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HUFFPOST SUPER USER
Catch 22
Plan for Mid to Long Term.
09:22 AM on 05/08/2013
Mr. Thomas, your achievements are stellar, and it is clear that you are a focused high achiever. The problem is this. How do we stimulate those who are not as focused, or who don't have anyone to help them focus. My humble observation is this. There is always somewhere to play sports in every neighborhood, rich or poor, the quality of the facility may vary, but it's there. As a result we see sports as a way out of poverty. And sometimes it works. But here's the thing. A large percentage of these athletes quickly lose that new found wealth, because they have to depend on someone else to manage it. There is also some blowback against academically inclined black students. They are sometimes addressed as "nerds" or "acting white" Focused parents, make focused athletes. It has to start there.
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TRUTHHURTS500
09:15 AM on 05/08/2013
Very good article! Good to see you doing something good in the community. You are needed.
09:11 AM on 05/08/2013
I remember the outrage when the Providence College student section held up a sign directed towards Georgetown's Patrick Ewing that read "ewing kant reed". John Thompson took his team right off the Providence Civic Center floor. Turns out the sign was dead-on accurate in its assessment.
08:35 AM on 05/08/2013
The excuse of poverty may be partially true but wears thin. Many of these kids were taught by parents and friends from early on that athletics were a way to make money.

Many of these parents have no interest in their kid's education.

Parents need to take part of the blame. Many kids born into poverty and living in bad neighborhoods, black, while, Hispanic, Asian and others have succeeded academically. It is easy to blame the schools and others.
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RED66
We must return to a Constitutional government.
08:21 AM on 05/08/2013
Mr. Thomas: I applaud your efforts, but you will have to change the culture so academic achievement is celebrated instead of condemned.

This is a problem in most cultures and is harming our nation along with our kids.

I remember when John Thompson railed against an NCAA rule that set academic standards for athletes to remain eligible. He said the standards would keep kids from playing basketball. Why would he assume that black athletes could not meet the standards? Of course, he never bothered to tell us what happened to his athletes who did not make the NBA. He also implied that black athletes were unable to meet these standards. Of course, he never bothered to try and help them.

It is this attitude that you must change and I wish you well.
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groland
socially left, fiscally right
11:48 AM on 05/08/2013
Actually most cultures do stress academics, that is why immigrants from Asia are doing so well. Indians, Chinese, and many Arabs too are excelling in our most selective universities. I see this every day working at a pretty selective college. 30 years from now, the top 1% is going to look very different here in the USA.
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RED66
We must return to a Constitutional government.
12:41 PM on 05/08/2013
Does the black inner city culture stress academic achievement?
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Oahu dutchess
Living in a haunted house isn't that bad
09:27 PM on 05/08/2013
No it won't. The people at the top 1% are there because of something their great grandfather did, while they just sat their a reaped the benefits. The most educated population is African immigrants, Nigerians specifically.
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rothomaha
The Truth will out
08:19 AM on 05/08/2013
So long as universities see nothing wrong with an athletic program being a financial driver of the academic mission and paying the chief representative(the coach) ten times or more what the university president is paid(e.g. a guy with muscles and a degree in iron-pumping vs. a PhD in History and an intellectual presence), the mind-set of muscles over brains is not ever likely to end. The basic and terribly flawed premise in this article is the assumption that college basketball programs(or others, like football) should function as a pathway to the professionals, academics aside. If those pro programs want farm teams, then let them organize and pay for them. Then, black (and white, green and purple) athletes who attend colleges and play sports will graduate at the same rate as all others. The ones who play for the farm teams will not, and that is as it should be!
08:16 AM on 05/08/2013
Many years ago, student athletes had to pass the same academic tests as others to gain admission to colleges.

Until this becomes a reality again, nothing will change.

Big time sports mean big time money so this comtemptible situation will not change in the foreseeable future.

Only in America.
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HUFFPOST SUPER USER
science teacher
07:43 AM on 05/08/2013
I moved back to the Southeast after 5 years in CA and I'm appalled by the overwhelming emphasis that the local culture places on sports overall, "March Madness" is indeed that, when playoffs start. The amount of attention that sports gets compared to local politics or current events is insane. I see this working in the schools and the other job I have. I work with people who seem to know EVERYTHING about sports but are totally ignorant about ANYTHING to do with the political process, general science, the environment, etc.

