College Sports And Big Business

By Gary Norris Gray
Updated: December 8, 2008

CALIFORNIA — The question is “has college sports become a business?” What has happened to the American education system? It appears that the American higher education system has taken a back seat to sports programs.

College sports programs have truly become America’s new Big Business.

In 2005, The NBA and NFL instituted an age limit of 20 years old. It seems to be working, but what is it costing to the young athlete? Amazing statistics has shown in a five-year study from the NCAA on student athletes graduation rates.

But the large gap between Black and White student-athletes remains.

Statistics reveal that graduation rates have increased since the age limits were implemented in Division I basketball and football programs.

The University of California at Berkeley shows an pronounced increase from 37% to 70 % of all of their male athletes receives their diplomas. For African Americans, this year will be 49 %.

African Americans have taken advantage of the new age requirements from the NBA and NFL staying in school. These statistics include only basketball, and football.

Universities and colleges are now claiming that student athlete transfer have declined or ceased. This has creating a higher graduation rate at the student-athlete’s university point of entrance.

The universities and colleges encouraged the NCAA administration to expand their graduation statistics to eight years instead of four years. Their goal was to get a better view of the student athlete-graduation rate.

These universities and colleges are able to recruit potential basketball players.

These schools get recognized for their terrific basketball programs on a national level. Also they receive millions of dollars for participating in the various national tournaments.

University and college coaches receive money from shoe companies, uniform companies, soft drink companies, and multi-million dollar contracts from certain universities.

The student-athlete receives only a four-year scholarship, a free dorm room and an education. The question is that enough? It’s an answer that the American public and the student athlete will decide.

Universities and coaches earn millions as a result of their (male) basketball and football programs. These intercollegiate programs are broadcast on NBC, ABC, CBS, ESPN, Comcast Sports, and FOX Sports Net with the blessing of the NCAA.

Schools and conferences are given money for these broadcasts. University and college Male football and basketball programs have become campus “cash cows” yet no-one wants to regulate these programs.

It is imperative that these programs be properly regulated or at least adjusted. Most schools depend on these two “cash cows” to financially support other sports programs.

This is so unfair for these young men and women to carry the burden of the any university sports program. There were 65 teams with 15 players each, for a grand total of 783 players in last year’s NCAA Basketball Tournament.

Only 460 of those players will earn an undergraduate degree.

Playing and winning the game has taken a priority over receiving an education for the student who happens to be athletes. The goal of any institution of higher learning should be education first.

The African American male Student-athletes seem to be steered toward social welfare or social studies. This is the norm and has to stop.

Then there is still the wooing of the NBA, and NFL, in spite of the new age limitations. Many schools have no right to complain when a student athlete leaves school early to play on a professional level.

The student is emulating what the schools have been doing for years.

The statistics are improving with each passing year, over 80% of college students graduate while only 67% of student-athletes graduate and only 49% of African American student-athletes graduate.

If it were not for African American female athletes, this statistic would be disastrous. The African American female graduates at a 70-75 % rate. In other words, the female athletic seems to study harder and seems to take this chance at a good education seriously.

Female athletes view education as a privilege and will take advantage of this privilege. Motherhood sometimes interrupts this process but most female athletes return to complete their education.

When an African American male student-athlete leaves the college, he seldom returns to campus to complete their education.

The good news is that small colleges seem to be getting it right. These colleges are stating that an education is more important than basketball, football, or baseball.

Notre Dame, St. Mary’s, (Calif.) Butler, Texas, Southern Ill. University, Valparaiso, Washington State and most of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities conferences are assuring that these young basketball stars are headed in the right direction.

They graduate over 70%-80% of their basketball and football players of which 65% are African American. Notre Dame has an outstanding record of 92% graduation rate of student-athletes the highest in the country but again the African American athletes lag behind with a 70% rate.

Notre Dame has a lower African American student population on campus.

It is interesting to note that small schools seldom beat the big schools in many NCAA tournaments. The playing field is not level — small schools cannot recruit the talented or gifted players therefore; they are at a big disadvantage.

Any young inner city (African American) kid, or any youngster with above average sports skills will focus on a top notch sports programs, such as North Carolina, USC, Duke, Arizona, University of Michigan, UCLA, UConn. or Kentucky; certainly not St. Mary’s (California), Butler, Drake, Rutgers, or Southern Illinois University.

The student athlete may not have the necessary grades in high school but somehow big schools grant him/her entrance. Small schools will not grant admission to these inner city (predominantly Black) student-athletes.

These young Black basketball and football wizards confess right from the start they are compelled to play the system. It is a flawed system that aids large schools and penalizes small schools.

These young African American athletes know and use the system but in the end who gets the advantage?

Young African Americans student athletes are still being taught that money is more important then an education. YOU HAVE TO LEARN TO EARN. As the late leader of the United Negro College Fund, Arthur Fletcher stated many times, “A MIND IS A TERRIBLE THING TO WASTE.”

Parents are going to have to step up to the plate and give their children instructive guidance. They will have to teach them that education is more important than sports.

Parents will have to tell their young sport stars that it is wonderful that you can play basketball or football but you have to learn to multiply, divide, and add. You have to read the three books President-Elect Obama wrote to finish your life’s goals.

Parents should instruct or inform their young adults that brainpower is much more rewarding than green power. The knowledge you gain at any university can never be taken away.

Teachers and counselors should not give treatment to the gifted high school sports stars because it starts them on the road to being selfish and self centered. The sports star thinks that he/she can do almost anything he/she wishes.

The current system is creating prima donnas. They begin to think that they are God’s gift to the world. Some student-athletes take this to the extreme and get out of control for the rest of their lives. An example of this happened last week in New York City with wide receiver Plaxico Burress and his nightclub shooting incident.

Colleges and universities are beginning to demand that these sports phenoms take real college courses. Require a student athlete to make a four-year commitment and complete all courses to graduation. A commitment that the coach, school, nor student athletes are not required to respect and honor.

Each college and university should be held accountable for their graduation rates. The NCAA should penalize those schools that do not have acceptable graduation of student-athletes.

What about a year ban from the NCAA tournament? Universities may then take a real interest in perspective athletes in their sports programs.

The last two suggestions would be difficult to enforce because the sports genie has already left the bottle. This means that high school and college undergrads have already be drafted by the pros.

Colleges and universities have curtailed this path the past four years because school administrators are beginning to see how it leads to quick unemployment for those who truly lack the professional skills to continue playing in their sport.

It leads to former student-athlete losing their amateur status, and they are not ready for the real world.

This is a message to all Division-1 educational facilities keep these young adults, these super athletes, in the college and university classroom. These young people are already growing up too fast, so let them grow up knowing something besides sports.


Author’s note: The statistics for graduation rates of student athletes are an average of the four different sites of information. Each site had drastic and contrasting reporting numbers with different years and I could not decide which was correct so I used all of them and came up with the average of all of the sites.