- Racism in College Athletics ed. by Dana Brooks, Ronald Althouse
Twenty years after its initial publication, the third edition of Dana Brooks and Ronald Althouse’s Racism in College Athletics continues to raise important questions about the historical and contemporary dimensions of race on the playing fields of America’s universities. This new volume is substantially transformed and expanded from the 2000 edition, reflecting in part the rapidly evolving realities of college athletics in the past decade. At a time when revenues are exploding at an astonishing rate, new standards and initiatives are taking root in the National Collegiate Association of America (NCAA) and questions about the role of student-athletes in the university are perhaps more fraught than ever before, the seventeen essays in this textbook offer a useful introduction to how race has profoundly shaped college sports. Grounded primarily in sociology and sports studies, the authors focus extensively on the present-day inequities and implications associated with minority groups’ athletic participation. While this limits the utility of the text for historians, students and scholars concerned with fostering conversations about the intersections of race and sport in society will no doubt find some valuable material here.
Spanning seven major areas of focus, the volume weaves together synopses of much of the latest data and research in the field. The authors highlight African Americans’ contributions as athletes and coaches along with the ongoing marginalization, discrimination, and exploitation they endure. The wide-ranging units cover the history of African-American involvement in college sports, academic regulations and retention, the links between race and gender, strategies for engaging athletes through popular culture, building networks of advocates and alumni, stereotyping and media exposure, and an important look at the experiences for Latino and international student-athletes. Each of the essays offers a set of suggested readings and possible discussion questions aimed at students at the undergraduate level. While some of the units are a bit unwieldy in their thematic pairings, Althouse and Brooks have taken pains to incorporate a variety of new perspectives and issues. Of particular note are selections dealing with the challenges posed by the growth of junior and community college athletics (Chapter 7) and the unique difficulties that historically black colleges and universities have faced with respect to Title IX compliance (Chapter 8). The glimpse beyond the black-white binary in the volume’s final section is a very brief, but welcome, acknowledgment of some of the complexities of race in this arena that have largely escaped scholarly attention.
Taken together, the seven units offer a stirring call for sustained advocacy in pursuit of reform. The authors assess the benefits and consequences of recent efforts such as the 2004 implementation of the Academic Progress Rate (APR) while several contributors propose new potential interventions in a variety of areas. Throughout, the volume highlights the need for greater accountability in the NCAA and amongst universities, administrators, coaches, and student-athletes themselves. Nearly all of the pieces also point towards critical areas that demand further research. [End Page 155]
This latest edition is not without its faults, however. At times it lacks for cohesion. There are struggles with repetition between chapters and an occasional disjointedness within units. Typographical and some factual errors—such as placing the 1964 Olympic games in Rome rather than Tokyo (p. 9), the NCAA’s “Sanity Code” in 1944 instead of 1948 (pp. 14 and 398), or implying that Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh did not ultimately face each other in the 1956 Sugar Bowl (p. 43)—detract from otherwise strong work. Other essays simply could have found more effective targets for their focus. In Chapter 10, for example, C. Keith Harrison and Bill Sutton might have spent time delineating more clearly the compelling work and overarching mission of Harrison’s “Scholar-Baller” initiative rather than somewhat haphazardly presenting the anecdotes they selected (pp. 262–263). Focusing explicitly on the program’s systemic goals and results would have better highlighted the possible benefits of linking...