It’s electrifying. It’s intense. It’s magical. “It” is none other than college football!
The college football season is three weeks underway and has kept millions of football fans, like myself, thoroughly entertained and on edge. From Top 25-ranked team upsets, to close scoring games, to fourth quarter comebacks, this September has been one to remember. However, there are a few games that leave me questioning the morality of college football.
This past weekend, the defending ACC champion Clemson Tigers unequivocally demolished the South Carolina State University (SCSU) Bulldogs 59-0. Sure both institutions are classified as NCAA Division I, but the caliber of athletes, skill of competition, and financial budgets–to name a few–are vastly different. The mere fact that the playing time was cut short during the last two quarters, upon the agreement of both head coaches, is evidence that these teams were not adequate opponents.
For the record, South Carolina State University is classified as a Historically Black College/University (HBCU), institutions which were established primarily to educate African Americans in America during a time when the greater White society would not. While Clemson University is considered a Predominantly White Institution (PWI) in which over half the school’s population is of White majority.
It should also be noted that SCSU vs Clemson is not an anomaly. It’s common within intercollegiate athletics for PWIs to play HBCUs for huge payouts. Thus far this season, the University of Miami destroyed Florida A&M, University of Nevada, Los Vegas (UNLV) beat Jackson State University, Maryland took down Howard University, and Texas A&M routed Prairie View A&M.
When these teams contest one another, more often than not, PWI teams win what is considered a “guaranteed game.” But it serves no substantial benefit for them because it is not a conference game. Instead, it’s likened to an exhibition game, weakening its strength of schedule; a major consideration for rankings and Bowl season. Yet for HBCUs, these games serve as a massive monetary gain. The Bulldogs earned $300,000 for participating in last Saturday’s game; while other schools have walked away with checks just south of $500,000.
Of course there is a lot cash-strapped HBCUs can achieve with the generous payout. It can save an athletic department with financial struggles, or one in need of facility renovations, or those requiring updated sports equipment. Ideally, the funds are also being allocated towards divisions in academics. The athletes are “students” first, after all. But the reality is, these payouts do not directly benefit the players because NCAA rules prohibit extra benefits.
So, as a proud HBCU graduate of Spelman College, I question the morality of HBCU schools profiting at its players’ expense. Is it morally acceptable to sacrifice your student-athletes for an incomparable pay-for-play? I say no. Why? Because the four- and five- star recruited athletes attending top tier athletic schools do not compare in physical stature and ability to HBCU athletes. HBCU football players also do not have the same wealth of resources such as state-of-the-art training facilities, multiple strength and conditioning coaches, on-site nutritionists, numerous athletic trainers and other key support staff members to help build endurance and further develop the physical skill needed for fair play.
In fact, an unfortunate life-altering injury occurred on September 26, 2015 when the University of Georgia Bulldogs, a PWI, hosted the Southern University Jaguars, an HBCU, between the hedges in Athens, Georgia. During the game, Jaguar receiver Devon Gales took a bad hit that caused him to be paralyzed waist down. Thankfully almost a year later, Gales is rehabbing well and anticipates being able to walk again. But the reality is, when underserved HBCUs are overmatched and overpowered by PWIs, there’s great potential for major injuries during more fast-paced and higher level lopsided football competitions.
While our HBCU founders and forefathers would be pleased with our progress and sustainability in academia, athletics are not important enough to make risky ethical choices at the expense of student-athletes for financial gain. Let’s remember that HBCUs were established to instill cultural confidence and pride in our youth, and rethink our morals before being blinded by dollar signs.
For more of Jordan’s take, check out her blog The Watter Girl, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @thewattergirl!