Press Release

Washington, D.C. — With the March Madness basketball tournament entering its final stages and the recent college admissions scam continuing to unfurl, all eyes are on higher education. Yet behind the excitement of the scoreboard and drama of a bribery scandal, there is a troubling dynamic playing out in real time: Big-time college sports are deepening the inequities that black male students face in higher education. A new issue brief from the Center for American Progress paints a vivid portrait of how college athletics distort the reality of black men’s experiences on college campuses and raises significant concerns about racial equity in college admissions and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

The issue brief 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 find 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. So, while black men generate profit for their colleges and the NCAA, they see none of those benefits trickle down. For the first time, CAP calls 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 Sara Garcia, senior research and advocacy manager for Postsecondary Education at CAP and co-author of the issue brief. “It is time for these backwards, inequitable priorities to change.”

The experiences of black male student athletes compared with those of their white counterparts stand out in sharp relief. Some of the top-line findings from the issue brief 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.
  • White men have more opportunities to earn athletic scholarships.
  • A disproportionately large share of black men on college campuses are athletes.

Colleges and the NCAA must do more to prioritize academics and post-graduation outcomes above athletics, as well as ensure more equitable representation for black men on their campuses. Failing to do so would send a clear message to student-athletes, and student-athletes of color in particular, that their academic success is secondary to the benefits they provide in their sports.

To read “The Madness Doesn’t End in March: The Surprising Ways College Sports Shortchange Black Men” by Sara Garcia and Connor Maxwell, click here.

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Kyle Epstein at [email protected] or 202-481-8137.