THE BLOG
08/22/2011 09:13 am ET | Updated Oct 22, 2011

Luther Campbell: Wrong Source, But Right Advice on HBCU Sports and the NCAA

Former Miami Hurricane athletics enthusiast and sex profiteer Luther Campbell appeared on ESPN Radio this morning to discuss the developing scandal at the University of Miami. At the tail end of a largely emotional rant against former UM booster Nevin Shapiro and his takedown of the 'U,' Uncle Luke dropped this bomb.

I'm to the point where, right now, these historical black colleges right now need to step up, and take these black kids out of this slave plantation mentality, the NCAA. These HBCUs need to get out of the NCAA. They don't go to any bowl games, they don't give them anything. They need to take them out of this slave plantation mentality that is the NCAA.

It's hard to take seriously any commentary on cultural advancement from Luther Campbell. Long retired from his exploitative and explicit career as lead man of 2 Live Crew, Campbell is as synonymous with Miami athletics as he is thong bikinis and bass drums. On its best day, his rhetoric on slave plantation mentality and possible secession from the NCAA is emotionally charged, uninformed and underdeveloped.

But on any day, it's certainly not the worst idea in the world.

Campbell is right in that the NCAA has no value in HBCU comparability in the billion-dollar business of college sports, but that has as much to do with their historically small enrollment and matching endowments as its does their ability to be a viable sports brand. Plainly, HBCUs have not been and likely will not ever be large enough to build the facilities, enhance the academic offerings and to reel in the media, but it is the gift and the curse of the mid-major.

But they are big enough to compete and maintain a respectable fan base and community imprint, small enough to avoid concern with boosters, agents and other money sharks, and distinguished enough to maintain academic rigor while ensuring athletic stability. They can't do it when guaranteed games, limited playoff appearances and the crushing losses associated with each factor into budget projections, but they may have a better chance of doing so in cooperation with each other on their own terms of achievement and engagement.

Black colleges leaving the NCAA may hurt in the very short-term, but as many of the BCS schools have demonstrated, no brand is bigger than that of the school. HBCU loyalists would likely buy into new rivalries with other black colleges, and the mere formation of a new conference or conferences creating cost-effective scheduling, playoffs and national championships would invite massive coverage for their boldness to grab at what other schools only thinking about pawing.

The NCAA has shown little more than lip service in the progress of HBCU athletics as a mid-major brand, other than as a revenue stream for high-attendance football classics and regional rivalries. This is demonstrated in the recent increase in its academic progress rate, a review to promote retention and the path to graduation for collegiate athletes. NCAA suits hiked the rate, all while acknowledging an admissions and retention model at HBCUs that is vastly different from their white counterparts, serving a vastly different community of students with socioeconomic and academic issues upon entrance.

They acknowledged that there's something wrong when half of the penalties dished out for poor APR performance were earned by HBCUs comprising less than 10 percent of all schools measured.

HBCUs are lacking substantially in resources, and there are long-standing political, economic and social implications intimately tied to these woes of HBCUs and their athletics. Some of the blame falls on alumni and communities not appropriately supporting their institutions. Some of it falls on state and federal governments failing to comply with regulations established in desegregation laws and court orders.

All of it is tied to everyone needing to remove the inferiority trigger in their brains and wallets whenever the term HBCU is mentioned. If the trigger can't be dismantled by social reform and awareness, it would benefit black colleges to consider an alternative where their academic missions and historic subtext aren't in direct contrast to their athletic affiliations and ability to grow as athletic brands.

This is the point of Luke Skyywalker, or at least we can assume it to be so somewhere between his call for secession and to follow the drinking gourd to athletic freedom. It's too bad he was the first one to say it publicly, because it's an idea HBCU presidents and fans could work towards and should embrace.

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