It comes down to misplaced priorities reinforced by a society that encourages a "bread and circuses" (or beer and sports) mentality towards life. If you want to change the system, you're going to have to get higher education out of the sports business and have them concentrate on EDUCATION. Let the NBA and the NFL develop their own farm systems, like professional baseball, and let higher education be just that, higher education, not a sports factory. No other nation on the planet compromises their education system the way the US does to promote "games". When the emphasis as a culture is on entertainment, it is no wonder education places a distant second.
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rothomaha
The Truth will out
08:20 AM on 05/08/2013
Amen - precisely what I said!! Free the "big donor alumni" to contribute to the academics, instead of the iron-pumpers!
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amrahs
08:32 AM on 05/08/2013
Good luck getting these D1 university presidents to give up the revenue they receive from their sports team and television deals.
viciousvirago
Veritatum Dilexi
07:15 AM on 05/08/2013
A very insightful article and mainly true. Let's face it. About the ONLY thing that the colleges and universities are interested is the athletic prowess of these kids.

So why is it that they are pushed academically, brought up to speed, tutored...anything to actually make them work for an education that can serve them when that knee goes and there goes the $l0M contract? It's a hypocritical situation all around.

You should NOT, repeat not, be admitted to a college just because you are of a certain color. Be it black, latino, asian....I don't care. And if you're caucasian and come from a poverty-stricken area and can barely read and write, why are you being given an athletic scholarship? Is that SCHOLARship going to help you later on in life, getting a real job? Probably not.

And schools are not the problem. Parents' attitudes toward education and their children, lack of any good male role models, etc. propel these kids into poverty from day one. You have to stop making schools responsible for being social workers and psychiatrists. Teachers are there to teach...at least the good ones are.
06:58 AM on 05/08/2013
If a fisherman has the mind and decency to bait a line with a worm to catch a big fish and a honeybee.... to spread pollen where it picks up nectar, the nation's universities--the centers of enlightenment and civility--should readily provide student/athletes open-ended scholarships to complete their educations. After all, an extra seat in a classroom is literally a small price to pay for the millions of dollars, the popularity, reputations, and quality of student life generated from these students through their unique talents, sacrifices, and hard works. It's the difference between a life of poverty and a life of prosperity for too many of them. Surely our universities are as enlightened as the fisherman and the honeybee.
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09:44 AM on 05/08/2013
Oh so one free scholarship is not enough? If you did not have the incentive to study while you were playing sports, what makes you think that you will after your sports career is finished. Do you ever blame the athlete for simply not being educated enough to actually get into the school according to his own academic achievements or is it easier to just blame the institution? What do you think about the white kids at the end of the bench who will never hit the hardwood despite being the sole reason the team is eligible to begin with? Ever think about this?
06:06 AM on 05/08/2013
When I had classes with some fellow athletes, a minority of them could not read at a pace remotely sufficient for high school, and definitely not for college. They were clearly passed on repeatedly with clearly identifiable academic issues.
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robidomoore
devils advocate
04:21 AM on 05/08/2013
there are many structural problems in education...It starts in grade school and in the home....What person in there right mind as I hear from friends in education would want to put up with the depressing things these school districts have to offer....I have heard few that lived in these districts and went onto teaching degrees want to return to them..and those that do return soon become burned out...SPORTS in college is just a pipe dream for the 99.9%....many athletes are broke in many sports out of college after 3 Yrs........the lure of money that is fleeting is worth less than an education for most.....If you watch the evolution of sports especially Basketball and I dare say the mentality one only needs to see what has been expected of these young men and in some cases women with little regard to them
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HUFFPOST SUPER USER
Sincere Jonez
Sir Bleeding heart
02:29 AM on 05/08/2013
I think the most obvious reason that male black college athletes has lower graduation rates than other demographics is that many of tthese athletes were unprepared for college in the first place. It's convenient that we absolve the NCAA and college athletic directors of any nefarious recruiting practices. But one must wonder how many of the student athletes at elite schools such as Stanford and UC Berkley would have been granted acceptance into these institutions based solely on their academic record? I believe it would be a greater service to many underprivileged student athletes if we shift the focus away from placing blame on economic disadvantages that these students incur prior to going to college and start to analyze the exploitation that the student's incur after they've agreed to attend these institutions. Here's a simple solution: pay college athletes a salary for each year that they attend the university. t
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HUFFPOST SUPER USER
rothomaha
The Truth will out
08:26 AM on 05/08/2013
That would only be acceptable if they are expected to use the money to pay their tuition, room and board, along with other college-related expenses. Do away with scholarships entirely! A great way to teach them financial responsibility for their future pro careers, which so few seem to possess. It would teach them to value food, shelter and health care above cocaine, pot, etc. in their later years. And, I intend these comments to apply to ALL(black, white, purple, yellow or green), lest any accuse me of discrimination!
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HUFFPOST SUPER USER
Sincere Jonez
Sir Bleeding heart
09:55 AM on 05/08/2013
Yes, I definitely agree with you. All student athletes should be given a salary based on performance ( like the coaching staff).
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HUFFPOST SUPER USER
amrahs
08:38 AM on 05/08/2013
Unprepared for college and a lot of these athletes are coming from homes where the value is not placed on education. First generation students have a statistically tougher time graduating already, but when the lure of money from professional sports is added, those graduation rates start to look a lot worse.
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HUFFPOST SUPER USER
Sincere Jonez
Sir Bleeding heart
09:35 AM on 05/09/2013
That is also very true. In this country, we place entirely too much emphasis on collegiate sports in general. If the purpose of college sports is to raise money for the university and NCAA, then the players should be given a portion of the profits regardless if they are enrolled in the college or not.
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HUFFPOST SUPER USER
Jose Aldo
01:00 AM on 05/08/2013
"Our educational system, and indeed our society, has failed these young people"

