Monthly Archives: July 2019

Do HBCU Alumni Associations Need A Big Frying Pan?


This article is a speech given by the late President Emeritus Dr. A.I. Thomas (pictured below) in 2007 to the Prairie View A&M University National Alumni Association. Dr. Thomas was the longest serving president in Prairie View A&M University history and arguably its greatest. The speech has been altered to address all HBCU alumni associations, but at the time was given to the Prairie View A&M National Alumni Association. His vision for the scale and power HBCU alumni associations could wield remains unprecedented – and still unimplemented. Dr. Thomas understood both the power of institutionalism and the importance of Pan-Africanism as a means to empowerment and liberation for African America and the African Diaspora. His speech is the full embodiment of those ideals and values from which he presided, believed, and lived to the fullest during his life. Hopefully, shining light on his words will reignite the flame that needs to and must burn for not only our survival, but our success.

By Dr. A.I. Thomas, President Emeritus – Prairie View A&M University

Since I am speaking to you at a luncheon meeting, it seems appropriate that I ask, “Do HBCU National Alumni Associations Need a Big Frying Pan?”

Surely, you have heard the story of the HBCU Alumni who were fishing on the lake. One of the HBCU Alumni noticed that every time his classmate caught a little fish, he placed it in his take home basket. Whenever his classmate caught a big fish, he threw the big fish back into the lake. After watching his classmate put about twelve little fish in his take home basket and threw about twelve big fish back into the lake, he asked his classmate, “Why do you always throw the big fish back into the lake?” His friend announced with a knowing smile, “Ray, I don’t keep the big fish because I only have a small frying pan.”

Members of HBCU National Alumni Associations, I am sure that you would agree that it may be time for Ray to get a big frying pan or get a big skillet.

  • Yes, it is important to have a dance. It fits a little skillet.
  • Yes, it is important to have a party. It fits a little frying pan.
  • Yes, it is important to have a golf tournament. It fits a little frying pan.
  • Yes, it is important to have a bus tour. It fits a little frying pan.
  • Yes, it is important to have this luncheon. It fits a little frying pan.

Let me encourage you to consider at least five big fish for your HBCU National Alumni Association.

For these five big fish, HBCU National Alumni Associations will need a big frying pan or a big skillet. Let us quit throwing the big fish back into the lake of opportunity.

The first big fish HBCU National Alumni Associations should place in a big skillet, in the years ahead is the creation of a:

think tank

Within the membership of HBCU National Alumni Associations there are some of the brightest minds in the nation.

There is a need to bring together not more than 50 people and have them “think out” an agenda for the future of HBCU National Alumni Associations.

Tavis Smiley has laid out a: Covenant with Black America.

The Urban League has laid out the State of Black America 2019.

William D. Wright has laid out what he believes in: “Crisis of the Black Intellectual.”

“Think Tank” is a term that has gained popularity since the 1950s.

Each day you hear ideas from more than 25 “Think Tanks” which are mentioned in the mainstream news. These “Think Tanks” have programs which give direction to the ideas of each group.

Conservative “Think Tanks” lay out their programs and ideas

  • American Enterprise Institute
  • Heritage Foundation

Liberal “Think Tanks” lay out their programs and ideas

  • Brookings Institute
  • Economic Policy Institute

Non-Partisan “Think Tanks” lay out their programs and ideas

  • The Cato Institute
  • The Ayn Institute

There are governing “Think Tanks”, Chinese, European, Russian, and other international “Think Tanks.”

Each one of these “Think Tanks” lays out its philosophy, purpose, strategic plan, and road map for the future. A “Think Tank” then gets its supporters behind its programs.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia web site states, “A Think Tank is an organization, institute, corporation, or group that conducts research advocacy for a central purpose.”

HBCU National Alumni Associations must create a “Think Tank” to:

  1. Guide its future;
  2. Centralize its philosophy, mission, purpose, goals, and programs;
  3. Develop consensus in its membership;
  4. Influence the power structure to accept its programs; and
  5. Give orderly direction to the growth and development of the HBCU National Alumni Association.

