Dealing with Barriers to NCAA Eligibility: The kwalifī Strategy?

I’m NOT sayin’ it’s a racist organization, but….

Historically speaking, from 1906 through the early 1970‘s the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) sanctioned and supported Apartheid-like Jim Crow segregation among it’s member institutions. For the better part of seven decades, the NCAA perpetuated a system which, more or less, formally excluded people of color from widespread participation. A few exceptional Black athletes like, Paul Robeson (Rutgers), Jackie Robinson (UCLA) and Jesse Owens (Ohio State) slipped through the segregationist cracks in the northern and western parts of the country. In the South, however, big-time college athletics was the exclusive purview of white people.

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Following a massive and sustained struggle for respect, dignity and basic Human Rights during the 1950’s and 1960’s, overt and blatant segregation waned considerably. By 1971, Blacks, heretofore excluded from collegiate athletics at Kentucky, North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Texas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Clemson, North Carolina State, Louisiana State and other powerhouse football and basketball programs, became all the rage. Between 1970 and the early 1980’s Black student-athletes became a dominant force in mainstream collegiate athletics. Simultaneously, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) suffered as they steadily lost the most talented Black athletes to wealthier predominantly white institutions.

What was the response of the NCAA to this rapid “tanning” of the high profile revenue generating sports? For some white University Presidents, Athletic Directors and University Donors it must have seemed like an invasion…

Something had to be done… But what?

They couldn’t just contract with Donald Trump to build a “HUGE” wall around football and basketball locker rooms… Nonetheless, they needed a means of stemming the rising tide of Black bodies flooding Basketball and Football programs across the nation…

The problem was that formal segregation was no longer acceptable in America circa 1982-83. It was no longer politically viable to resurrect and reinstall “White Only” signs that had been removed 15 years earlier… A more nuanced and subtle means of denying access was needed. They devised on strategy centered on the development and implementation of “initial freshman eligibility rules.”

I’m NOT sayin’ it’s a racist organization, but….

These eligibility rules were, and remain to this day, discriminatory against Blacks. John Chaney and John Thompson, II throughout much of the 1980’s and early 1990’s, passionately campaigned against what they referred to as  intentionally “racist” eligibility rules. Following eligibility reforms in 1989, Chaney, Temple University’s Hall of Fame Head Coach, unequivocally stated, “The NCAA is a racist organization of the highest order… On this day, it instituted a new punishment on black kids who have already been punished because they are poor. Any time the NCAA, which is 90 percent white, considers the youngsters in Division I basketball and football, it discriminates, because 89 percent of the kids are black. I wonder what message they are sending. It’s another hardship for black kids made by white folk.”

John Chaney

In response to the same reforms, Georgetown University’s John Thompson, II noted, ”I think it’s sort of ironic when they began to integrate the South athletes were the ones used to pave the way, and they were used under the pious assertion that ‘we’re helping these poor kids… Now, apparently someone has said, ‘Enough,’ so they don’t need the kids anymore. They’re using the same rationale they used to get them in to begin to keep them out. I guess it’s a situation where we’re like shoes and clothes. We’re not in style anymore.”

John Thompson

John Thompson, II

These legendary Black coaches used their positions of prominence to consistently and fervently denounce the NCAA’s racist actions. Since then, every four or five years, the NCAA has implemented increasingly stringent initial eligibility standards. Each set of reforms disproportionately impacting Black student-athletes in a negative manner. The most recent 2016 reforms have, once again, led contemporary prominent Black coaches to openly question the disparate racial impact.

I’m NOT sayin’ it’s a racist organization, but….

The National Association for Coaching Equity and Development (NACED), a group led by Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith, Georgetown coach John Thompson III (son of John Thompson, II) and former Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt, recently issued a statement to The Associated Press observing that the standards disproportionately target minority and less affluent students in “an unintended consequence beyond acceptability.”

Whereas Chaney and Thompson, II contended that the NCAA acted with malice and fully intended to harm Blacks, the contemporary Black coaches recognize the same harmful impact but chose to consider it “an unintended consequence.” The raw, unfettered and direct accusations of racist behavior on the part of the NCAA put forth by Chaney and Thompson, II stand in stark relief to mild objections of “unintended consequences” emanating from Tubbs, Hewitt and Thompson, III.

John Thompson, III

Nonetheless, today’s coaches are voicing objection… “That dream could be taken away after six semesters in high school,” John Thompson III said. “So for someone that’s a late bloomer, someone that the light bulb doesn’t go on until later, now it’s too late. And just the disproportionate number of minorities that’s going to affect, the number of people in general that’s going to affect, is not good.”

The 2016 rule changes, coupled with a 2007 rule that allows for only one course from prep school to be applied to an athlete’s transcript, will have a major impact on the number of Black athletes that will be eligible to compete as freshman, especially in the NCAA’s two biggest moneymakers: football and men’s basketball.

A recent NCAA report found that 43 percent of men’s college basketball players, 35 percent of football players and 15 percent of Division I athletes overall who were competing as freshmen in 2009-10 would not have qualified under the new standards. Whether it’s intentional as argued by Chaney and Thompson 25 years ago or “unintentional” as posited by Tubby, Thompson, III and Hewitt, the end result is clear.

