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Brother To Brother: Sorry Jarrett, Athletics Can Not Save Us, But Research & Entrepreneurship Can


“And this is going to piss Will off when I say this, but go get a football coach.” – Jarrett Carter

I open this “letter” to my dear brother saying that we have known each other for many years and this debate maybe as old as our friendship. Even I will admit that at one point I too believed that if HBCUs could return to obtainment of our community’s physical talent on the football field and basketball courts that our schools would reap the financial rewards they so desperately need. Unfortunately, Michael Vick, LeBron James nor his son, or the likes of Zion Williamson is walking through our doors anytime soon. Instead, we are going to have to rely on what truly drives the economics and finances of higher education institutions and that is research, entrepreneurship, and good old fashioned Afro-Brain Power.

Let me first address why we have absolutely no chance in sports savings us. I do not mean we have a little chance, I mean we have no chance. None. Zero. Negative zero even. Unfortunately, HBCUs even if LeBron James had gone to one can not fight the shiny uniforms that billionaire boosters like Nike’s Phil Knight rolls out to the University of Oregon every other week or the tens of millions that Kevin Plank the founder of Under Armour has poured into the University of Maryland’s athletic facilities. The former has so much influence in the state of Oregon that when he wanted to build a headquarters dedicated just to football that apparently ran afoul with the state building process – the state changed it. Yes, the state changed it. Both of these programs mentioned until these billionaire boosters got involved were marginal programs at best and are now most would agree significantly better, but by no means powerhouses. Essentially, Knight and Plank have poured over $500 million into these programs combined to take them from the basement of Division 1 college athletics to middle of the pack and sometime contenders. Between these two men, they are worth a combined almost $40 billion. It is safe to say the interest on their wealth alone allows for eight and nine figure donations to their alma maters in perpetuity if they so choose. Ironically or not, both of these men were college athletes who became entrepreneurs and not professional athletes and whose products were essentially developed in their time on campus, but more on this later.

Secondly, the ROI on athletes going pro or schools turning a profit on athletics is just not even worth a paragraph so I will keep this short. The NFL, NBA, and NCAA continues to squeeze HBCUs out of professional sports. HBCUers in the NBA is more a historic statement than current or future one. This year’s list of HBCU alumni in the NFL and their earnings: 22 players representing 16 HBCUs and combining for almost $40 million in earnings, which is the lowest earnings figure since HBCU Money started tracking the data. For perspective, that $40 million is 0.1 percent of Knight and Plank’s combined net worth. To further drive the point home, if Knight and Plank put all of their wealth into a savings account paying 1 percent, it would earn $400 million – ten times what all HBCU players will earn in 2018. Further to the point, because these careers are so short, major donations from these players who have tasted professional glory have been few and far between. I am still waiting on Jerry Rice to make a public donation of the seven figure variety – not a pledge, Jerry – to Mississippi Valley State University. Yet, schools like Prairie View A&M University spend $60 million on a new stadium that struggles to sellout. Lest we forget the almost disaster dome Jackson State University wanted to build at $200 million. If your school does not have access to a major TV network contract, the chances of you making money is almost slim to none and networks offer those contracts because they want to sell advertisements – networks I might add that are not African American owned and represent a media that shows a consistent disdain for our institutions. How do you sell that level of advertisements? Large fan bases, pure and simple math. The University of Michigan or Alabama on any given Saturday can put 100,000 fans in the seats and probably another million plus eyeballs glued to the television screen. HBCUs (individually) do not have that kind of scale nor the means to create it. So much for a short paragraph, but the problem is deep and the solution even deeper. The solution to building sustainable institutions lies in a holistic and committed approach to research and entrepreneurship on HBCU campuses.

HBCUs (and our alumni) for whatever reason have never really committed to research. Even during the days of George Washington Carver at Tuskegee Institute there were rumors that his research was looked at more in passing than integral to the future of the institution. I dare imagine what Tuskegee would be like had Carver or the institution had the patent on peanut butter. The global peanut butter industry is worth an estimated $3 billion as of 2017 and demand is growing at 6 percent annually according to CAGR. An article in the New Yorker reported, “In 2012, American universities earned $2.6 billion from patent royalties, according to the Association of University Technology Managers. The tech-transfer model is entrenched in medical schools and in biotech development.” As noted in our piece about HBCUs and patents, the University of Wisconsin and Carnegie-Mellon University garnered patent settlements in their favor to the tune of $1.2 billion, an amount that is virtually half of all HBCU endowments combined and almost three times what HBCU spend on research.