The results of the “Think Tank” would establish a clear direction to foundations, politicians, financial power brokers, legislators, etc.

The Second “Big Fish” recommendation for HBCU National Alumni Associations is

CAPITALISM

We live in a capitalistic society. All of us must understand money. The value of money! The use of money!

Each of you know the value of a little money – over the years, all of you have acquired some money, many of you have acquired “Big Money.” The National Alumni Associations must begin to understand the value of owning, acquisition, and the ability to access “Big Money.”

Consideration should be given to the development of your HBCU National Alumni Association Financial Group.

Most of the alumni in this room have at least $10,000 or more conveniently resting in money market accounts at low interest rates. Some of you have $10,000 or more earning less than 1% in checking accounts. Using highly qualified financial counselors or advisors, 100 members of the Alumni Association could be issued $10,000 guaranteed membership certificates in the HBCU National Alumni Association Financial Group. Immediately, the HBCU National Alumni Association would have an equity position of $1,000,000. This million dollar equity position could be leveraged into a $20,000,000 position to: 1) underwrite real estate, 2) owning a pasta factory, 3) venture capital or other financial ventures. If there were not so many hardcore Baptists in the audience, I would recommend a $20,000,000 Wild Turkey Whiskey or Johnny Walker Scotch distributorship. In five  years this $20,000,000 could be leveraged into a $100,000,000 equity position. For this $100,000,000 fish HBCU National Alumni will need a big frying pan.

The second recommendation  for the use of a “big frying pan” is to develop an on-line fund-raising program. Most of you are familiar with what Governor Howard Dean did with on-line fund raising program in the 2004 Presidential Election Campaign. He went after $5 and $10 contributions from the small contributors. Barack Obama is a leader in the current political campaign using on-line fund raising. This on-line fund-raising is driving the current political campaigns into the largest bounty in the history of the United States political fund raising.

A $10,000 investment to construct a high quality alumni web site promoting the value of higher education for African-American youth would reach alumni, ex-students, and individuals interested in helping youth go to college.

Ten thousand alumni plus ten thousand hits from non-alumni would be 20,000 contributors. If these 20,000 contributed an average $100 per donor, HBCU National Alumni Associations would need a frying pan big enough to hold $2,000,000.

Get industry to match the $2,000,000 from individual donors and your HBCU National Alumni Association would need a big frying pan to fry this fish.

Alumni and others interested in the education of  youth and in HBCUs could be encouraged to give a $25 per month bank draft. Ten thousand bank drafts at $25 per person is $25,000 per month or $300,000 per year.

This is Capitalism. This is the American Way. The day of the nickel cup of coffee  is over, never to come again. Starbucks is selling coffee for $1.85 and is making a fortune from a global customer base.

These are only two ideas relating to “Capitalism.” HBCU National Alumni Associations will be able to develop many more and better ideas related to “Capitalism.”

The third “Big Fish” recommendation HBCU National Alumni Associations must consider is

RESPONSIBILITY FOR COMMUNITY

40 years ago, the Kerner Report identified “Two Americas, Separate but Unequal.” 

When Katrina moved the waters of Lake Pontchartrain into the below sea level bowl in New Orleans, we saw the two Americas. We saw individuals, families, and communities like the Ninth Ward, made up of blacks, Hispanics, and whites driven from hidden dens of poverty into the depths of despair. We saw city, state, and federal officials fail to respond to the needs of the “unequal” communities.

