Why is it that SBPDL spends so much time discussing college football? A cursory glance at our archives would undoubtedly pull up more than 10 posts that deal exclusively with college football and Black people. Why though, do we expend this energy? One reason: we have stated time and time again that without sports, there wouldn’t be any positive images of Black people in this country. Sports have helped create illusions in America about race and worse, given birth to nasty stereotypes about Black people, athletic ability and intelligence:
“Are performance disparities between black and white athletes really a function of fundamental differences in physique and physiology, or are they a result of environmental and cultural contingencies?
Contrary to what some may argue, an objective examination of these issues attempts to fairly examine the evidence, and to challenge beliefs held and conveyed by individuals such as Al Campanis and Jimmy ‘the Greek” Snyder. In the end, we may find that these individuals, like many others are not really bigots, but simply misinformed about what really is known about race and performance.”
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in one of his early Sherlock Holmes novel, had the eponymous character state:
“I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”
The world we live currently exists thanks to the shaky foundational pillars of egalitarianism. However, when utilizing data and facts present to us in the 2010 United States of America, a murky picture is painted that portends to those pillars crashing down soon. College football is a wonderful control sample for such endeavors into looking at quantifiable data to come up with interesting theories about human biodiversity and the athlete-students who participate in these contests represent an interesting cross-section of the United States population in our controlled experiment. College football fans and alumni of major colleges are overwhelming white. Major colleges field teams that have almost 50 percent white and 50 percent Black players upon them, save Air Force and BYU. Black people, a mere 13 percent of the United States, represent 14 percent of the millennial population (18-29):
The diversity of this generation is as impressive as its size. Right now, Millennial adults are 60 percent white and 40 percent minority (18 percent Hispanic, 14 percent black, 5 percent Asian, and 3 percent other).
Interestingly, more Black males are in jail than attend college, so this makes those Black people eligible for scholarships to major colleges to play football an even smaller percentage:
More than three times as many black people live in prison cells as in college dorms, the government said in a report to be released Thursday…. Blacks made up 41 percent of the nation’s 2 million prison and jail inmates in 2006. Non-Hispanic whites made up 37 percent and Hispanics made up 19 percent.”
Yet, watching college football games, one would get the impression that the United States is an overwhelming Black nation. This is not the case however. Worse, with the unbelievable amount of money spent on educating and tutoring athlete-students to stay eligible, the numbers of Black people receiving degrees ( as compared to white athletes) belie a most distressing reality:
But there still is the issue of the differing graduation rates for white and African-American football players: of the bowl-bound teams, 21 (31 percent) graduated less than half of their African-American football student-athletes, while only two schools graduated less than half of their white football student-athletes. Richard Lapchick, the director of the Institute and the author of the study “Keeping Score When It Counts: Assessing the 2009-10 Bowl-bound College Football Teams — Academic Performance Improves but Race Still Matters” said the academic reforms enacted by late NCAA president Myles Brand have been effective but there is more work to do. This year, the graduation success rate for African-American football student-athletes is 59 percent, which is the same as 2008-09. The GSR for white football student-athletes went from 76 percent in 2008-09 to 77 percent this year. This resulted in a 1 percent increase in the gap (17 to 18 percent). The overall football student-athlete GSR improved slightly from 65.3 to 65.7 percent. “The academic reform package hasn’t solved the problem of the gap between African-American and white student-athletes although both groups are doing better than they have been,” Lapchick said. “Part of it is not the responsibility of college sports. Part of it is such a huge percentage of African-Americans are coming from urban school districts where the education available is nowhere near the education in suburban areas.”
Stories of star Black college athletes getting easy grades to stay eligible are so common they have become part of the accepted writ of passage an athlete gets at college.
Have you seen the film, Invictus ? What brought about the end of apartheid in South Africa? Sports and rugby would be the answer, for rugby is the opiate of the white South Africans:
John Carlin, author of “Playing the Enemy,” said Mandela used the World Cup final to win the allegiance of a group of people who had largely applauded his 27-year imprisonment, and threatened to push South Africa into a civil war. “It was on that day [the day of the Rugby World Cup final] that white South Africa finally, categorically accepted him as their rightful president, the president of all South Africans,” Carlin said. Afrikaners are the descendents of the Dutch pioneers that settled South Africa in the 17th century. They became the primary enforcers of apartheid, a brutal system of racial segregation. In his book, Carlin described Pienaar as the “big blonde son of apartheid,” a 6-foot-4, 240-pound man who grew up worshipping the violent sport of rugby, an obsession for many Afrikaners. Rugby is known as “the opium of the Afrikaner,” says Carlin.”
