On average, Black and White students arrive on campus with much different academic backgrounds and graduate at much different rates, according to a study by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Athletes’ experiences reflect those differences, and those differences affect the statistics for athletes as a whole, the study found. African-Americans are far better represented on the playing field than in the classroom, it shows. Only about 1.8 percent of White students were scholarship athletes, compared with 6.4 percent of Black students. Some schools’ athlete-student demographic differences were huge. For example, about a third of the Black students in Colorado’s 2002 freshman class were scholarship athletes, according to the Journal-Constitution.
The SAT has been criticized as racially biased, and Black students as a whole enter college with lower scores than White students. The difference in the average scores for White and Black students was 149 points at public universities in the six Bowl Championship Series conferences, the study showed. That explains part of the average 124-point gap between an athlete’s SAT score and the score for a typical student on his or her campus. But that 124-point gap is not solely a product of the racial differences between the athlete and non-athlete populations, according to the report.
Even when you take race into account, athletes score lower than non-athletes. Black athletes’ average SAT score was 102 points lower than the average for Black students overall. White athletes’ average SAT score was 88 points lower than the average for White students overall.
One expert says those numbers suggest schools are motivated by money, not affirmative action. If universities were motivated by affirmative action, they would enroll Black students whose qualifications give them a better chance to succeed in class, rather than athletes whose skills help the school sell football and basketball tickets, said Allen Sack, director of the University of New Haven’s Institute for Sport Management and a former University of Notre Dame football player.
“The Black athletes are far more represented in football and basketball, the two sports that produce the most revenue,” Sack told the Journal-Constitution. “Is there exploitation going on? I would suggest there is.”