2003, the latest year available.

The percentage of blacks on campuses would be even less if basketball and football players were excluded. Blacks account for 13.6 percent of the U.S. population of males between ages 18 and 24, according to census figures.

Some academics say the disparity reflects a greater interest in stocking teams with blacks than in recruiting black nonathletes.

Others explain the problem by saying it’s easier to recruit for the revenue-producing sports of football and basketball than for traditional students. While full scholarships are available for athletes, schools are limited legally by what they can do to use race as a factor in admissions.

“It tells me we can go far and wide to find athletes who play a specific position, but we can’t go across the street,” said Earl Smith, chairman of the sociology department at Wake Forest, where 45 percent of the black male students were athletes in 2002-03, the latest statistics available. “In east (Winston-Salem, N.C.), there are more black guys than in Kenya. The message is that you can’t go to school here unless you play ball.”

Some schools in the tournament reported extremely low numbers. Gonzaga had a total of 11 black male students who weren’t basketball players, Vermont reported 17 and Montana 26.

Large schools from major conferences that are in the tournament also show disparities. Among male students who didn’t play basketball, fewer than 3 percent were black at seven schools: UCLA, Kansas, Arizona, Texas, Wisconsin, Iowa and Washington.

“We’re doing a great job recruiting athletically talented African-Americans,” said C. Keith Harrison, director of Arizona State’s Paul Robeson Center for Academic and Athletic Prowess, which researches issues affecting blacks as athletes and students. “If the graduation rate was 90 percent, I’d say, ‘Great.’ But it’s not.”

Black basketball players in Division I graduate at a rate of 38 percent, according to the latest NCAA report.

“If you can gas up a private jet to (recruit) a young man in Washington, D.C., why can’t the administration and faculty find African-American students in their own state?” said Leonard Moore, a Louisiana State professor who teaches a course titled History of the African-American Athlete.

Chancellor’s perspective

Kansas Chancellor Robert Hemenway, chairman of the NCAA Division I board of directors, acknowledged concerns similar to Moore’s.

“To me, that’s a very legitimate question,” Hemenway said. “It’s one that universities ought to think about. It speaks to how effective the recruitment process is for black students generally.”

One out of every four black male students (60 of 227) at Kansas was an athlete in 2002-03. Hemenway said that this semester, his school has its highest enrollment ever of minority students, “but it’s nowhere near where I’d like it to be.”

Hemenway said he would like to have more money for scholarships for all students, but he also noted an important decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 on affirmative action at the University of Michigan.

“The federal environment has changed so much on race-based scholarships,” Hemenway said. “You can take race into consideration in giving out a scholarship, but the Supreme Court has said you can’t give a scholarship just on race.”

In Indiana, Notre Dame is a prime example of disparity. The school has a strong record for graduating athletes, but among male students, much of its diversity comes from students who also happen to fill the football stadium and basketball arena. In 2002-03, one out of every three black male students (44 of 119) was a football or basketball player.

At larger schools, the disparity shows in the percentage of blacks among all male students. In the Big Ten Conference, Indiana, Purdue, Penn State, Wisconsin and Iowa had fewer than 3 percent of blacks among male students, excluding football and basketball players.

Asked about that, IU athletic director Rick Greenspan noted the diversity of his coaches in the revenue sports. Basketball coach Mike Davis is black, as are two of his three assistants. New football coach Terry Hoeppner hired four blacks to be among his nine assistant coaches.

At IU, excluding basketball players, 3.2 percent of male students (427) were black in 2002-03. Excluding football players, as well, it was 2.9 percent (387). There were 13,443 total male students.

IU senior associate athletic director Chris Reynolds, who is black and a former basketball player at the school, said, “You can always enhance and improve, but when recruits come to our campus, I don’t find (diversity) to be an issue any more than it would be at any other campus.”

Hemenway said players have the power to make it an issue by speaking out.

“If a basketball team is 60 (percent) to 70 percent African-American — particularly some star players — it’s a chance to articulate values and influence the student body,” he said. “It gives black athletes a chance to be a spokesperson for some things they believe in. A program that’s smart will listen to what the black athlete is saying.”

Lower expectations

Unlike the pros, however, few college players are outspoken on any issue. Illinois guard Luther Head, whose team plays Fairleigh Dickinson today at the RCA Dome, said he didn’t consider diversity in his college decision.

“My biggest issue was my mother and father being able to come to watch the games,” said Head, who’s from Chicago. “I didn’t think about the minority thing. It would be great to see more minorities at the university. But my decision was all about my family.”

Minnesota’s leading scorer, Vincent Grier, whose team played last Friday in the tournament, said: “When I looked at schools, I didn’t look at enrollment or color or ethnic background or anything. It was basically about what kind of communications program they had and what I could do to impact their (basketball) program.”

Comeaux, the UCLA doctoral student, studies athletes of all races. The stereotype of dumb jocks cuts across racial lines, he said, but it’s exacerbated by race and is manifested in the classroom by lower expectations for blacks.

“They’re considered superior athletically and inferior intellectually,” Comeaux said.

Said Moore, the Louisiana State professor: “It’s easy for athletes to see themselves as only athletes if they don’t see African-Americans studying chemistry and political science — other students who look like them.”

Harrison said the irony is that sports could be used by colleges to recruit more black nonathletes. He wants to see more promotion of great athletes who are great students to promote a sense that being smart is cool.

