College sports reform advocates sent a letter to National Collegiate Athletic Association president Mark Emmert Wednesday urging the association to hire an independent group to review racial inequities in intercollegiate athletics and particularly in revenue-generating Division I football and men’s basketball programs.
The letter, signed by 17 academics and leaders of athlete advocacy organizations, pointed out wide diversity gaps between athletes who play Division I football and men’s basketball, a majority of whom are Black, and athletic directors and coaches, who tend to be white. Eighty-two percent of all Division I football head coaches and 71 percent of men’s basketball head coaches are white, while Black athletes make up 48 percent of Division I football and 56 percent of men’s basketball players, according to 2020 demographic data published by the NCAA.
The letter also referenced graduation rate disparities between Black basketball and football players and nonathlete undergraduates at the 65 institutions in the Power Five conferences, the top leagues in college sports, which were identified in a 2018 report by Shaun Harper, executive director of the University of Southern California’s Race and Equity Center. An average of nearly 45 percent of Black male athletes on Power Five teams do not graduate within six years, the report said.
“At this historic moment of social change, we are asking the NCAA to convene an independent panel to examine and develop initial remedies for the vast racial inequities in college sports,” the letter said. “These are disparities that can no longer be overlooked.”
The request comes as the NCAA is undergoing a separate independent review of its gender equity practices after women’s basketball players experienced disparities in amenities, equipment and coronavirus testing during last month’s Division I basketball tournaments.