HBCUs combined have research expenditures of approximately $520.1 million as of 2017 according to the National Science Foundation data, an amount that is 0.7 percent of the $75.3 billion colleges and universities totaled in R&D expenditures. A number that has been declining every year for the past four years and off dramatically from 2014 when expenditures were a combined $547.1 million at HBCUs, a decline of almost 5 percent over the period while the top ten R&D colleges/universities have seen their expenditures rise by almost 20 percent in the same period. There are now 46 individual colleges and universities whose research and expenditures exceed $520 million per year, 12 of them exceeding $1 billion annually, and then there is John Hopkins University that lords over everyone with its $2.5 billion annually in research expenditures. But what does all this investment in research mean to sustainability? For one, it means these schools are institutions that are integral to the intellectual advancement of the nation in every aspect of industry, government, and military. A charge that HBCUs could take on in a very similar fashion for African America and the African Diaspora at large if it wanted to really be aggressive. However, it also takes on the commercialization of research, which ultimately leads to answering the question you my dear brother asked – Can HBCUs Create Billionaires?

In an oldie but goodie article that I published at HBCU Money many years ago called “The University of Power & Wealth”, I asked the question, “What do Google, Time Warner, FedEx, Microsoft, Facebook, and Dell have in common? They were all founded on college campuses. Google founded at Stanford, Time Warner & FedEx at Yale, Microsoft and Facebook at Harvard, and Dell at the University of Texas.” The value of all those firms as of this publication are a combined almost $2.2 trillion. Yes, that is trillion with a T. In addition, the founders of all these companies, except for the now defunct Time Warner which was sold for $85 billion to AT&T, have a combined net worth over $320 billion as of this publication. Some would argue that even the world’s move valuable company, Apple, is the result of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak’s proximity to Silicon Valley, basically a development creation that sprung out of Stanford’s research. Stanford and MIT maybe the nation’s most entrepreneurial colleges and it is no secret that their endowments reflect their innovation.

MIT is a monster or model all in and of itself. The school located in the heart of Boston, MA. has a student population of a little over 11,000 students. It is ranked 14th in the country with $950 million in R&D expenditures and that research combined with entrepreneurial DNA and cultivation shows up in a major way. “A new report estimates that, as of 2014, MIT alumni have launched 30,200 active companies, employing roughly 4.6 million people, and generating roughly $1.9 trillion in annual revenues.” If HBCU entrepreneurs employed 4.6 million African Americans it would be equivalent to employing almost 1 in 4 African Americans that are employed and the $1.9 trillion in revenue would be 50 percent greater than all of African America’s current buying power. MIT is so committed to its entrepreneurial culture in fact that it has even created an accelerator called The Engine to fund these ventures. “Just months after its launch, MIT’s new startup accelerator The Engine yesterday closed its first investment fund for over $150 million, which will support startups developing breakthrough scientific and technological innovations with potential for societal impact.” Can anyone imagine what would come of the ingenuity that our students possess if we had access to startup capital at even a fraction of that amount? Unfortunately, some in leadership want to spend more time bickering about why Michael Bloomberg, John Hopkins alumni and founder of Bloomberg L.P. and net worth of $45 billion, should have given the $1.8 billion he recently donated and some of the $3 billion overall he has donated to John Hopkins to schools who need it more than actually making the investments they can make into their own students, alumni, faculty, and staff so that they can create the next Bloomberg.

Let me also be clear in that last point that this onus is not all, not even remotely the responsibility of administrations who may come and go ultimately, but on alumni. Our alumni and their deference to administrations is part of the problem. Most HBCUs and the communities and towns they are in are underdeveloped and therefore there is millions of dollars that flow from our HBCUs every year from students and the like that could be circulated back. If alumni would invest in the dirt and build infrastructure so that small businesses, entrepreneurship, and capital was available intimately to their own HBCU, it would go a long way in creating communities, businesses, jobs, internships, opportunity, and more.

