As we inch closer to the beginning of the 2022-23 athletic calendar, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) may have more attention on themselves than ever before.
With the recruiting success of head football coach Deion Sanders at Jackson State University bringing in standout wide receiver Kevin Coleman Jr. and arguably the best high school playmaker in the nation last year in Travis Hunter Jr., HBCU sports are starting to become a viable option for some of the most celebrated amateur athletes in the nation.
That’s why Sanders pledged half of his $300,000 annual salary this year to ensure renovations to Jackson State’s football facilities are completed by Aug. 4. The coach’s selfless actions underscore the significance of upgrading athletic facilities at a Black college and why it’s particularly important for HBCUs to make such investments.
Sanders donates his salary
As these institutions continue to gain an increasing amount of interest, there will need to be a sustained investment in these athletic programs to sustain that momentum. Sanders is attempting to do his part.
Schwartz-Morini, Sanders’ business partner and CEO of SMAC Entertainment, challenged him in an Instagram video to donate a quarter of his salary to Jackson State. In the video, she reminds Sanders, “Part of your salary is part of my salary, so this is a team.”
Sanders, getting hyped up, responds in kind.
“To get this done for these kids, I’ll put half on it,” he says. “If you don’t believe me, check me! I will send you the receipts.”
Earlier this year, Sanders unveiled a few parts of the school’s newly upgraded facilities on his Instagram feed. The players were pretty shocked to see the improvements that had already been made.
Recent HBCU athletic renovations
In August of last year, Edward Waters, a Division II HBCU finished a $4.3 million project for its new football field. Then, in April of this year, the school unveiled its newly renovated athletics arena. Last year, Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina, announced that it would be undergoing renovations to its track and football stadium and even implement blue turf.
In 2019, Morgan State University announced $2.5 million in renovations to their football stadium. In 2016, Prairie View A&M University built a brand new $61 million football stadium that is still one of the newest facilities in all of HBCU athletics.
The importance of improving athletic facilities
The importance of HBCUs upgrading their facilities when they can is undeniable.
While Black college athletes choose the HBCU experience for so much more than a fancy locker room and a few flatscreens, having such amenities surely doesn’t hurt when recruiting top talent to the institution. But as too many HBCUs struggle to make a profit on their sports programs, difficult choiuces must be made.
Bringing in more top ranked athletes certainly leads to more fan interest beyond the HBCU community, which in turn can invite more lucrative TV deals that not only are assured to help HBCU sports programs and departments generate more revenue but also promises wider exposure for athletes who may have their eyes on competing on the professonal level after college.
Historically, HBCUs have struggled monetarily since their inception. According to Forbes, predominately Black colleges have been underfunded by at least $12.8 billion in the last 30 years. If HBCUs were adequately funded over time, that infusion of cash could have helped them trim the resource gap that still exists to this day between these historic schools and many Power Five, predominately white institutions that have been able to leverage their funding to create dominant athletic programs that serve as powerful marketing tools and cash cows.
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