Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Arthur Ashe and the Next Generation of Student Athletes

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Arthur Ashe and the Next Generation of Student Athletes

Article excerpt

Arthur Ashe and The Next Generation of Student Athletes.

With all the attention that we have finally come to pay to Arthur Ashe as a pioneering professional athlete and humanitarian, it is easy to forget that Ashe was first an incredible college student-athlete at the University of California Los Angeles in the 1960s.

There has surely been progress on the issue of race in the three decades since he left UCLA. However, I believe that no problem is greater today at our institutions of higher education than the racial issue. We are far from fulfilling Arthur Ashe's dream for college sport. In 1988 Ashe said, "When bright young minds can't afford college, America pays the price." He saw college sport as a vehicle to afford young people the opportunity to get an education while competing as student athletes. Moreover, he wanted those same young people to have the opportunity to coach and administer college sport after their playing careers ended.

There were twenty-four openings for a head coach in Division I after the 1996 college football season. Only one African American was hired -- at New Mexico State. That came after the Rev. Jesse Jackson called for high school prospects to boycott colleges with poor records for hiring people of color.

While college basketball has done better, hiring practices for the rest of college sport are scandalous. Fewer than 4 percent of all college head coaches are African American. Fewer than 5 percent of all athletic directors, their assistants and associate directors are African American. If you are Hispanic, Asian or Native American, you are not even on the radar screen for those positions.

The potential of African American student athletes to graduate is seriously compromised by the fact that so few staff, faculty and other students on campus look like them. They have to feel less welcome than white students on our campuses.

Many expect African American student athletes who play basketball and football to do poorly academically. If they meet such expectations for failure, many assume they were dreaming about the NBA and NFL. But a poor academic experience is hardly limited to those sports.

Every year, a list of the fifty schools with the worst graduation rates for African American male and female athletes in track and field is published by Emerge magazine. The results of the forthcoming study, due out in June, are frightening. To dodge the list for men's track, a college merely had to have a graduation rate of 21 percent. Forty-two of the fifty schools did not have a single African American male athlete graduate through four entering classes. …

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