In closing my dear brother, I say this to you. It is indeed Afro-Brain and intellect that is our key not only to survival but success. Yes, sports pull at our heart strings, but it is not putting anything into our purse strings. Bowie State University obtaining their first patent is amazing, but it needs to go from breaking news to common news. HBCUs can be at the forefront of the new space race, the cure for Alzheimer’s, solving the water crisis in Flint, or the latest best selling apps for smartphones and the like if we truly believe that we can and invest in it like we mean it.

In HBCUs We Trust,

William A. Foster, IV

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Black Enterprise Fails To Lead With Journalistic Integrity After Not Crediting HBCU Money Article On Ann Kroenke


By William A. Foster, IV

No man ever yet became great by imitation. – Samuel Johnson

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I was in second grade when I did my first book report. The class went to the library during the day and picked out our books and I chose Fraggle Rock to do my report on. Upon arriving home my mother as was customary had me and my sister sit down at the table to do our homework while she prepared dinner. I was excited about my book report, but there was just one problem – I had no idea what a book report entailed. Not bothering to ask I just started copying the book verbatim and I was about halfway through the book when my mother came to check on my progress. My mother asked me what I was doing and I of course told her my book report. Realizing I was just copying every word in the book she realized that perhaps I had not been properly instructed or did not understand exactly what a book report was. She talked to me about plagiarism or in second grade comprehension “copying” other people’s work and how it was not allowed. This was as they say a learning moment because beyond just explaining plagiarism to me she also talked to me about integrity, ethics, and the hard work that both the author and illustrator put into the book, and that it is always important to acknowledge people’s efforts. My mother being who she is had me to complete my first works cited page.

HBCU Money is a startup financial journalism multimedia company. There are no full-time writers and the site itself is still currently in a blog style format. I secure guest writers and try to be very creative producing original content like The HBCUpreneur Corner, one of the site’s more popular series that interviews HBCU entrepreneurs. The site is largely financed through bootstrapping and reinvesting the pence that the site currently receives through ad revenue. A primary reason for the blog style format is that its free and an extensive site overhaul has not been in the budget. Focusing on quality content has been. HBCU Money will not even turn three years old for another four months. While the site recently achieved the 100 000 views milestone, HBCU Money is by no means busting at the bandwidth in terms of readership. Our social media presence is limited to less than 1 000 followers and the Facebook page has less than 200. Despite all these resource limitations my mother’s lesson is soundly within me with all content that is produced. Sources are extensively fact checked and credit is always given when quoting others work. The fundamentals or basics you learn in high school english 101 and as a college freshmen in your english composite class. Things that I believe will be in this company’s DNA as it grows and a culture I will fight fiercely to ensure are well rooted into anyone who comes to work for this company.

Recently, I was working on a piece on education demographics of America’s 100 wealthiest and I happen upon Mrs. Ann Kroenke. Her Forbes profile listed her school as Lincoln University. As you may or may not know there are three Lincoln Universities in the United States and two are HBCUs. I could have just assumed that she went to the Lincoln University in Missouri because she lives in Missouri. Instead, I decided to do what you were suppose to do and that is contact a credible source. I did so by contacting the registrar’s office at LUM, which I chose first because most signs pointed to it being the most likely one. I received verification from the school that yes I had the right person.  This is a huge story. In fact, the morning I was breaking this story a fellow journapreneur Jarrett Carter, owner and publisher of HBCU Digest, said to me, “I hope your server is tight. I am sure this post will go global. Don’t let your site melt.”  I knew the story was big. For decades, Oprah Winfrey had been held up as HBCU’s wealthiest and only billionaire HBCU alumn. Now, I was about to tell HBCU Nation that was incorrect and the true wealthiest HBCU alum is a Walton, owners’ of the Walmart Empire, and an European American woman. I felt fairly certain that the HBCU Digest would pick up the story as one of its primary objectives is to operate as a curation resource for HBCU news and information. However, I never had any doubts that Jarrett and his staff would acknowledge our role in breaking the story. As the picture below shows that is exactly what they did and have always done when curating any of HBCU Money’s articles. Are they required to do this? No, but it is about journalistic integrity. Unfortunately, everyone does not seem to share this sense of integrity.  The next day, I decided to do a social media check on twitter just to see how well the article was spreading. Well, it was spreading alright, but it was not spreading from us. One of Black Enterprise’s writers decided to parrot our article and link its source back to Forbes as you see in their picture below, but at no point acknowledge who actually broke the story. Obviously, Black Enterprise has a much larger reach than we do so for all intents and purposes to most consumers it looks as if they broke the story. Again, well within their legal rights to report it as they did, but completely lacking any integrity along the way. HBCU Money is a small print compared to Black Enterprise, Bloomberg, and Forbes in the financial journalism industry. What would it hurt Black Enterprise to give credit to the little guy who put in endless hours to research and break such a story?

