Black Male Student-Athletes and Racial Inequities in NCAA Division I College Sports

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By Shaun R. Harper, Collin D. Williams Jr., and Horatio W. Blackman

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) noted in a recent television commercial that Black male student-athletes are ten percent more likely to graduate than are their same-race male peers who are not members of intercollegiate sports teams. This is not true across the six major NCAA Division I conferences whose member institutions routinely win football and basketball championships, play in multimillion-dollar bowl games and the annual basketball championship tournament, and produce the largest share of Heisman trophy winners.

The purpose of this report is to make transparent racial inequities in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big East Conference, Big Ten Conference, Big 12 Conference, Pac 12 Conference, and the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Data from the NCAA and the U.S. Department of Education are presented for the 76 institutional members of these six athletic conferences. Specifically, the authors offer a four-year analysis of Black men’s representation on football and basketball teams versus their representation in the undergraduate student body on each campus. They also compare Black male student-athletes’ six-year graduation rates (across four cohorts) to student-athletes overall, undergraduate students overall, and Black undergraduate men overall at each institution.

The report begins with a summary of previously published studies on Black male student-athletes and details about the research methods. The authors then present lists of winners and losers (colleges and universities with exceptionally high and low statistical indicators of equity for Black male student-athletes). Statistics are also furnished for each individual college/university in the six athletic conferences. The report concludes with recommendations for the NCAA and commissioners of the six major sports conferences, college and university leaders, coaches and athletics directors, journalists, and Black male student-athletes and their families.