Dr. Ron Walters, an African American Social Scientist at the University of Maryland published a paper titled, “No. 1 Statistics on Blacks in the United States.” Among his No. 1 conditions are:

  • No. 1 in the poverty rate
  • No. 1 in the rate of incarceration
  • No. 1 in victims of homicide
  • No. 1 in victims of hate crimes
  • No. 1 in mortgage denial rates
  • No. 1 in obesity and diabetes rates
  • No. 1 in teachers in neighborhood classrooms with less than three years experience
  • No. 1 in receiving the death sentence
  • No. 1 in the unemployment line
  • No. 1 in suspensions and expulsions
  • No. 2 in percentage of Americans without health care
  • No. 1 in teenage pregnancy
  • No. 1 in HIV among black women
  • No. 1 in still born deaths

You ask…How can we get to be No. 1 in the positive aspects of community? The response maybe in how we got to be

  • No. 1 in collegiate basketball
  • No. 1 in pro basketball with 20 year old players making millions of dollars
  • No. 1 in pro football
  • No. 1 in Hip Hop music
  • No. 1 in the music industry

Tavis Smiley recently published a New York Times Best Seller, entitled, “The Covenant.” He listed ten key concerns:

  1. Securing the right to health care and well being
  2. Quality education for all children
  3. Correcting the System of Unequal Justice
  4. Fostering Community Policing
  5. Access to Affordable Neighborhoods
  6. Claiming our Democracy
  7. Strengthening Our Roots
  8. Access to Jobs
  9. Environmental Justice
  10. Closing the Racial Divide

Smiley quotes Dr. Cornel West, “You can’t lead our people if you don’t love our people. You can’t save our people if you won’t serve our people.”

The State of Black America 2007, published by The National Urban League, focused on 10 essays on the plight of young men.

With almost 40% of young black men unemployed of incarcerated, where was the focus on the recent debates by the 20 Democrats and Republicans actively running for President in 2008.

Do HBCU National Alumni Associations need a “big frying pan” in order to positively impact communities? Can HBCU National Alumni Associations join with each other and other groups, such as the Urban League, NAACP, 100 Black Men, and other interested organizations to deal with this “Big Fish”? Do we expect the Jewish Community to fry this fish for us? Do we expect the Hispanic Community to fry this fish for us? Do we expect the Chinese, Indian, Korean, and Vietnamese Communities to fry this fish for us?

Do we need to get our own big frying pan and begin to fry our own “Big Fish”?

The renowned black labor leader, A. Phillip Randolph once said:

“At the banquet table of life, there are no reserved seats. You get what you can take and keep what you can hold. If you can’t take anything, you won’t get anything. And if you can’t hold anything, you won’t keep anything. And you can’t take anything without organization.”

Randolph was right. Without organizations like HBCU National Alumni Associations, black folk will never able to take, keep, or hold onto anything, much less the hard fought gains that we have struggled to achieve.

The responsibility of HBCU National Alumni Associations must also extend beyond the city, state, and nation. I am sure each one of you has read Thomas Friedman’s book, The World Is Flat. We no longer live in the Houston or Carthage Community, the Texas or California Community, or the United States Community. Each one of us is wearing clothes made outside of the U.S.A. We are eating food imported from the world or from international communities.

Why not get involved in building communities in Liberia, Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia, and Ghana. Why not the Bahamas? Why not Brazil, Venezuela, Cuba, or Haiti?

Examples of the understanding of “Capitalism” and “Responsible for Community” are reflected in the efforts of the Pyramid Community Development Corporation, Inc., a Houston organization under the leadership of Rev. KirbyJon Caldwell and a membership organization, in Jamaica, New York, led by Dr. Floyd Flake out of Houston’s Acres Homes Area.

The Pyramid Community Development Corporation, Inc. leveraged its funds with local and national banks. Together with corporate gifts, the result was a major shopping center anchored by a Fiesta Grocery Store. The shopping center has grown near twenty smaller store units. They Pyramid Community Development Corporation, Inc. developed The Power Center Building which includes a large banquet hall and professional offices. The group established the Imani School, a Texas Charter School.

The Pyramid Community Development Corporation, Inc. also developed one of the largest residential villages consisting of over two hundred housing units, each appraised from $125,000 to $225,000. The Pyramid Community Development Corporation, Inc. had a big frying pan and demonstrated an understanding of capitalism and responsibility to the community.

