Black Student Athletic & Academic College Experience
By D.A. Barber.
Research from Kansas State University indicates that the relationship between “sports culture” and academics often leads to lower class performance and degree completion for many black students who want a college education.
“Some scholars characterize the black student athlete experience as very unique,” said Albert Bimper Jr., assistant professor of special education, counseling, and student affairs at Kansas State University. “In Division I athletics, black athletes make up 61 percent of the basketball player base and 46 percent of the football player base. Yet they represent a very small portion of the overall student population with a lower graduation rate than nonblack student athletes.”
As a former college and pro athlete, Bimper wanted to find out how to enhance the college experiences of black student athletes and increase graduation rates.
Bimper interviewed black student athletes at various Midwest universities about their academic experiences and analyzed their responses using “critical race theory,” a technique that combines race, law, and power in examining socio-cultural influences to understand why the students fell short in academic performance.
He found students felt a celebration of their sports accomplishments, but not so in their classroom performance, skewing their sense of priorities. Some students said they felt a limitation in their options for an academic major because of outside pressures, or not knowing what disciplines were available to them. Others reported enrolling in a certain major because they saw advertisements at sporting events or because an athlete they admired studied that major.
Worse, many felt that because they were black athletes, people did not expect high academic performance from them.
“There are beliefs and perspectives that student athletes are ‘dumb jocks,’ and that burden is greater for black athletes,” Bimper said. “But what does it mean to be a dumb jock? Based on the data, we could say that dumb jocks are not born, rather they are systematically created and institutionalized by the culture of sports.”
Sports mean big bucks for universities and that means recruiting athletes for their sports ability rather than their academics. Bimper says that of the 70 college teams competing in the 2012 bowl games, 51 percent had at least a 20 percent point difference between the graduation rate of black student athletes and white student athletes. And a quarter of those teams had a 30 percent difference in graduation rates.
One good sign is the NCAA Division I Men’s’ Basketball Tournament Teams. The overall graduation rates of NCAA players this year improved, particularly among black athletes, according to the annual report by the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports. The overall graduation rates increased from 67 percent in 2012 to 70 percent, but among athletes of color, the graduation success rate increased from 59 percent to 65 percent.
“The goal, however, should not only be to graduate, but to educate student athletes,” Bimper said.
Featured Photo Credit: Black Entertainment Television