“We’re not trying hard enough to educate African-Americans who aren’t athletes,” he said.



Black men on campus and on basketball teams

Since 1991, blacks have accounted for about 60 percent of all players in the NCAA Tournament.

Listed below are the eight schools competed in first-round NCAA Tournament games at the RCA Dome.

At those schools, the average percentage of blacks among male students who don’t play basketball is 4.64 percent.

Percentage of blacks among

Black male

All male students

male students who

students

students

don’t play basketball

Fairleigh Dickinson

168

777

20.92%

Cincinnati

744

8,016

9.28%

Illinois

787

14,542

5.36%

Eastern Kentucky

191

3,678

5.02%

Kentucky

317

7,630

4.04%

Texas

520

17,348

2.95%

Iowa

198

8,117

2.38%

Nevada

99

4,001

2.28%

TOTAL

3,024

64,109

4.64%

Notes: Statistics are from the 2002-03 academic year, the latest numbers available. Cincinnati did not provide ethnicity statistics for its athletes. The figures for all male students were used.

Black male students at Indiana schools . . .

. . . those who play basketball and those who don’t

Since 1991, blacks have accounted for about 60 percent of all players in the NCAA Tournament.

Among these 10 listed Indiana schools, the average percentage of blacks among male students who don’t play basketball is 4.68 percent.

Percentage of blacks among

Black male

All male students

male students who

students

students

don’t play basketball

Indiana State

509

4,164

12.22%

IUPUI

413

5,181

7.97%

Ball State

567

7,148

7.93%

IPFW

97

2,664

3.64%

Butler

42

1,276

3.29%

Indiana University

435

13,443

3.24%

Purdue

476

17,495

2.72%

Notre Dame

117

4,376

2.67%

Valparaiso

35

1,310

2.67%

Evansville

16

824

1.94%

TOTAL

2,707

57,881

4.68%

Notes: Statistics are from the 2002-03 academic year.

Sources: National Center for Education Statistics and the 2004 NCAA Graduation Rates Report for Division I, which includes ethnicity statistics for athletes in the2002-03 academic year.

Among all of the schools whose teams have gone to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament from 1991 through 2003, these are the average percentages of blacks among the male students who don’t play basketball and those who do play, by year:

Black

All

Percentage of blacks

Percentage of blacks

Year

male

male

among male nonbasketball

among men’s

analyzed

students

students

players in the student body

basketball players

1991

20,470

415,414

4.81%

64.7%

1994

20,029

381,797

5.13%

65.6%

1997

19,121

350,786

5.35%

56.6%

2000

21,235

374,418

5.57%

57.2%

2003

22,860

425,030

5.29%

57.0%

2005 *

23,549

414,033

5.59%

59.0%

TOTAL

127,264

2,361,478

5.28%

60.1%

* For this year’s tournament, the latest available statistics were from the 2002-03 school year.

Notes:

1) An NCAA men’s basketball team has a maximum of 13 scholarship players on the squad.

2) Historically black schools were not included. Some schools filed incomplete data.

Sources: National Center for Education Statistics and the 2004 NCAA Graduation Rates Report for Division I, which includes ethnicity statistics for athletes in the 2002-03 academic year.

Among the 65 schools whose teams are playing in this year’s NCAA tournament, these are the percentages of blacks among the male students who don’t play basketball:

Vermont

0.55%

Boston College

5.07%

Montana

0.61%

Illinois

5.36%

Gonzaga

0.69%

St. Mary’s

5.56%

Utah

0.75%

Oklahoma

5.73%

Utah State

0.88%

Oakland

5.74%

Pacific

1.95%

Wisconsin-Milwaukee

5.89%

Creighton

2.04%

Georgia Tech

5.95%

Nevada

2.28%

Central Florida

6.77%

Wisconsin

2.28%

Florida

6.82%

Villanova

2.38%

Wake Forest

6.89%

Iowa

2.38%

Duke

7.09%

Kansas

2.51%

Michigan State

7.11%

Washington

2.53%

LSU

7.28%

Iowa State

2.61%

Pittsburgh

7.50%

Northern Iowa

2.80%

North Carolina

7.99%

Arizona

2.81%

North Carolina State

8.33%

UCLA

2.84%

Stanford

8.75%

Texas

2.95%

Cincinnati

9.28%

New Mexico

3.02%

Southern Illinois

10.70%

Oklahoma State

3.04%

Louisville

10.82%

UTEP

3.07%

Charlotte

11.01%

Ohio

3.26%

Alabama

11.11%

Texas Tech

3.32%

Southeastern Louisiana

11.46%

Bucknell

3.45%

Fairleigh Dickinson

20.92%

George Washington

3.93%

Mississippi State

13.71%

Minnesota

4.00%

Louisiana Lafayette

14.72%

Kentucky

4.04%

Chattanooga

17.31%

Pennsylvania

4.12%

Old Dominion

17.94%

Connecticut

4.17%

Alabama-Birmingham

22.76%

Niagara

4.23%

Winthrop

22.77%

West Virginia

4.84%

Delaware State

82.02%

Syracuse

4.99%

Alabama A&M

92.40%

Eastern Kentucky

5.02%

Notes: Statistics are from the 2002-03 academic year, the latest numbers available. Cincinnati did not provide ethnicity statistics for its athletes.

Sources: National Center for Education Statistics and the 2004 NCAA Graduation Rates Report for Division I, which includes ethnicity statistics for athletes in the2002-03 academic year.