Black Male Student-Athletes and Racial Inequities in NCAA Division I College Sports: 2016 Edition

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By Shaun R. Harper, former Executive Director, Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education

In December 2012, the University of Pennsylvania Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education released our inaugural report on Black male student-athletes and racial inequities in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I college sports. The study received extensive coverage on ESPN as well as in The Washington PostSports Illustrated,USA Today, and over 400 other media outlets. This 2016 edition includes updated statistics from 65 universities, and reflects the conference realignment that has occurred over the past four years. 

The purpose of this report is to make transparent racial inequities in the Power 5 conferences: Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big Ten Conference, Big 12 Conference, Pac 12 Conference, and the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Data from the NCAA and other sources are presented for the 65 institutional members of these five conferences. Specifically, the author offers an analysis of Black men’s representation on football and basketball teams versus their representation in the undergraduate student body on each campus. He also compares Black male student-athletes’ six-year graduation rates (across four cohorts) to rates for student-athletes overall, Black undergraduate men overall, and undergraduate students overall at each university. 

The report begins with a summary of previously published studies on Black male student-athletes and details about the research methods. The author then presents lists of winners and losers (universities with exceptionally high and low statistical indicators of equity for Black male student-athletes). Statistics are also furnished for each individual university in the Power 5 conferences. The report concludes with recommendations for the NCAA and Power 5 conference commissioners, university leaders, coaches and athletics directors, journalists, and Black male student-athletes and their families.