The silhouette view of a basketball player holding basket ball on black background

With the Final Four underway, and the recent college admissions scandal continuing to unfurl, all eyes are on higher education. 

Coming into view behind the excitement of the scoreboards and drama of the bribery scandal is a troubling dynamic playing out in real time: Big-time college sports are deepening the inequities faced by Black male students seeking higher education. 

new issue brief from the Center for American Progress (CAP), a Washington D.C.-based a nonpartisan research and educational institute, paints a vivid portrait of how college athletics distort the reality of Black male experiences on college campuses and raises significant concerns about racial equity in college admissions and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

The report, by Sara Garcia and Connor Maxwell, “The Madness Doesn’t End in March: The Surprising Ways College Sports Shortchange Black Men,” analyzes the total number of student athletes per athletic conference and the number of student athletes who receive some form of scholarship or athletic aid at a Power Five institution. 

The authors said they found that Black men are overrepresented in major revenue-generating sports such as basketball and football – which have the highest risks of physical injury and academic insecurity – but are underrepresented on their campuses and in all other athletic programs. 

Money earned by schools during the famed March Madness tournament and the revenue generated from the College Football Playoff (CFP) series, will likely total $1 billionfor the NCAA, according to the report.

Colleges make a significant amount of money as well. In 2016, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) sent six schools to the tournament’s round of 16, bringing in a collective $39.9 million for the conference. 

What receives less attention, said the report’s authors, and is less easily observed on a TV screen, athletic court, or ballfield are the ways that college sports play into and obscure the inequities that Black male students face in higher education.

While Black men generate profit for their colleges and the NCAA, they see none of those benefits trickle down. For the first time, the CAP said it’s calling for compensating college athletes in revenue-generating sports.

“The NCAA relies on the athletic abilities of Black men to generate revenue but places little capital in their ability to complete a college degree,” said Garcia, senior research and advocacy manager for Postsecondary Education at CAP.

The report findings include:

  • Black men comprise the minority of athletes in NCAA athletic programs.
    • The majority of Black male athletes generate revenue, but they do not profit.
    • A disproportionately large share of Black men on college campuses are athletes.