G.L.Piggy [at] gmail.com
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Writing at NYT about the sanctions against UCLA’s blue-chip basketball recruit, Shabazz Muhammad, whose family was given $1,600 by a financial adviser to pay for a scouting trip when Muhammad was in the 7th grade, Joe Nocera claims:
There is something else. Three of the most high-profile eligibility cases this basketball season — Muhammad, Nerlens Noel at Kentucky and Rodney Purvis at North Carolina State — are African-American. Five Ohio State football players who were suspended for trading some of their Ohio State gear for tattoos in 2010 were African-American. Ditto the 14 North Carolina football players who got embroiled in a scandal two years ago.
When I asked Stacey Osburn at the N.C.A.A. whether white players ever had such problems with the N.C.A.A., she insisted they did. Yet somehow, the high-profile cases almost always seem to involve blacks.
Could it be that the N.C.A.A. rules are inherently discriminatory, or that its investigators are primed to think the worst of talented black football and basketball players, even before an inquiry?
Nah. Must just be a coincidence.
So then it must be inherently discriminatory that whites are underrepresented in college athletics.
Most college athletes are black. And among the most heavily-recruited college athletes, an even higher percentage would be expected to be so. Eight of the 32 first round selections from the 2012 NFL Draft were white. Three of 30 NBA first-rounders in this year’s draft were white. Eleven percent of first-round picks in these two sports are white – 89% are black. The bluest of chips are black, and it stands to reason that they attend the highest-profile schools which are competing most doggedly for top-notch recruits. This would translate into more violations. I’m not sure how Nocera misses this connection.
There are other factors at play. Whites are also more likely to be financially secure and thus not need the kind of financial help that ends up causing problems down the road. Another reasonable argument here is that the parents of white athletes are more likely to have gone to college. Either their fathers navigated the recruiting process if and when they were athletes, or they are more cognizant of the rules and regulations regarding recruiting violations.
If Nocera wants to call this “inherently discriminatory” he can. That term has been maligned plenty enough that another such misuse won’t make it any worse. But it’s a function of a lot of factors with one of those factors *not* being the purposeful discrimination against black athletes. Regardless of who is being raked over the coals for these violations, the system is flawed.