HBCU Digest curation of HBCU Money’s article on Ann Kroenke. (below)

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Black Enterprise’s parroting of HBCU Money’s article on Ann Kroenke. (below)

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This situation speaks to the cancer that is in journalism today. The desire to be first or grab whatever story is driving traffic is crumbling the fundamentals of journalistic virtuosity today. You can see it when you watch CNN, Fox, and other major media outlets. Breaking original stories is no longer a priority or building on the established story. Black Enterprise could have interviewed HBCU Money and talked to us about what it was like to break such a story, but they did not. Given they have many times my resources they could have gone to Missouri and potentially interviewed Mrs. Kroenke about our story. Both would have been building upon the story that was out and still have been original on their part. Instead, they chose the apathetic and unimaginative option of parroting our story and driving traffic to their site. Black Enterprise could be helping to cultivate a new generation of journalpreneurs like HBCU Digest, HBCUstory, and HBCU Money. It is after all, a company that was founded and owned by an HBCU graduate. Unfortunately, behavior like this makes it questionable that beyond their own limited resources what if any lessons they could share. It also comes across to me as a company attempting to fruitlessly protect its monopoly on African American financial journalism and speaks to an interview Ken Auletta had with Charlie Rose in 2010 where he discussed an interview with Bill Gates. He asked Gates what he was worried about and to Auletta surprise, Gates answer was not being the obvious competitors that Microsoft had at the time, but he said, “I worry about someone  in a garage inventing something I’ve never thought of.” It almost begs the question has journalism as an industry completely lost its way with the advent of blogging. Journalist and news companies are now operating more as bloggers and not as journalist; not looking to produce original stories like that of HBCU Money’s Ann Kroenke or even attempting to research, investigate, and report something that could be among the Brookings Institute’s Ten Noteworthy Moments In U.S. Investigative Journalism. There is an abyss of stories in African America and Diaspora business world that goes uncovered and that not even one company with all its might could cover alone.

Nas came out with an album entitled Hip Hop Is Dead speaking to his frustration of the absence of quality and originality of content within the music genre ten years ago. However, hip-hop was not dead, but the ability to find artist and the accompanying music that had a depth of constitution required a deeper inquiry than in previous generations. As is the case today with journalism it appears; and that is regrettable given how important information and different angles or points of view are to our society. The need for more media ownership in this country goes without saying, and that is especially true for African America, but I believe it to be true for every community. Every community needs to be able to express their point of view and relay information about things that are intimately impacting them. However, with that ownership comes a great responsibility to the pillars that my mother instilled in me at our dinner table that night and that is integrity, ethics, and hard work. If we do not have them as an industry, then we will be relegated to a society of informationally embalmed people instead of the vibrant, progressive, and inquisitive society that we believe we want and should be.

The HBCUpreneur Corner – Morgan State’s Jarrett Carter, Sr. & Carter Media Enterprises


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Name: Jarrett Carter Sr.

Alma Mater: Morgan State University, Class of 2003

Business Name & Description: Carter Media Enterprises, a new media development and consulting company with focus on coverage of African-American news and lifestyle.

What year did you found your company? 2008

What was the most exciting and/or fearful moment during your HBCUpreneur career? One of the most exciting highlights of my career thus far was the chance to give the keynote address to Hampton University’s Greer-Dawson-Wilson Student Leadership program. To take a stage at one of the nation’s most prestigious HBCUs headed by perhaps the greatest black college president in history, and to speak to students who will soon become esteemed leaders in a wide range of fields is something I will never forget. And I will be forever grateful to Hampton University for such a honor.