Dr. Flakes secured a “big frying pan” in Jamaica, New York. Understanding capitalism and the responsibility for empowering community, his group acquired an entire city block of property which was turned into a shopping strip. His group also developed an education academy.

One of the most pressing problems facing our nation is the energy crisis. HBCU National Alumni Associations working with respective HBCUs could develop the HBCU Energy Research Institute. The institute could conduct research in agriculture, water, wind, business, etc. The institute could conduct research anywhere in the world, in Ghana, Nigeria, Egypt, or Kenya. The HBCU Energy Research Institute could lease 20,000 acres of land in Louisiana or Brazil and create ethanol from sugar cane. It could grow switch grass in Africa. It could collect algae from the Atlantic Ocean.

It would be truly wonderful to have such a research institute based in Liberia. This would certainly help the economic recovery of Liberia, the nation of our forefathers.

The organizations which make these types of efforts work do not have the little skillets. They have big frying pans. I encourage you to keep the little pans for parties, dances, golf tournaments, conventions, etc. Can we dare to get some big frying pans and during the next twenty years make a “big difference?”

If you truly understand capitalism, you know that HBCU National Alumni Association members would not necessarily be workers in these projects. The HBCU National Alumni Associations would control capital which hires leadership and management talent to execute each project for the Association.

The fourth “Big Fish” we need to catch certainly needs a “big skillet” or “frying pan”.

INCREASING AFRICAN AMERICAN PROFESSIONALS

The HBCU National Alumni Associations must take on the responsibility for replacing African American professionals.

African American professionals are declining each year due to age and death.

Who is responsible for replacing the African American Educators, namely, University Presidents, Professors, Superintendents, High School Principals, Vice Principals, and teachers?

Qualified professionals are being imported into the United States from countries all around the world: Nurses from the Philippines, Scientist from Europe, and Engineers from India.

HBCU National Alumni Associations should take on the responsibility of increasing:

  1. Health Professionals (Doctors, Nurses, Pharmacists, and Dentist,) How many podiatrists are in your community? There are less than 40 African American podiatrist in Texas for a Texas population of 23,507,783 (2007).
  2. Lawyers (Corporate, Immigration)
  3. Bankers (Investment Bankers & Owners)
  4. Professional Trained Ministers
  5. Engineers and Architects
  6. City Planners
  7. Biologists
  8. Physicists
  9. Agricultural Scientists
  10. Agricultural Economists
  11. Military Personnel
  12. Diplomats
  13. Other Professionals

I wish to close with a final suggestion for the need of a big skillet or frying pan.

Perpetuation of HBCU National Alumni Associations by recruiting African American students to attend HBCUs and African American Faculty to work at HBCUs. 

HBCU National Alumni Associations should assist their HBCU in recruiting qualified African American faculty. While diversity in ethnic background should be encouraged and maintained. HBCUs must not lose its historical identity. This identity is essential to maintain balance in the democracy. A pluralist balance in society gives strength to the democracy. Ethnic groups maintain loyalty to their own group identity. The University of Texas would lose its identity if the majority of its faculty came from Yale. The University of St. Thomas would lose its identity if the majority of its faculty came from non-Catholic institutions. Baylor University would lose its identity if the majority of its faculty came from the University of Punjab. HBCUs will lose its identity if the majority of its faculty is no longer African American.

There was a time when HBCUs could not pay competitive salaries. Faculty came to the HBCU because of loyalty to the philosophy of HBCUs. HBCUs are now paying competitive salaries. The demand for qualified African American faculty and administrators must be met by an active recruitment program of African American professionals.

While diversity is important, there is a need for a faculty and administration to carny on the spirit and traditions of HBCUs.

Recruitment has two parts: Faculty and Students

The HBCU National Alumni Associations must have a student recruitment program throughout their states in key cities and throughout the nation and world.

