The race issue is real at Alabama because UA and other southern state universities  are trying hard to overcome their reputation of being schools for jocks.  Time magazine tells a fascinating story of  Brianna Zavilowitz, a Staten Islander with 2120 SATs and a 4.0 grade-point average, daughter of a retired N.Y.P.D. detective and an air traffic controller. Brianna, with zero interest in pledging and middling enthusiasm for football, chose to attend the #1 ranked Crimson Tide over  University of California, Berkeley, or  Columbia University. 

Alabamians are now just 43 percent of the student body at UA.  UA  is spending $100.6 million in merit aid, up from $8.3 million a decade ago and more than twice what it allocates to students with financial need. UA  has hired an army of recruiters to put Bama on college lists of full-paying students who, a few years ago, might not have looked its way.  This is especially true at UAB where the athletes, largely African American, have pushed for an effort to recruit African American scholars to their school as part of the effort to restore football to Birmingham.  A similar revolt happened at the University of Missouri. Black kids recruited to Husky stadium like rebellious gladiators brought to the Roman Coliseum,  threatened to withhold their labor in solidarity with the Black Live Matter efforts by students.

SMS dots half tone icoHere in oh so white Seattle, the UW should think seriously about how we could balance athletic recruitment by a balanced, nationwide effort to recruit divers academically superb student scholars.

 The Time article goes on to explain that the problem is not restricted to football  (or basketball) programs in the universities of the Confederacy.  The problem is nationwide.  

“African American representation on the field does not mirror that in the classroom. Non-Hispanic whites make up 58 percent of undergraduates while black students constitute only 14 percent. According to a 2013 University of Pennsylvania study on racial inequity in NCAA Division I sports, only 2.8 percent of full-time degree-seeking undergraduates were black men. By contrast, black men comprise 57 percent of college football teams, on average. At some universities it’s over 70 percent. At Mizzou it’s about 60 percent. Most college football coaches are white; only 11 of the 128 Division I head coaches are black; you can count black university presidents in Division I on one hand. A new report from the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports shows that under 10 percent of head coaches in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision are black; 87 percent are white. The people in charge are white; the football workforce, whose success the university brass depends upon, is black. It was only a matter of time before a major college team decided to exercise its considerable economic power and refuse to follow orders. When the Tigers said they wouldn’t take the field, a chill surely went down the spines of power conference presidents from Ohio State to Florida State, Oregon to Clemson, the athletic boosters whose multi-million dollar business model depends on free labor, and the NCAA honchos determined to defend the “amateur” purity of college football from demands that players share the revenue.”

“…… Now imagine if football players at the University of Alabama decided to skip practice until they got a commitment from the administration to recruit more African American coaches? What if the University of Mississippi’s Rebels had refused to take the field while the state flag, with its Confederate emblem, flew over it? Or maybe football players in Florida could refuse to play until the Republican presidential candidates who keep homes in the state–Trump, Carson, Rubio, Bush and Huckabee–pledge that if they’re elected, they won’t deport the young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers. What if two of the CFB playoff teams won’t participate in the championship unless the NCAA comes up with a system to fairly compensate them for what is now unpaid labor reaping millions of dollars for everyone except the boys on the field?

Most young men don’t play football to advance social justice. They love the game; it gets them a full ride to college. A few of them–2 percent–may even go on to the sign fat NFL contracts. One white player who did not support the Missouri boycott told ESPN, “If we were 9-0 this wouldn’t be happening.” Fair enough. Maybe it takes a 4-5 team to risk their scholarships. Nevertheless, the Tigers took a stand. It worked. The college football industrial complex has now been shaken right down to its artificial grass roots.”

Coach Chris Petersen has taken a middling team to a winning one in just two years. (Lindsey Wasson/The Seattle Times)

The UW’s coach, Chris Petersen, earning over $3 million a year, brags that he’s building a unique finishing school for athletically gifted young men.  I know he is right.  UW Coaches Romero (basketball) and Petersen are people we can be proud of.  The problem is not the coaches, the problem is the system.   There is a lack of a parallel effort to make the UW great by recruiting outstanding scholars, esp from the groups represented so well the athletic field.  The truth is that,  like all big time college athletic programs, the UW is a preprofessional program aimed at the tiny number of kids, disproportionately from underserved minorities, who aspire to the NBA or NFL. While a few student athlete exist and coaches Romero  and Peterson do a lot for those kids, the program is all too similar to the baseball camps in the Dominican Republic. To get more insight you might read about the experience of Anthony Washington as a UW athlete.