A disproportionate number of Black males are going to be excluded from collegiate competition.

I’m NOT sayin’ it’s a racist organization, but….

If I wanted to identify a scheme that would disproportionately harm Black student-athletes I would set the minimum SAT score, with a minimum GPA, at 900. As you can see on the above chart, there is a persistent “performance gap” between racial/ethnic groups on the SAT exam. Asians excel, whites do well and ONLY Blacks have average SAT scores below the 900 cutoff point.

In the “real world,” the “average” white student with a 2.3 GPA will be eligible and the “average” Black student with a 2.3 GPA will be ineligible.

This a perfect scheme… if the aim is to limit opportunities for Blacks while appearing race-neutral.

I’m NOT sayin’ it’s a racist organization, but….

How can Blacks counter this scheme that will, undoubtedly, have racist and discriminatory impact?

While it is certainly interesting to note the evolution of the responses from Black coaches, it really does not matter if the NCAA is intentionally or unintentionally trying to decrease opportunities for Blacks? We must deal with the simple fact that they are decreasing opportunities for Blacks.

The inevitable outcome will be fewer eligible Black student-athletes.

So… What are our strategic options? What should Blacks do about it?

The Black Cager has been discussing this very question with prominent and influential members of the Black youth basketball, AAU/Grassroots and educational communities. Although a lot of different ideas emerged during these conversations, there was a recurring theme in all the discussion.

“We have to EDUCATE the young student-athletes.” Over and over, it was concluded that the best thing we could do was to provide student-athletes and their parents with easy to understand and accessible information regarding the rule changes.

Kamal Yard, Philly Pride/Triple Threat

The Black Cager has had strategic discussions with Kamal Yard, Eric Worley, Rodney Veney and Amauro Austin (Philly Pride/Triple Threat AAU/grassroots organization). They immediately embraced and acted upon the strategy. Rob Brown and Aaron Burt (Team Final) agree that educating families and student-athletes is the most useful tactic at this point. Lonnie Lowry (Team Philly) continues to be a staunch supporter of educational efforts by the Black Cager. Terrell Myers (WeRone Hoops) has also embraced the educational outreach strategy.

Terrell Myers and Sedee Keita

Others have embraced and incorporated the educational outreach strategy as well. Littel Vaughn Charles Monroe consistently make sure they incorporate NCAA eligibility education in every event/league they organize. Philly’s High School Coaches have been very proactive with regard to getting information out to the families. John Mosco (Archbishop Wood), Paul Ramczuk (Archbishop Carroll), Rob Moore (Constitution), Andre Noble (Imhotep), Jazz Williams (West Catholic), Kenyatta Bey (Audenreid), Larry Yarbray (Chester), Pervis Ellison (Life Center Academy), Carl Arrigale (Neumann-Goretti), Chris Clahar (Parkway, CC) and Clyde Jones (Penn Wood) have demonstrated a strong commitment to working with families to increase opportunities for their players to access high learning institutions.

The Black Cager has consulted with Paul Gripper (Team Phenom), Vincent Robinson (The Robinson School) and Sam Rines (Rise Academy) on numerous individual cases. These guys fight the fight and walk the walk with their players. They win some, they lose some… But they always try to arm the players/families with accurate information as early as possible. Lou Daniels, Betty Givens, Mo Howard and Claude Gross are always available to provide counsel and guidance. They treat every kid as if he/she were their own.

But…

Even with all of these efforts we are just scratching the surface of an enormous problem affecting tens of thousands student-athletes of color. This is a national, perhaps even international, issue.  Many African, Latin American and European student-athletes have also been experiencing great difficulty meeting eligibility requirements.

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All agree that we need interventions capable reaching tens of thousands of families. Hence, after consulting with all of the above members of the youth basketball community, we have developed the kwalifi smartphone app. kwalifī is a simple and powerful app for tracking progress toward meeting NCAA Division I, Division II and NAIA scholarship eligibility requirements. It allows parents, students and coaches to take ownership of the eligibility process. Core course grades, sliding scales, core course GPA calculations are made easy to understand. No more depending on counselors. It is simple, easy to understand and very useful! Specific steps are outlined to help student-athletes meet NCAA and NAIA requirements.

Bay and Josh

Josh Selby and Bay Frazier

Moreover, with the assistance of people like Rodney Veney, we have discussed ways to ensure that every Black kid has access to the kwaifi app with Bay Frazier (Carmelo Anthony’s Manager), Rich Paul (LeBron James’ agent), Curtis Symonds (retired BET Executive) and Kevin Chiles (Publisher, Don Diva Magazine). As we develop marketing distribution strategies, The Black Cager welcomes input from all concerned parents. players, coaches and others committed to improving the educational opportunities for Black student-athletes. This is merely one step in a struggle to ensure our young people continue to have access to educational opportunities commensurate with their academic and athletic abilities.

Rich Paul

Rich Paul, Klutch Sports Group

We have to EDUCATE the young student-athletes… If you have any thoughts, ideas or suggestions as to how we can do a better job of pursuing this strategy please shoot us an email at blackcager@gmail.com. If you know of youth organizations or schools that will benefit from the kwalifi app, let me know!

Delgreco K. Wilson
The Black Cager

Kwalifi logo

 

 

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