Who Got Next?: Jemele Hill on the Future of HBCU Sports


Source: AP/AURN Graphic
Source: AP/AURN Graphic
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As sports revenue increases by the billions so does the Black athlete’s self-awareness. Writer and host, Jemele Hill joins the discussion on how today’s young Black athletes choosing Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) can impact sports and positively affect the Black community.

The open secret:

Hill: College players have a lot more power than, I think, they actually know they have. I would say that about the Black community in general. In our country we don’t make much anymore. The one thing we can produce is athletes. WE can produce Black culture, and Black people have a dominating presence in both.

The bottom line:

NCAA’s athletic dept in 2019 earned $18.9 billion. In Division 1, 56% of the male athletes are Black; 48% Black men play football; 46% Black women play basketball.

The reality origin:

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Hill: White society had no interest in educating us, so we had to do it ourselves. And from that was born a Black middle class, a Black upper class—an ability for us to rise and have some form of social mobility. It was not perfect, clearly, but it was a way to do it.

The Black effect:

HBCUs produce 20% of Black graduates in the United States with a 10% enrollment despite only making up 3% of the country’s college and university space.

The struggle interest:

Hill: I know ESPN has made a reasonable commitment to HBCU football and broadcasting certain games. I wonder if having a channel to HBCU sports could survive. I do think there’s an appetite for people who went to HBCUs, or people who understand what [a] good brand of sports it is, that they would want to see this on a regular basis.

The lost promotion:

Although platforms such as Aspire TV and Black College Sports Network (BCSN) do their part, the HBCU sports channel is nonexistent on major networks such as ESPN and Fox Sports.

The legacy benefit:

Hill: The players have to be playing the long game. The NBA punishes players who start younger. Even beyond draft in your career, you retire pretty early—early 30s when you’re done. The way you sell education is telling them, “This ‘sport(s)’ is going to end at some point. So, what is it that you’re passionate about that you can do besides this? What is your contribution, other than just being a great athlete?” The value of a Black athlete going to an HBCU is that the educational mission feels different from any other predominantly white institution (PWI).

The forever truth:

HBCUs are the home of Black education and the backbone of a Black community that created Black culture that built the United States. The duality of Black American existence is to survive and advance within an oppressive system that would rather profit from our labor with a minimum payback while telling us to be grateful in the process. However, younger Black athletes united in recognizing their worth and investing their value into the institutions representing them could further spread Black empowerment while strengthening our communities.

For the full conversation with Jemele Hill, click HERE

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