One of the most ciritical national needs is for professional nurses. HBCU Colleges of Nursing has space to graduate thousands of nurses per years, which is double its present graduation rate. HBCU National Alumni Associations ccould place student center recruiter teams in 50 city sites in each state and 40 in the nation and recruit 2 students from each site and the freshmen nursing enrollment would exceed thousands of students.

This model could be duplicated for recruiting:

  1. Engineers
  2. Elementary School Teachers
  3. Science Teachers
  4. Math Teachers
  5. Reading Teachers
  6. Business Majors
  7. Agriculture Majors
  8. Pre-Med Majors
  9. ROTC Graduates
  10. Others

To accomplish this task, the HBCU National Alumni Associations need a big frying pan – because we are talking about big fish.

There are many big fish which are available to HBCU National Alumni Associations in the economic, political, and other rivers, lakes, streams, and other human endeavor. I pray that each one of you and the entire HBCU National Alumni Association will reflect on this message and look forward to answering the question: “Do HBCU National Alumni Associations need a big skillet with a resounding … YES! I close this visit with the Productive People of HBCUs with two of my favorite statements.

I have given you my best thoughts. If perchance I may have offended anyone please forgive me.

If you have heard me and understood what I said, my words are reflected in the thoughts of Robert Frost when he stated.

THE ROAD NOT TAKEN

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that, the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves not step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence;

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

On your way home at the close of this convention, please get the biggest skillet you can buy. A big skillet will make a big difference in your life and in the life of the HBCU National Alumni Associations.

 

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The $6 Billion Delusion Of Grandeur: HBCU Alumni Refuse To Accept The Harsh Financial Reality Of HBCU Athletics


“Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is.” – Bob Feller

It sometimes feels like there is no more irrational sector of HBCUs than athletics when it comes to HBCU alumni bases and administrations. We want to buy the Empire State Building, but barely have money for a night at Motel 6. If you have watched ESPN’s 30 for 30: The Pony Express and The U, then you probably do not need to go further in this article. For those who have not watched either, please do so immediately and continue to read. If cheap shots on the field bother you, then you are not at all ready for the brutality of what happens outside the lines and behind closed doors. College athletics is a contact sport, a dirty business, not for the faint of heart, and the cost associated with it remind us just how huge the institutional wealth gap is between HBCUs and our counterparts.

In 2014, HBCU Money produced an article that showed the SWAC/MEAC conferences were losing a combined $130 million in their member athletic programs. Two years later, that number had skyrocketed to $147 million. The members of the two conferences had combined expenses of approximately $194.1 million while revenues without subsidies were a meager $47 million. Of course most alumni have no idea that the subsidies that we speak of are primarily student fees. These subsidies accounted for a staggering $142.5 million or 75 percent of the athletic revenues that the SWAC/MEAC generated if you can call it such a thing. Subsidies or allocated as defined by the NCAA and others consider student fees, direct and indirect institutional support and state money “allocated,” or everything not generated by the department’s athletics functions. It is not clear however by the NCAA definition if booster giving is considered a subsidy or athletic functions. However at 75 percent of revenues what is clear is that it is not ticket sales, sponsorships, merchandise sales, media deals, etc., but primarily student fees driving HBCU athletic revenue.

For the majority of our students, that means additional cost onto their cost of attendance which is largely financed through – you guessed it – student loans. Essentially what rabid HBCU alumni and administrations have done is asked students to take out a loan for sports. A predatory payday loan at that. The irony is that even with the subsidies the two conferences still were losing money, approximately $5 million, meaning HBCU boosters were not even giving enough to breakeven. Many HBCU alumni hold dear to the belief that if you build it they will come (eventually), they being the abundance of riches that African American athletes pour into our white counterparts and if they return to HBCUs the power will tilt and so will the finances of sports back into our favor making our programs profitable and financially abundant. Never mind the harsh reality those mega television contracts we read about to the Power 5 have little to do with the athletes on the field and more about the fans in the seats and audience nationwide. Outside of the Bayou Classic, there is not one HBCU football or basketball game that could bring over 70,000 (Superdome’s capacity) to it and millions of viewers on television. The latter mainly due to it being a Thanksgiving weekend game and the game itself almost became something of a staple to watch in many African American households. Fan bases care about having the best players because they care about beating their rivals. Coaches care about having the best players because they want to keep their job. The fact that they are African Americans is a byproduct of a game played almost 50 years ago when USC beat Alabama with a young African American kid named Sam “Bam” Cunningham who “Bear” Bryant’s all-white team had no answer for so in true fashion they went out and got a few of their own. And the rest as they say is history, but the past echoing into the present is very real and the present’s echo into the future is also very real.

