The final day of the Black Student-Athlete Summit at the AT&T Conference Center was highlighted by several engaging and thought-provoking sessions and messages delivered by deeply committed athletes, educators and administrators, including Dr. Leonard Moore, vice president for diversity and community engagement and history professor. Moore reminded his peers not to forget where they came from in their support of student-athletes. Other speakers throughout the day discussed a variety of topics, including UT Austin deputy to the vice president for diversity and community engagement Dr. Darren Kelly and UT AAMRI fellow Robert Bennett III presenting research citing a significant rise in the number of black suburban males playing major-college football over the last decade. Also, Dr. James Cooper of St. Phillip’s College addressed the connection between violent male behavior and contact sports, and UT Austin graduate student Javier Wallace uncovered the abuse of the F1 student visa in high school basketball.
- Leonard Moore, University of Texas vice president for diversity and community engagement and George Littlefield Professor of American History, challenged university and college administrators and professors in the audience Friday on the final day of the fifth annual Black Student-Athlete Summit at the AT&T Conference Center, which set attendance records this year. “I challenge coaches, I challenge the system,” Moore said. “When you are in the position of saying something, don’t cave for fear of losing a promotion. We need men and women of integrity.”
- The major-college sports landscape is shifting, as an increasing number of black male athletes attending suburban and private high schools are moving to the forefront of college football. Research provided by Darren Kelly, deputy to the vice president for diversity and community engagement at UT, and Dennison University visiting assistant professor and UT AAMRI fellow Robert Bennett III, revealed that the list of top football players entering college between 2006-2014 featured more black players attending suburban and private high schools and fewer blacks attending Title 1 high schools where at least 40 percent of the students come from low-income families.
In 2006, the ESPN 150 showcasing the top 150 football players entering college that year featured 69.1 percent of the black players on the list representing Title 1 schools. The remaining 30.9 percent of the black players on the list represented non-Title 1 schools.
Fast forward to 2014, where the top 150 players on the ESPN 300 list entering college that year represented a significant about-face. Eight years later, only 48.4 percent of the top 150 football players entering college that year attended Title 1 schools, compared to a majority 51.6 percent of black players on the top 150 list who attended non-Title 1 schools.
Kelly said ESPN’s No. 1 overall football player in each of the last nine years was a black player from a non-Title 1 school.
“The issue is not just in our states and locally, but we see a national trend,” Kelly said.
A big reason for the shift is rising costs and specialization of youth sports (including AAU and club baseball). “Who has the means and the ability to pay for opportunities like this?” Kelly said. “There’s a big investment wrapped up in youth sports to be able to pay for that. Parents are spending thousands of dollars to put their kids into travel and competitive youth sports.”
Fewer available race-based scholarships is another factor limiting the opportunity to play major college football for black students.
“When it comes to getting into college and higher education, we’re seeing less and less availability of race-specific academic scholarships,” Kelly said. “I can’t tell you the number of times we get emails and phone calls here at UT from parents of talented black students who said my son or daughter has a 3.9 GPA, top of the class, SAT scores, they get into UT, but they didn’t get a scholarship. With less money out there, people are trying to find other avenues to pay for college.”
Those avenues include black families choosing to move to the suburbs for better educational opportunities. Some of that migration is the result of gentrification.
“It’s not only people who are pulled out, it’s also people who are choosing to go out,” Kelly said.
- James Cooper of St. Phillip’s College in San Antonio spoke passionately about violent male behavior being perpetuated through contact sports. “Football players identify with aggressive behavior,” said Cooper, a former college football player who is the violence prevention coordinator at St. Phillip’s. “The training of a Division I athlete is very similar to armed forces training. Football players are conditioned to use violence as a means to solve problems.”
- Javier Wallace, a PhD student at UT Austin, presented research about the use and abuse of the F1 student visa in high school basketball in the U.S.
Citing several specific examples, Wallace said the F1 student visa – a non-immigrant visa for those wishing to study in the states – has been used to illegally recruit talented international basketball players under the guise of education.
In one case, Wallace said a teenager from Panama was lured to the U.S. with the promise that he would live in a two-bedroom home. It turned out the young man was forced to live in a one-bedroom home with eight people kids in one bed.
“If a 6-10 kid from Nigeria shows up in your (school) and you know you community doesn’t produce that,’ something’s wrong,” Wallace said. “If they show up out of nowhere, it’s not normal. It’s our job to ask a question.”
In 2018, Wallace said 46,656 people from around the world entered the U.S. using the F1 student visa.
- Comparing the notion of amateurism in college sports to indentured servitude, Historical Basketball League CEO Ricky Volante called out the NCAA for benefitting financially from black student-athletes while at the same time restricting their earning power while in school.
“In 1929, the Carnegie Commission investigated which schools were paying players,” said Volante, whose new league, scheduled to debut in 2020, will be the first college basketball league to pay its players. “Eighty-one of the 112 schools were paying players.”