Updated: Jan 13
As I watched HBCUs get crushed by major Division 1 schools in football this past Saturday, I began to wonder. Imagine how LIVE it would be if LeBron James committed to Alabama State University? Or if Russell Wilson spent his college years at Howard University? It sounds unrealistic now, but before integration of Blacks into sports, the best players went to HBCU's because it was their only option. My father, who attended Tuskegee University in the 70s, often tells me of the times when Tennessee State University consistently had the most NFL draft picks of any college, Predominately White Institutions (PWI) included. He also recalls when seeing NBA or NFL scouts on campus (at an HBCU) scouting players was a casual thing. This trend still continues on the high school level with D-1 schools recruiting at majority black high schools, but seeing NFL or NBA scouts on an HBCU campus is more of a rare occasion.
I'm sure the integration of Blacks in sports started off as a great thing. It was a good opportunity for us to break down the color barriers that once stood between us and the main stage.It allowed us to show the world that we can compete with the best athletes of any race; if only given the chance. All peaches and cream right? Nah.
Image via @BillClaxton
We originally strived for separate but equal which allowed us to keep our own schools, businesses, communities, and stay in control of it. The plan was to stay segregated, but to have the same proper funding and opportunities that everyone else had. Instead, integration allowed others to have full control over everything we did. We became so concerned with trying to be included, we forgot the initial goal. We forgot how great we were on our own. We didn't realize that we had already built America. They needed us and not vice versa. As colleges started to see the effects of having a Jackie Robinson on your team, the clearer things became for any coach, owner, or manager, that you needed a black player to draw bigger crowds and more importantly increase your shot in winning. The more we began to integrate, the more authority we began to give away (ie. The Negro Leagues). Don’t get me wrong, integration is a wonderful thing, diversity and inclusion breed a better society. But it seems that HBCUs suffered an opposite fate. Separate was once again unequal as a lack of funding for nicer amenities (locker rooms, dorms, classrooms) led to “newly welcome” Black recruits heading for the plush green acres of PWIs.
If LeBron James did commit to Alabama State University in 2003, the dynamics of everything would change.
1. Going to HBCUs would become a trend for the best high school athletes.
2. HBCUs value would instantly increase.
3. The media coverage that HBCUs would receive would be incredible. (Imagine Stephen A. Smith talking about ASU on First Take!)
4. Historically Black Colleges and Universities would rule the world
5. He is the sole reason that everyone began to team up in the NBA, don't tell me people wouldn't follow him to HBCUs
I've been to both a PWI and an HBCU and gained great values at both. The point I'm making here is that it's sad that HBCUs are an afterthought for our best athletes, when that is where they were originally bred. And the PWIs were the schools who originally didn't want us. Will we ever get to the point where HBCUs are the Mecca for colleges? I believe we're headed there. With all the fashion trends from the 90s returning, I would love to see HBCUs come back with it. If you have the same yearning, the time is now to give FreeHype to your HBCU. Put your HBCU love on blast! Oh, and don’t forget to give back ($$$) when you graduate! The best athletes need the best amenities.