Why do blacks always blame other people?
06:08 AM on 05/08/2013
Why do whites act so innocent.
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urkiddinme
This amp goes to 11
06:19 AM on 05/08/2013
When the author asked, "Why is it so common for athletes, especially black male athletes, to graduate at lower rates than their non-black counterparts?" My brain, like it or not, immediately thought, "Because in general, education is disparaged by much of the black community." In this instance, it's used as a possible gateway to becoming a professional athlete -- and obviously, that gateway is really only open to a very small percentage of college superstars. The schools themselves are a big part of the problem, but the culture of sports hero worship and "school is for chumps" pervades much of the psyche of the socioeconomic group the authors are concerned with, pretty much from birth. There are, of course, white kids who are gifted with athletic ability who are also raised in the "sports will carry you, don't worry about your grades, just work on your hitting" mindset as well (I know a few middle school-aged boys of this ilk at present. Their parents are pouring thousand$$$ per year into private coaching, camps, clinics, etc. so Little Johnny can get a scholarship to XYZ University and get drafted/go pro in eight years -- while studying and grades take a distant back seat to glory on the field).
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HUFFPOST SUPER USER
Jose Aldo
08:21 AM on 05/08/2013
The athletes were given an opportunity to attend college. They squandered ther opportunity. Blame the athletes not the school.
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Got Moxie
10:18 AM on 05/08/2013
Maybe 15 years ago (or so) I would have agreed about education being disparaged by a much larger percentage of the black community than those in that community who still valued it; but I think it's much more widespread now. Look at how many of those people who criticized Obama as a candidate found fault with his Harvard education, and further criticized Obama's position that education should not stop after high school, that vocational and technical studies were a worthy path for those who were not suited for college.

Sadly I believe we are a nation in decline of our own doing. So many people in all major ethnic groups seem to place little value in education, black, white, Latino, and of those who are invested in their child's education so many of them seem to care more about grades and standing than about the actual education. I see a future where 85% of us spend our entire adult lives selling each other cheap Wal-Mart clothing and items off the value menu, and our shortened lifespans will be a merciful blessing.
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HUFFPOST COMMUNITY MODERATOR
JScott
John Galt's last name is McGuffin-Smithee
12:50 AM on 05/08/2013
Right here at our very own university, the University of California, Berkeley the graduation rate for black male basketball players in 2013 was only 33 percent.

Yup they should stress how important it is to finish college ESPECIALLY when they get to go to Berkeley, even ANY student should realize getting into Berkeley is rare as it is, and that they should not ever throw away that opportunity to attend and GRADUATE from one of the top academic institutions in California or the US.