The question is as educated and critically thinking capable alumni, why are we not able to examine this subject in a rational and objective manner? Why are we not able to devise an actual plan that does not involve breaking the backs of our students? African Americans are already the poorest group by median income ($40,258 vs. $61,372 for all races) and median wealth ($11,030 vs. $134,230 for European Americans) in America and we want to make it that much harder for our graduates to become financially stable and wealthy in exchange for sports? Primarily, this accusation is lobbed at football and men’s basketball and the black financial holes that they are to the majority of the nation’s colleges. By far, they are the two costliest sports on any college campus, black or white.

Schools like the SWAC’s Prairie View A&M built a $60 million stadium and new athletic complex (uncertainty as to whether the school’s current renovation of their basketball arena is included or not) and Jackson State University at one point even had the gall to suggest a $200 million domed stadium complex. Yet, without subsidies Prairie View’s program lost $13.1 million in 2016-2017 and Jackson State lost $5.4 million. Meanwhile, Spelman College scrapped its athletic program six years ago. The former president, Dr. Beverly Tatum, “When considering our options, I learned that we only had 80 student-athletes and the cost of our program was approaching $1 million per year.” This against a reality of serving a college of African American women and as an ESPN article noted, “49 percent of African-American women over the age of 20 had heart diseases, and were twice as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes as non-Hispanic white women. The health issues that black women faced, including those at Spelman, were very much linked to diet and a lack of physical activity.” Spelman and its leadership wanted alumni to be healthy now and for the future. Health builds wealth is not just a saying but a real reality. Less days missed at work means more income earned, more money saved and invested, more wealth created, and more opportunity to give back to your alma mater. This is not even getting into the costs that many African Americans suffer from later in life because of poor lifestyle and diet which becomes so costly that there is little left at the end of life to even leave behind to their HBCU. Is Spelman sacrificing their athletic program today so that they can have wealthier alumni tomorrow who would be able to bring back the program and truly have it be sustainable? How much of a donation would it take to endow the $1 million annually to bring back their athletic program? Approximately $15-25 million.

Are we suggesting that all HBCUs follow Spleman’s lead? No, certainly not. There can be a happy medium, but first HBCU alumni need to truly understand the cost associated with major college sports, primarily football and men’s basketball. The harsh reality is that these are the only two sports at the college level that currently generate any significant revenue for colleges and unfortunately the cost to recruit in these two sports starts far before an athlete even gets to college. Recruiting for prized college basketball players for many college coaches starts in AAU middle school. Coaches from the basketball Power 5 conferences are constantly traveling year round and scouting talent that will not be college ready for four to five years in many instances. To say it is costly to follow an 8th grader around is an understatement, but if you do not do it, then you have almost no chance at seriously recruiting them (or their family) later on. HBCU alumni are not sponsoring or even mildly impacting the AAU financial machine, which can cost a family upwards of $5,000 for summer play and often times those costs are absorbed by a benefactor who maybe more akin to the Godfather and wants you to remember the favor he did for you later. Google AAU bribes and Google almost has a heart attack returning the amount of searches on the subject. When it comes to football, the situation has become just as complicated with the advent of the 7 on 7 leagues that have popped up all over the country. The cost spent on developing and “steering” young black boys as athletes begins early and costs tens of of millions annually – and we have not even gotten to the programs themselves yet. There is an enormous amount of dark money that is spent by athletic companies like Nike, Reebok, Adidas, etc. to ensure that the pup stars in both sports go to schools where they can maximize the exposure of the next superstar wearing their apparel. Of course, high school and AAU coaches receive perks for being the “voice of reason” to help influence many young men and advise their families on where would be best for them. Again, HBCU alumni and boosters barely have money to give to their own athletic programs, let alone “lobbying” to high school coaches with no guarantee of payoffs, but mandatory if you want to even be in the conversation. Then there are the facilities.

