Some Still Question HBCU Preparedness for Blue Chip Athletes
With the highly touted 5 Star Basketball Recruit Makur Maker’s decision to verbally commit to Howard University taking the sports world by storm and HBCU Media and followers doing the proverbial fist pump, cooler heads have had time to really analyze what this actually means. For those of us who have always believed in the mission and the contribution of HBCUs, this has always been something that we have envisioned, especially for black “blue-chip” athletes that have gone on to excel at other places. It was always a question of “wow, I wish he or she was here doing that”, instead of at a Duke, Georgia, Alabama, UConn, and countless others where whether merited or not, seemingly the appreciation and admiration would truly mean more at an HBCU.
For those that have attended an HBCU or have been entrenched in its education, symbolism, and culture, you understand that its impact cannot be measured or compared to institutions that in most cases have athletic departments with the budgets of a small country. We know that the reasoning for attending these institutions is much greater than any money metric you can throw at it. Being supported, celebrated, and educated in a way that uniquely prepares you for the world is immeasurable. As the world has had time to pause due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and social justice initiatives due to killings of unarmed Black men and women, Black collegiate athletes at Predominately White Institutions have noticed how their colleges have responded to both instances. Whether it is how their coaches are responding to their life mattering or institutions just parading their black bodies during a pandemic for the greater good of the local economy, for a great deal of them, they have discovered that the institutions that gets notoriety for their “stars” really could care less about their lives. This has created an awakening in high school and collegiate athletic circles to look deeper in their school selection process.
With this awakening however, some still question whether HBCUs are equipped for a possible influx of “blue-chip talent” entering their halls. As one of my favorite hosts Joe Madison of the “Joe Madison Show” of Sirius XM’s Urban View would ask, is this a “moment or a movement” for HBCUs. Twitter is always a good litmus test to check responses to certain theories, so in my browsing I came across a tweet that stated, “the conversation about elite athletes choosing HBCUs is way more complex than people are acknowledging.” Now, because this person is a reporter with Atlanta ties that has covered HBCUs and PWIs, I engaged him by simply asking, “what do you perceive as the missing dynamics to the conversation?” To summarize what he essentially said, he questioned the HBCUs ability to have sound “medical care, weight rooms, practice courts, access to video training”, and other standard athletic needs to serve athletes at a capacity that enhances the athletic experience.
Another reporter echoed those sentiments, stating that he as a former player for an HBCU that having a “well-trained staff to nurse injuries and develop physically” is paramount to creating a culture where highly regarded athletes will want to attend regularly. There were other mentions about facilities regarding actual equipment such as the “one working cold tub and the sauna barely works then you look at a PWIs and they and they got full cryochambers.” Now stripping down some of the rhetoric when it comes to the comparisons between facilities between PWIs and HBCUs is that all schools are not financially equal. There are several factors when you consider the amount of money a major Power 5 Conference Athletic Department receives versus any of the larger Division I HBCUs. While I am all for athletes choosing HBCUs and not letting cosmetic influence be the deciding factor, the points that these reporters were trying to make is somewhat logical because quite honestly how many others perceive this same school of thought, especially these prospects and their parents.
I’m definitely biased, but I believe in the ability of HBCUs to adequately take care of their athletes, but to counter what essentially has been the argument and for others a narrative for not attending these institutions comes the need for HBCUs to go “next level” in the promotion of their programs. In this new generation of student-athlete that has so many choices and access to so much information, it would prove invaluable for HBCUs to strike while the iron is hot, and we have this focused attention. That promotion goes for both believers in the schools and its media.
Jamie Walker is a regular contributor for the HBCU Report, The Atlanta Voice, and Sports, News, and Brews. He is also a freelance Play by Play Announcer, Color Analyst, and Voice Artist for such entities as the SIAC, FloSports, and Heritage Sports. Follow him at Twitter @CoachWorkSports or reach out by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.