Come Saturday at 6 p.m., the UNC football team will kick off against the Aggies of N.C. A&T in Kenan Stadium. We should mark this moment as historic, as the Tar Heels have not recently taken the opportunity to play against a historically black college or university on our home turf.
Across the board, predominantly white institutions and HBCUs have high proportions of minority athletes on their teams, yet HBCUs are largely absent from Division I athletics and major conferences. Currently, not a single HBCU is a part of the Atlantic Coast Conference. N.C. A&T is a part of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, which also includes N.C. Central University and South Carolina State.
This type of exclusion from major college athletic conferences denies representation of HBCU students from long-term careers in elite professional athletics, especially in major college revenue sports, which negatively affects HBCUs.
There are obviously talented students who attend historically black universities who are not receiving the same notoriety, coverage or advancement opportunities as students at their peer white institutions.
While this disparity might have to do with funding allocated for certain schools and their sports programs, who we decide to prioritize is intrinsically linked to the demographics of a school or community.
Sports fans still debate the way major conferences or universities should compensate their revenue-earning players beyond scholarships and clout. Regardless of the side taken in that debate, the argument usually lacks any analysis of how predominantly white institutions and HBCUs would generate or sustain equitable compensation for their respective players.
Similar to the slow process of integration in the South, we should not expect an overnight transformation of college athletics. Before major universities had their teams integrated, the landscape of college athletics favored HBCUs’ competition levels a lot more than they do in the contemporary athletic world.
However, since integration, talent from predominantly black neighborhoods has been pulled into much larger schools and conferences; minority athletes are being recruited and receive more options from schools with a greater prestige.
Tomorrow, come join several campus groups including students and faculty in welcoming the A&T Aggies. We should not turn a blind eye to the effects of integration of athletics in Kenan Stadium in 2015.