While Prairie View A&M spent $60 million on a stadium and athletic complex a few years ago, the University of Oregon was spending $68 million on a football performance center. Yes, Oregon built a building dedicated entirely to their football program and the state of Oregon changed the laws to accommodate the building that ran afoul of building codes because of the influence of Phil Knight, the founder and largest shareholder of Nike and the University of Oregon’s biggest booster. According to Oregon Live it includes, “offices, team video theaters, offensive and defensive strategy rooms, a coaching conference suite, a video editing center, a dining hall and a weight room.” Again, just for football. The Darth Vader to Prairie View A&M University’s Luke Skywalker for good measure, Texas A&M University, spent $450 million on a stadium renovation or eight times what the entirety of Prairie View’s athletic complex cost for a renovation to its stadium and now seats over 102,000 people. It has taken some HBCUs over 30 years to raise the money for even moderate renovations to their HBCU athletic facilities. Many are still waiting and some tired of waiting, increased student fees to redirect toward athletics. Colleges have to have the latest and greatest to attract the best athletes who are being treated as deities before even stepping foot on a college campus. College athletics has become an arms race of new facilities, high-paid coaches, under the table bags of money to recruits and so much more that spiral the cost beyond many of our wildest dreams. The rabbit hole is deep.

A few names and numbers:

Al Dunlap – $15 million. Paul Bryant, Jr. – $20 million. Phil Knight – $300 million. Christy Gaylord Everest – $18 million. Drayton McLane – $200 million. Herb Kohl – $25 million. Jack Vanier – $20 million. These are just six boosters that Mother Jones reported were major college boosters in an article in 2014. The six donations account for almost $600 million, an amount that is four times the size of the losses the SWAC/MEAC losses account for just a few years prior. Need even more perspective on how big these donations are? Aside from Prairie View A&M’s $17.9 million in expenses, those donations could cover the expenses of any SWAC or MEAC school in their singular. Phil Knight’s giving to the University of Oregon (since 2014 he has given another $200 million to Oregon) or Drayton McLane’s giving to Baylor University could cover the cost of every school in the SWAC and MEAC ($194.1 million) with money left over in the bank – by themselves. In comparison, HBCU Gameday recently reported that Winston-Salem State University was in the midst of a $250,000 athletic capital campaign with major donors coming from ESPN and WSSU alumnus, Stephen A. Smith, with a gift of $50,000 and Chris Paul, an NBA player whose 2018 salary was $25 million, giving a gift of $25,000. Large donations in HBCU athletic circles indeed, but making HBCUs competitive in recruitment among blue chips – not so much.

Unfortunately, there is no real repository of data on booster giving among colleges. Most of the information on the aforementioned boosters is from press clippings where donations to Power 5 conferences make headlines. In fact, a lot of giving becomes very opaque if we factor in boosters who provide jobs to athletes’ family members (remember Reggie Bush?) and the like. For the HBCU 5 conferences, there are not even press clippings, although if HBCU athletic and development departments wanted to disclose how much in donations were directed toward athletic programs from alumni it would be acutely helpful or create a database that sites like HBCU Money could use to give a fair analysis of the giving that is happening in HBCU athletic programs it would be greatly appreciated. However, again when 75 percent of the revenues come from student fees, it is not hard to know those numbers would be embarrassing and minuscule at best. And that brings us back to our problem of HBCU alumni who seem to be delusional about the true cost for building the type of athletic programs that can be self-sustaining and not breaking the back of students who in the future will not be able to give like they could and creating a vicious cycle of under giving to the institutions as a whole – all for the sake of sports.

