The March Madness men's college basketball tournament generates an exorbitant amount of money for the NCAA — $857 million in broadcast fees for this year alone. But while NCAA leadership, coaches and college sports administrators around the country often make high salaries, very little of that money is seen by the student athletes who actually play in these games.
A new study from the University of Southern California examines the racial inequities involved. The study looked at 65 schools that generally make up the tournament; of these, black men make up 2.4 percent of the undergraduate population but 56 percent of the basketball teams. Yet black men are underrepresented in the "highly compensated courtside roles and leadership positions" mentioned above — 79 percent of head basketball coaches and 71 percent of athletic directors are white men, as are all five conference commissioners, according to The Washington Post.
Revs. Irene Monroe and Emmett Price joined Boston Public Radio to discuss this topic. Monroe is a syndicated religion columnist and the Boston voice for Detour’s African American Heritage Trail, and Price is a professor and founding executive director of the Institute for the Study of the Black Christian Experience at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
"What happens here is you see a Jim Crow division in sports," said Monroe. "I'm amazed, really, by the durability of this inequity."
Many argue that NCAA players see compensation in the form of athletic scholarships, but Price pointed out that the grueling schedules players are required to keep often prevents them from graduating at the same rates as their peers.
"Fifty-five percent of the black male [student athletes] graduate in six years, which is horrific," Price said. That rate is lower than the rate for student-athletes overall, black male undergraduates overall and undergraduates overall, according to The Washington Post.
Click the audio player above to listen to the entire interview with Revs. Irene Monroe and Emmett Price.