Blacks in Major League Baseball and how it relates to the college scholarship

I’m not exactly sure where this article is headed except for one general idea. As a result, it may be longer than anyone would like to read. It may also be shorter than most posts on this site. Either way, I apologize ahead of time. I won’t be disappointed if you don’t read it. My first inclination was to post this on The Hawkeye State where I also blog, but I’ve written enough about scholarships over there recently that I figured I’d annoy you guys with it. Also, this has to do with baseball and college baseball isn’t exactly a huge sport for the Big Ten so maybe it’s better to post it here anyway.

You’ve all heard about the talk with regards to the numbers of black players declining in Major League Baseball. This has been done while the number of Latinos and Asians have increased significantly, but we do still hear about how blacks aren’t playing baseball. What the articles fail to mention is a big reason why black participation in baseball has declined. There are of course many reasons, but one reason never discussed is the college scholarship.

Let’s switch gears and look at football quickly. The NCAA allows 85 players to be on scholarship at the same time. The college football roster isn’t much larger than 85. The 85 players who get a scholarship get full scholarships. In basketball, there are 13 full scholarships and teams have rosters between 12 and 15 players. If you’re good enough at football or basketball to get a scholarship, you’re going to get a full scholarship. The NCAA is looking at the possibility of making it a full cost of attendance scholarship, which would increase the current scholarship for the average person by around $3500. This has no chance of happening for a number of reasons that would require at least one additional post that I’m not going to bore you with.

As you can see with the two major college sports, there’s a full scholarship for each roster spot. For that matter, in football the road team travels with something like 60 players so there’s 25 additional players who have full scholarship than even travel to the road games. It’s always a big deal when you hear about some freshman traveling with the road team because it means he’s going to play. The reason there is a full scholarship for each roster spot in those two sports is that they’re only two that makes money. Iowa basketball has been down in recent years and it still generated the 87th highest profit among all men’s sports in the country (Iowa football was 15th). These two programs, the same ones at most universities, support every other program in the athletic department so the schools are rightfully going to reinvest in those programs. Without them, the athletic department closes.

Moving on to baseball, there is now a 27-man roster, but only 11.7 scholarships available. A good scholarship for baseball is 50%. There are very few full scholarships in baseball across the country. There may not be any at all. So you can see the disadvantage that college baseball has to the other major sports. If a child wants to go to college on an athletic scholarship and his parents are unable to pay the tuition, which is most families, the child needs as much of that tuition paid as possible. That’s not baseball.

Consider this: the 2009 CWS Champion LSU Tigers had two blacks on the team. They were both on full scholarship for football. That championship team had no blacks on scholarship for baseball. Not even a 25% scholarship.

The reason for this is relatively simple (money), but it’s not worth getting into here. White families are still wealthier than black families are more able to pay the large sums of money that tuition requires. That’s all I’ll say about that.

Most athletes, like most college students, need a lot of financial help. That help is there for football and basketball, but it’s not there for baseball and it never will be. Baseball doesn’t generate the revenue and profit that the others do and investing in those programs at the expense of the major two programs would be a disaster for all athletic departments. Only 22 athletic departments are self-sustaining. TWENTY TWO! Less than 15 turned a profit without help from student activity fees and other university funds. It would be pretty cool if more scholarships could be offered for baseball, which would allow more blacks to play, but the danger with doing something like that is that athletic departments cease to exist. Football and basketball support every other sport. There is the occasional sport at one school or another that turns a profit, but that same sport isn’t profitable at enough universities to sustain it college-wide.

I think Wisconsin’s hockey program turns a profit. Or recently did anyway. It’s one of the few hockey programs that turn a profit so without football and basketball supporting the many other hockey programs, UW doesn’t even have hockey.

It’s an unfortunate situation, but the tradeoff is worth it. I just wish more people writing about the declining number of blacks in baseball would talk about one of the major reasons why. It’s important because there’s not a damn thing that can be done to change it.