On January 18, I went to Williams Arena to watch the Gophers play Michigan State. Before the game, as I flipped through the 96-page, glossy program of photos and stories, I saw only three Black faces besides the 10 Gopher players. On January 18, I went to Williams Arena to watch the Gophers play Michigan State. Before the game, as I flipped through the 96-page, glossy program of photos and stories, I saw only three Black faces besides the 10 Gopher players. It struck me that, if I am a Black man, I can play sports for the University of Minnesota but I probably can't get a job there.
On page 95, I saw the photos of all of the Golden Gopher Head Coaches – 24 White men and women. On page 25, featuring 20 members of the Athletics Administration, there is one Black face, Sam Owens, Director of Spirit Squads. On page 63, I saw the 15 members of the co-ed cheerleading team, the 13 members of the all-girl cheerleading team, and the 17 members of the dance team. Not one African American.
When it comes to basketball, there are nineteen players, both eligible and ineligible. Eleven of those players, or 58 percent, are African American. It takes 32 staff, in addition to the players, to put on a Gopher basketball season. Thirty of the staff are White. From what I could see, basketball has one Assistant Coach, Vic Couch, and one Director of Basketball Operations, John-Blair Bickerstaff, who are African American. Not one of the trainers, medical staff, P. R. people or recruiters is African American. Not one of the student managers or student office personnel is African American.
Millions of young Black kids across the country are playing basketball. Some will play at the college level. Fewer will play at Division I schools. Only a tiny fraction will be considered for the NBA. That leaves hundreds, or maybe thousands, of young people who love sports, who have grown up in the sports system, who can't get a job in collegiate sports.
Young black players are heavily recruited from the age of 16. They receive a barrage of scouting visits, phone calls, and promises of glory. When their student days are over, the attention and the promises cease; collegiate sports no longer has a place for them.
The lack of African American coaches is the most glaring example. But there are many jobs in collegiate sports that are not so visible. There are jobs in marketing, media relations, business management, equipment management, arena management, academic counseling. There are jobs keeping the players in shape, rehabilitating their injuries, calling the games, applying technology, and recruiting new athletes. But African Americans don't have those jobs. Their sole purpose seems to be to produce wins as students and then get out.
It seems to me that college athletic departments want our children to play but they don't want them to work.