The Impact of Desegregation on College Choices of Elite Black Athletes

George R. La Noue, Mark Bennett

Abstract


Even a casual observer of American college athletics can see the emergence of star black athletes in conferences that once were racially segregated. By analyzing the college origins of National Football League and National Basketball Association draft choices between 1947 and 2011, this research measures the impact of higher education desegregation on the choices of elite African-American athletes in moving from historically black institutions (HBIs) to traditionally white institutions (TWIs). Using draft data and narrative descriptions, this paper documents when, why, and how this shift occurred.
The desegregation of American education sometimes had the perverse effect of increasing opportunities for individual African-Americans, while subordinating the role or even extinguishing the black institutions serving that population in the Jim Crow era. In the desegregated era, there are some benefits to individual black athletes whose high professional draft status may make them young millionaires and to the states which have replaced a rigid odious racial color consciousness with fans cheering for university team colors worn by both their black and white athletes. But there is a price paid by the athletic programs of HBIs who are now confined to lower level conferences away from the most publicized contests. Some data reflected in the paper suggests that HBIs are losing in the competition to recruit elite black students in non-athletic fields as well.

Full Text: PDF DOI: 10.5430/ijhe.v3n3p142

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International Journal of Higher Education
ISSN 1927-6044 (Print) ISSN 1927-6052 (Online)

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