College Football is the opiate of white America and the door to success in America for Black people. As we pointed out with Michael Oher, however, facts about Black people in college football aren’t always positive. Take for instance Terrance Cody, a behemoth of a Black interior defensive lineman for the University of Alabama. Were it not for football, it is difficult to envision what he would do for a living since he seems to have difficulty ascertaining what his major is at the school he plays for, as at a press conference before the BCS National Title game against Texas, he had this to opine:
So as the Crimson Tide’s 6-5, 354-pound nose guard met with the media on Sunday, it’s no surprise that his corner of the ballroom at the Newport Beach Marriott and Spa was usually filled with the most laughter… Later, Cody was talking about being on track to graduate in May and said he still needed two more classes. Somebody asked him what his degree was in. He paused, stammered for a few seconds, looked up and smiled and then muttered something under his breath.
“I keep forgetting it … consumer science, I think,” Cody said.”
For those unaware – like Cody – Alabama doesn’t offer a major in consumer science. It must be stated here that Cody had an upbringing much like Michael Oher:
“Cody had played only two years of high school football, as a freshman and a senior, because of a combination of factors. He said he struggled academically, had to help take care of his seven younger siblings and ended up “running with the wrong crowd.” It was why he ended up in junior college. Cody said he grew up poor, not always having shoes that fit his size-18 feet. His mother worked two jobs, as a traveling nurse and a bus driver, to care for him and his siblings. His parents were not married, but his father, a construction worker, was a big part of his life until he died in a car accident. Cody was 11. At the end of his junior year of high school, Cody moved in with the family of a high school teammate, Jason Milliken. The stability was important.”
And how could Cody not get amazing academic help at Alabama, considering the school invests heavily in keeping these athletes eligible to play:
“One of the secrets behind the academic success for current Tide athletes is Alabama’s Center for Athletic Student Services (CASS), headed by Jon Dever. In April 2005, a $10.3 million renovation of Bryant Hall was completed, transforming the former athletic dormitory into the Paul W. Bryant Academic Center, a state of the art academic center benefiting more than 425 Crimson Tide student athletes. The 52,300 square-foot building is among the finest in the country. It houses a 48-seat computer lab, a math lab with 18 laptop computers aiding athletes when they travel, a reading lab with six computers, a writing lab, two 50-seat classrooms, a 140-seat classroom, and 32 individual study/tutor rooms. The Bryant Academic Center serves not only as a functioning full-service academic facility but also as the home for the CASS staff and the Champs’ Lifeskills program. Moore calls the center “the crown jewel in the Alabama athletic department’s Crimson Tradition Fund facility enhancement campaign.”
He might be an All-American, but he is curiously absent from the 2009 ESPN Academic All-American team, led by Florida Quarterback Tim Tebow and a nearly all-white supporting cast, including white Michigan State receiver Blair White, who plans on being a dentist after graduation. Sadly, many of White’s Michigan State teammates – all of whom are Black – can’t say the same, as they were suspended for a brawl prior to the teams bowl game with Texas Tech (they won). The all-Black suspended “band of brothers” were engaged in a friendly WWE-style battle royale with a Black fraternity:
“Eight members of the MSU football team were suspended by head coach Mark Dantonio on Monday following the ongoing results of an investigation by MSU police into a Nov. 22 altercation at Rather Hall.”
We already did a long essay regarding Black college football athletes inability to stay out of trouble, but this story was yet another example of a recurring pattern at college campuses as diverse as Knoxville, TN and Boise State, ID. Who is it that riots at college football games? Who hates losing to Boise State? Why is there only one Myron Rolle? The answer is simply another addition into the growing tableau of Stuff Black People Don’t Like. The opiate of white Americans is football. College football and the National Football League (NFL) offer the masses entertainment and pleasure, much as rugby did the South Africans. Whatever happened to South Africa? That is yet another reason why sports matter here SBPDL.