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What made you want to start your own company? Understanding that media was changing in a way that would give more black people a chance to have media leverage and credibility, I thought that I would bring a unique perspective to some underrepresented elements of our culture, and so I started a series of blogs focusing on HBCU news and issues, black images in mass media, and hip-hop culture from an artistic perspective. (StereotypeSquad.com and RapReservoir.com, respectively.)

Who was the most influential person/people for you during your time in college? Morgan gave me so many great role models. Among my professors was Frank Dexter Brown, the creator of YSB Magazine, Dr. Ruthe Sheffey, one of the world’s leading experts on William Shakespeare and Zora Neale Hurston, Dr. Michael Bayton, a brilliant scholar and professor of American literature, and Dr. Burney Hollis, my Dean Emeritus of the MSU College of Liberal Arts who to this day remains a source of humor, insight and inspiration as a Morgan Man. All of these people taught me, but also inspired me to think as a creator and observer, and not just as a student.

How do you handle complex problems? I talk to my wife constantly. She really is my best friend, my harshest critic, and the love of my life. Between her perspective and mine, we are frequently able to hash out solutions for difficult problems. I’m also blessed to have great mentors and friends, whom I can depend on to talk critical issues in my life, or even to have discourse on cultural problems and issues. Many times, the discourse is a good way to exercise the brain in such a way that complex personal problems often reveal simple answers.

What is something you wish you had known prior to starting your company? I wish I had established a larger network of media industry contacts and officials at schools. Hampton President William Harvey once told me that the key to running a college is to run it as a business with educational objectives. I set out to tell stories and to improve perceptions about HBCUs, but if I could do it over again, I would have managed my company to operate as a media brand with outreach objectives from Day One.

What do you believe HBCUs and colleges of the African Diaspora can do to spur more innovation and entrepreneurship with their students and the local community? – I think that if colleges and universities mandated for the major courses to examine ownership and business building, our students would have a different outlook on what it means to be a professional, a community member and philanthropist. They would approach work from what they could own one day, and not what company is most prestigious to work for. In turn, I think our alumni and supporters would buy into this concept enough to support by giving money and expertise.

How do you deal with rejection? When I first got started, not well. I would buy into the stereotype that black people were hesitant to support their own. But three years in, I understand that when you don’t have a lot of resources, and you are a great idea with low-level executions, our people are much more likely to invest in a personality and vision than they are an actual product. Paul Quinn President Michael Sorrell once told me that there’s no such thing as ‘no,’ only ‘not yet.’ I have found this to be true at a professional and personal level, if you invest a lot of time analyzing your vision and personality, and working to make those things come to the front of every approach you make in business or in life.

When you have down time how do you like to spend it? I’m a very simple guy, so I love being with my wife and two sons. Watching sports, playing video games, and reading are the ways I get away to think about new ideas, or to just take my mind off of overwhelming topics, requests or development strategies. I’ve learned that you have to incorporate time off to let your mind, body and spirit recover from fully investing in your calling. If you don’t, you can’t appreciate the work that you’re called to do, or the fact that you are called to do it.

What was your most memorable HBCU memory? Strangely enough, graduating from a PWI with my master’s in communication management. The five years it took me to finish that degree – a year and a half to do course requirements and three years to assemble a non-racist, supportive thesis committee, were the toughest times I ever encountered. Finishing the program made me realize several things – one, how much tougher it must have been for our forbearers to seek and endure integration in the throes of civil rights. Two, how spoiled I was by the HBCU experience of having faculty push and support you beyond the classroom. Three, how much harder I need to work for HBCUs to get fair representation in the media, so that they won’t have to endure potential scenarios of isolation, racism or discrimination at a PWI as they work towards college degrees.

In leaving is there any advice you have for budding HBCUpreneurs? – College is a professional development and networking haven. You are there to learn about an industry, and to find your place within it. If you aren’t a business major, take some business courses for electives, and learn all that you can through volunteering and internship about how to do a job and manage a product. Before you leave, make sure that you have incorporated an LLC, and even if you don’t know what product or service you can offer, create a business idea that can evolve into a business plan. In a down economoy, it is the person with the most creativity, the most innovation, and the one who finds a need to fill that will become wealthy, and will be able to give back to our people to build more entrepreneurship in our communities.