Black Athletes Generate Billions For the NCAA But Don’t Reap the Benefits
BY: Everett L. Glenn
Under its television deal, each Big-10 university will receive $24.6 million annually. The Pac-12′s new television deal will pay each member $22 million a year. Each member of the Big 12 will get $20 million and ACC universities will receive $17 million when each academic year kicks off.
To put those figures in perspective, the annual payout for a single institution in those conferences is larger than the combined gross revenue ($16 million) of four Black conferences – the CIAA, MEAC, SIAC and SWAC.
The salary of a football and a basketball coach, Alabama’s Nick Saban ($4.8 million) and Kentucky’s John Calipari ($3.7 million base/$31.65 million deal), is greater than the combined salaries of the 96 head coaches of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Division 1AA and Division II basketball and football teams, and nearly 50% of their combined $16 million revenue. And that’s the income of just two coaches.
Although almost all of the head coaches at major universities are White, most of the money is generated by Black athletes.
“Ninety percent of the NCAA revenue is produced by 1% of the athletes. Go to the skill positions – the stars. 90% are Black,” says Sonny Vaccaro, who since signing his pioneering shoe contract with Michael Jordan in 1984, also profited off the labor of the Black athlete by building sponsorship empires successively at Nike, Adidas and Reebok.
Two California universities are a case in point.
Black students represent less than 5% of the UCLA and University of Southern California student bodies. Nearly 43% of the USC football roster and 70% of its starters are Black. Black athletes make up nearly 90% of the men’s basketball team. At UCLA, 51% of the football roster and 72% of starters are Black. In basketball, Black athletes make up 80% of the UCLA team.
According to NCAA President Mark Emmert, basketball and football revenue at those schools funds $2 billion in scholarships annually, practically making Black athletes the single largest generator of scholarship dollars besides the federal government. That would include 600 mostly White athletes and salaries for 94 coaches at USC and 615 mostly White athletes and 89 coaches’ salaries at UCLA.
While Black athletes dominate the UCLA and USC rosters, their academic success lags behind White athletes, according to the annual NCAA Graduation Success Rate Report. During the 2011-12 school year, USC graduated 43 percent of its Black football players, compared to 67 percent of White players, according to University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Study of Equity in Education.
USC’s basketball team fared even worse, with a 43% graduation success rate (the percentage of scholarship athletes who graduate within six years of initial enrollment), the worst in the PAC-12. As bad as this is, it represents an improvement over the 38% a year earlier. UCLA graduated 46% of its Black football players, compared to 71% of their White teammates.
Travel east to Ohio State – or anywhere else – and the pattern is the same.
Black athletes represent 52.9% of OSU’s basketball and football rosters and dominate among its star players, fueling a nearly $130 million athletic department budget on a campus where Black males represent only 2.7% of the student body.
And like UCLA and USC, the OSU Black athletes trail their White teammates in graduation success. Ohio State football tied for fifth in the Big-10, according to the most recent graduation data. The men’s basketball team, with a graduation rate of 46%, ranked last in the Big-10.
The disparity between the graduation rate for OSU’s Black football players, at 38%, and all student-athletes, at 71% , representing the highest disparity in the Big-10. The disparity between the graduation rate of Black athletes and the rest of the OSU student body is the second-worst in the Big-10, a 36% difference. The 13 point disparity in graduation rates between Ohio State’s Black basketball and football players and all Black students is also the largest among Big-10 schools.
Blacks were noticeably absent from the construction team on USC’s new $140 million Galen Center, which serves as the home court for USC’s basketball team. Black contractors and construction professionals were also noticeably absent when it came to construction of the $70 million John McKay Center, the 110,000-square-foot athletic and academic facility that houses meeting rooms, coaches’ offices and a locker room for the football program, as well as the Stevens Academic Center.
UCLA was on a construction spending spree across town that included a $177 million renovation to the Rose Bowl and a $185 million in renovation to Pauley Pavilion. Not a single Black contractor or professional was involved. Two Hispanic firms received contracts worth approximately 6% of the Pauley Pavilion project, according to UCLA officials. USC officials refused to respond to inquiries about participation by Black contractors and professionals on the Galen and John McKay Centers.
While White colleges and industry stakeholders (networks, sponsors, apparel companies, etc) are reaping huge financial rewards off Black athletic talent, the people who make it all possible are not sharing in the benefits. Blacks are undoubtedly the stars on the football field and basketball courts. But economically, African Americans remain confined to the sideline.
Everett L. Glenn of the National Sports Authority can be reached at 562.619.8460 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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