Black college athletes at NCAA Division I schools fare worse than their white counterparts when it comes to graduation rates and job prospects, according to an independent group of athletics administrators and former athletes.
The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics said the NCAA should start revising and removing systemic policies and practices that “create barriers to the success of Black college athletes.”
The group has addressed college sport inequities previously. Now they took aim at the 80,000 Blacks involved in college athletics in a report, “Achieving Racial Equity in College Sports,” which outlines policy changes in four core areas they believe the NCAA and its member institutions should make to achieve racial equity.
The recommendation called for permanently eliminating standardized test scores as an athletics eligibility criterion and instead employing a more holistic review of student readiness. The NCAA currently is reviewing the use of standardized testing for determining eligibility and suspended the use of test scores for three years due to the pandemic.
The report also calls for the NCAA to dramatically boost financial support for historically Black colleges and universities [HBCUs] in the Accelerating Academic Success Program.
The second recommendation urges conferences and schools to adopt the “Russell Rule” as standard practice.
The Russell Rule, a measure named after college and pro basketball legend Bill Russell requiring each institution to include a member of a traditionally underrepresented community in the pool of final candidates for athletics leadership positions, including athletic director and head coach.
Each conference school and the conference office would file an annual report card on the demographics of athletic leadership searches and hiring.
The third recommendation says to invest in programs that support and enhance Black college athletes’ experience like summer bridge programs that promote inclusion and belonging.
The final recommendation calls for establishing mentorship programs outside of the athletics department that enrich the development of Black athletes.
The report also calls for a safe process for Black athletes to report any discrimination or treatment concerns, without fear of reprisal.
The commission report “surfaced in the midst of a historic reckoning on race and a rise in Black student activism on college campuses. This moment demands transformational actions that specifically improve the college experience for Black athletes, coaches, and athletics personnel throughout all competitive divisions of college sports,” said Task Force Chair Len Elmore. “The Knight Commission’s report lays out a road map for how the CFP, and the NCAA and its member institutions can turn pledges into policies that do just that.”
In addition to the new action steps, the commission urged for new rules that will allow all athletes to earn compensation for the use of their name, image and likeness (NIL).
While new NIL opportunities will benefit all athletes, they say the greatest financial benefit will be for athletes in Division I football and basketball, which have a higher percentage of Black athletes, many of whom face financial strains during college and beyond.
The commission says to advance and build collaboration to achieve the equity goals they are offering $100,000 in multi-year challenge grants to fund research that demonstrates how specific interventions impact the Black athlete experience.
More information is available at knightcommission.org/grants.