Athletic scholarships play a vital role in many students’ journey to achieving a college education, especially Black students. At many universities across the country, scholarship athletes make up a huge percentage of the Black student population. According to Andscape, one out of every 11 Black male students is on scholarship in comparison to only one out of every 125 white male students. The numbers are even worse for a litany of other schools including University of Southern California, University of Miami in Florida. Those schools operate at less than a 1 to 5 ratio.
With the increasing cost of higher education, the racial wealth gap that reveals Black economic discrimination and the fact Black students on average graduate college with $25,000 more in student loans that their white counterparts–the importance of an athletic scholarship for a young Black athlete that could be worth more than $30,000 a year in tuition cannot be overstated.
New Grambling State Volleyball coach Chelsey Lucas shocked the entire HBCU community last week when she decided to cut the entire Volleyball roster, leaving a number of student athletes without scholarships.
Lucas was hired in February, and it didn’t take long for her to make major changes which included bringing on a completely new roster. The decision has sparked major controversy in HBCU circles and is just another example of how blurred the lines are between business interests and the best interests of young people in college athletics.
Several players who received the news that their scholarships would not be renewed for this upcoming season took to Twitter to air out their thoughts on the situation.
Destiny Johnson, a sophomore on the team in 2021 said that she and her former teammates “deserve so much better.”
“All the time, energy, (and) dedication I put into the volleyball program here at Grambling State has been thrown right back in my face. My entire team has been robbed of our last years to play the sport we love by a woman who has come in and disrespected and belittled us since day 1,” said Johnson. “I’m so upset that the AD has made no effort to look further into this. Grambling State University especially the athletic department should be truly ashamed of themselves. We deserve so much better.”
“Athletic scholarships are extremely important for black athletes,” said Morgan Harris, a North Carolina A&T State University graduate and current masters student at UC Davis. “It gives them a chance to capitalize on their talents to gain access to higher education for a fraction of the cost. [Without scholarships] Many black athletes would be in major debt after sacrificing their time and energy to bring in dollars for a university.”
Other Grambling student athletes have shared their thoughts on these events and have even called out the Grambling State administration for how they have handled this situation.
“You can say what you want about this situation because you won’t fully understand what we have been through unless you stood in our shoes,” said Semira Fields, a junior athlete for the Grambling Volleyball program in 2021 on her now-deleted Twitter feed. “Does Grambling administration not hear us, or do they just not care? How much do you think as students alone we can handle?”
In a statement provided to HBCU Sports, Grambling State athletic director Trayvean Scott supported Lucas’ decision to cut the entire roster.
“Just as the transfer portal empowers student-athletes, our coaches are also empowered to make the decisions they deem necessary to advance their programs,” Scott stated.
In the days after the news about the roster changes was official many people tried to speculate about why Lucas would cut all of those women. Some thought there may have been disciplinary issues, but players on the team addressed those rumors quickly.
“Please tell me what discipline issues we had?,” said Sheila Borders, a senior on the team last year via Twitter. “Half of our team made president list which is 3.7 [GPA] and above. None of us are ever in trouble on and off-campus.”
“I’ve made Presidents List numerous of times, a SAAC Representative, a part of Grambling’s Biology Pre-Doctoral Society, and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. but I’m “unfit.”
For many, this situation has offered a peek into the cutthroat world of college sports and highlights the many complexities that exist in NCAA athletics today.
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