The HBCU 5 athletic programs based on the SWAC and MEAC’s numbers, being Division 1 programs makes them inherently more expensive, brings all five conferences (SWAC, MEAC, CIAA, SIAC, & GCAC) total expenses to around an estimated $300 million annually. There are only two HBCUs with endowments above $300 million and we are possibly still a decade away from Howard University becoming the first HBCU to a $1 billion endowment. There are over 100 HWCUs with endowments over $1 billion. Around 90 percent of HBCUs do not even have endowments of $50 million. A startling statistic when you have schools trying to run athletic programs that cost $10 million plus annually. If HBCU alumni who truly cared about sports wanted to endow HBCU athletic programs with enough to generate the $300 million annually they would need to raise between $4 to $6 billion and hope they can find returns of almost 10 percent annually in an economic environment that is giving out low to mid single digit returns far more commonly. At 5 percent annual return, it would take $6 billion for HBCUs to get HBCU athletic programs off the backs and out of the pockets of its students and help reduce student debt loads. Almost 9 out of 10 HBCU graduates will finish with debt, 32 percent higher than the national average and a median debt load that is 40 percent higher than their counterparts at Top 50 endowed HWCUs. Is it worth it is a question any HBCU alumni and athletic boosters must ask themselves who cares about our institutions and the students who matriculate through them.

Wayne Gretzky is famously quoted as saying he was great because he skated where the puck was going not where it has been. HBCU alumni are bent on doing the exact opposite when it comes to athletics. Even if HBCU alumni could raise the $6 billion, it would be a fools’ decision to spend it on sports, mainly again football and men’s basketball. So why is an HBCU like Florida Memorial University selling $100 t-shirts to bring back its football program? Is it pressure from alumni? Is it an administration that wants it to be part of their legacy? The long-term implications of fielding a football program when Florida Memorial was moving towards a future of profitable athletic sports is baffling to say the least.

Little League sports statistics show that soccer is the future in this country, baseball is seeing a resurgence, and women’s sports is just scratching the surface of its potential globally. David Beckham, an international soccer megastar in his day and now the owner of the Miami MLS franchise, spent time at Florida Memorial just five years ago. Beckham’s is a relationship that should be leaned into and nurtured to put it mildly. Meanwhile, the pipeline for football is dwindling rapidly due to society’s fears over health concerns and yet, less than twenty HBCUs have soccer teams. HBCUs have all but abandoned baseball despite its resurgence in America and globally. Again, where the puck is and where is it going. This is to say nothing of the infancy that Esports is in, an industry that is estimated to breach a value of $1 billion in the next year according to the World Economic Forum coupled with prize money as high as $1 million for gamers in some tournaments and what feels like an exponential growth in sponsorships and endorsements. Esports is picking up so much steam it is being introduced in high school athletic programs and even some colleges are starting to offer Esports scholarships. There is not one of us who is over the age of 35 and under the age of 50 that does not remember a Madden tournament in the dorms of our HBCUs. We were early as we usually are, but completely missing the opportunity to leverage and be ahead of the curve.

HBCU alumni and athletic boosters need to have tougher conversations with themselves and with administrations. Read your HBCU’s financial reports for starters. A lot of this is poor financial literacy in that we do not know the cost of running our institutions, growing endowments, and sustaining an athletic program. We simply can not afford to buy high and sell low with HBCU athletics anymore. There is a happy medium and we need to have a honest conversation about it. Alumni and boosters need to understand the true cost of running our programs (something administrations need to be more transparent about) and not continue with the pie in the sky hope that African American high school athletes are just going to miraculously pick us. Zion Williamson, who had two parents attend Livingstone College still chose Duke University. There is a moat around football and men’s basketball and we need to accept that, but those two sports will not be the fountain of prosperity forever. Malcolm X said the future belongs to those who prepare for it today and it is time for us to start preparing like we need to cram for a final exam in the morning and our graduation depends on it.