Sports industry pros tackle inequality in college athletics with Coaches vs. Racism basketball classic

“HBCUs just the do not have the same resources, as far as budgets and facilities. I’m talking about dollars and economic resources," says CVR’s Executive Director Darryl Woods

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The inaugural Coaches vs. Racism event kicked off last weekend in Washington, D.C., bringing the University of Michigan and Prairie View A&M University men’s basketball teams to face off in the Historically Black Colleges and University (HBCUs) Roundball Experience. 

While most would expect for the Michigan Wolverines to compete against a fellow Big Ten team, the squad’s participation in this game served a greater purpose beyond entertainment and historical statistics.

Coaches vs. Racism, a national non-profit organization, is dedicated to utilizing basketball to bridge the gap of inequality among the nation’s colleges. The organization aims to unite HBCUs, Big 10 schools, and major universities to ensure that spotlight and recognition are evenly distributed to all schools and players, most especially HBCUs, who are often overlooked due to lacking of resources. 

This inequality causes scouts who are seeking talent for the pros to mostly select from bigger schools, with bigger press, and bigger budgets. The funding at PWIs (predominantly White institutions) is substantially higher than at HBCUs, giving their college athletes the advantage of being drafted into the NBA far more often.

Notoriety, television time and equipment all play a significant role in showcasing an athlete’s skillset, but Darryl Woods, CVR’s executive director, wants to ensure that the same access can be provided to Black institutions as well.

Woods, who says that his non-profit brainchild was sparked simply by engaging in casual conversations with college pals on changes that would uplift HBCUs and tackle systemic racism, implemented his organization on what he refers to as SEER (social injustice, economic divide, equality, reform, and systemic racism). 

Woods spoke with theGrio to dissect just how systemic racism plagues the world of sports.

“There are different levels of systemic racism and how it plays out in sports today; in high level teams and also professional ranks, [is] when Black coaches are overlooked for jobs that they so well deserve. So, you see this in jobs and inclusion within sports,” Woods said.

“HBCUs just the do not have the same resources, as far as budgets and facilities. Administrator at PWIs generally only have one job, but an HBCU administrator typically wears two to three hats. I’m talking about dollars and economic resources.”

When asked what privileges he has noticed with PWIs in terms of recruitment, Wood said, “Talented players tend to rush to schools where they feel they will get the exposure, the ESPN, the publicity.” Woods feels that HBCU Roundball Experience will garner much needed attention for a great cause, due to it being nationally televised on the Big 10 Network.

CVR serves as a safe space, allowing open dialogue and encouraging community building for the understanding of each athlete, Woods said.

It’s no secret that HBCUs enroll and nurture some of the nation’s greatest athletes, who happen to recognize their disadvantage when seeking to be scouted into the pros.

Former NBA star Ronald “Flip” Murray knows firsthand the trials of being one of the very few in the nation drafted to the NBA straight out of an HBCU. The Philadelphia native was drafted from the first HBCU in the south, Shaw University, in Raleigh, North Carolina.

During an interview with theGrio, Murray said that one of the main challenges when being scouted to the pros while attending an HBCU is the lack of exposure.

“Division 1 schools receive greater exposure,” said Murray. “HBCUs aren’t getting national coverage. It’s definitely not because of the skill level, because a lot players that play Division 2 and Division 3 basketball are equally talented as Division 1 players.”

(Credit: Marconja Zor)

On Saturday night, fans for both Prairie View A&M Panthers and the Michigan Wolverines filled the stands at the Entertainment & Sports Arena to witness the matchup.

Byron Smith, who is 44-5 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) during the last three years, is the head coach for the PVAM Panthers. Former Washington Bullets, now known as the Wizards, superstar Juwan Howard is the head coach for the Michigan Wolverines, who rank 6th in the nation.

Michigan took the victory with a 77-49 win over Prairie View A&M. 

During the press conference, theGrio asked Coach Juwan Howard on whether his Division 1 team understood the significance of Saturday’s CVR game.

“Our guys are very in tune to what’s happening in this climate and they also understand that this game wasn’t just a game. It’s for a great cause of HBCUs and we truly support,” Howard explained. “We understand the resources is not like how it is in a Big Ten, and whatever we can do at the University of Michigan to be able to help, first spread the word, and then also by care in our hearts to do whatever we can.

He concluded, “To be providers in the sense of using our platform and then financially doing what we can for help HBCUs.”

Woods added that he plans on taking the tournament on a nationwide tour, adding more cities in the near future.

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