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University of Iowa News Release


Jan. 30, 2009

UPDATED: Please note the room change for sessions of this conference.

UI conference examines state of African Americans in athletics Feb. 10-11

A century ago, black athletes weren't always allowed to compete with or against whites. Now they play a prominent and sometimes dominant role in athletics.

Still, many black student athletes face challenges adjusting from their hometowns to less diverse communities in which they attend college. In some sports, graduation rates are much lower for black athletes. And blacks remain underrepresented in athletic administration and coaching positions.

An upcoming conference at the University of Iowa will explore such issues. "The State of the African American Athletes, Coaches and Administrators in the 21st Century" will take place Tuesday, Feb. 10 and Wednesday, Feb. 11 at the Iowa Memorial Union. All sessions are free and open to the public.

The conference is sponsored by the UI African American Studies Program, along with the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the UI Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, the UI Department of Health and Sport Studies, and the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. It is organized by Michael Lomax, a faculty member in African American Studies and Health and Sport Studies.

The conference schedule is as follows. All sessions will take place in the Illinois Room at the Iowa Memorial Union except the keynote address and public forum, which will be in the IMU's Richey Ballroom.

Tuesday, Feb. 10

--4:30 p.m., Charles Martin of the University of Texas at El Paso will present "Benching Jim Crow: The Rise and Fall of the Color Line in Southern Collegiate Sports, 1890-1980." Martin will discuss how southern schools evolved from a strict color line in sports to including black athletes in key roles on football and basketball teams.

--6:30 p.m., Billy Hawkins of the University of Georgia will address the positive and negative roles black athletes are modeling as 21st century cultural icons. (Keynote address.)

Wednesday, Feb. 11

--9:30 a.m., Maureen Smith of California State University at Sacramento will present "When and Where I Enter: African American Female Athletes in College Athletics, Post Title IX." In an interview with O: The Oprah Magazine, Michelle Obama recalls shying away from organized sport, saying, "Tall women can do other things. I wasn't going to be typecast 'that way.'" Smith's paper uses Obama's resistance to organized sport as a starting point for examining participation of black women in high school and college sports post Title IX.

--10:30 a.m., Anthony Grant of Millersville University will speak on the lack of diversity in key leadership positions within college sport, and how social network characteristics contribute to that phenomenon. Grant argues that a perpetual "good old boy" network enables white males to hire and promote other white males within college athletics, contributing to an environment in which women and minorities are disadvantaged during the hiring and promotion process.

--11:30 a.m., Dana Brooks of West Virginia University will discuss the educational and professional achievements of African American athletes who participated in the NCAA Degree Completion Program at her university. NCAA reports show that in Oct. 2008, graduation rates of student athletes reached an all-time high of 79 percent. But the graduation rate for black football players was 58 percent. West Virginia University was one of the first schools to join the program, which permits former student athletes to return and finish school.

--1:30 p.m., Michael Oriard of Oregon State University will provide an overview of "three decades of out-of-control commercialization and failed academic reform in Division I-A football," emphasizing the impact on black athletes. He asserts that blacks "are disproportionately the stars and disproportionately the academic casualties" in football and men's basketball.

--2:30 p.m., Gary Sailes of Indiana University examined the opportunities, productivity and hiring practices of NCAA Division I head football coaches and stratified the data by race (blacks and whites). He found that black coaches did not out-perform their white counterparts in win/loss records but did have slightly higher graduation percentages. Sailes will discuss his study.

--3:30 p.m., George Cunningham of Texas A&M University points out that while blacks represent 25 percent of all athletes -- and a majority of athletes in revenue-generating sports -- they are underrepresented in coaching and leadership positions. He will present possible explanations for the phenomenon.

--4:30 p.m., Todd Crosset of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, reviewed recent high-profile sexual assault cases, exploring the developmental risk young black male athletes face when they transition from African American High Schools to historically white institutions. He will discuss how the dramatic transition from "black space" to "white space" can become a potential fissure in the moral education of athletes of color.

--6:30 to 9:30 p.m., public forum on African Americans in athletics moderated by Charlotte Westerhaus, vice president of diversity for the NCAA. The 11-member panel includes former UI athletes, along with academics, sports reporters and athletic officials.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Michael Lomax, African American Studies, 319-335-9340,; Nicole Riehl, University News Services, 319-384-0070 (office), 319-430-6576 (cell),