Kansas State Scholar Examines the Classroom Experiences of Black Student Athletes

bimper-smAlbert Bimper Jr., an assistant professor of special education, counseling and student affairs at Kansas State University is conducting research on the academic experiences of Black student athletes at colleges and universities. He notes that of the 70 colleges and universities that competed in football bowl games after the 2012 season, more than half the teams had a 20 percentage point graduation rate gap between Black and White athletes. One quarter of all teams had a 30 percentage point gap.

For his paper, “Is There an Elephant on the Roster? Race, Racism, and High Profile Intercollegiate Sport,” Dr. Bimper interviewed Black athletes about their experiences in the classroom. He found that the Black student athletes have a complex relationship with sport culture and academics, which may lead to lowered academic performance and degree completion. Often the athletes felt as if their accomplishments on the field were highly celebrated while those in the classroom were not, creating a skewed sense of priorities and expectations.

“There are beliefs and perspectives that student athletes are ‘dumb jocks,’ and that burden is greater for Black student athletes,” Dr. Bimper said. “But what does it mean to be a dumb jock? Based on the data, we could say that dumb jocks are not born, but rather they are being systematically created and institutionalized by the culture of sport that is creating this disparity we see between academic performance and graduation rates.”

Dr. Bimper played football for Colorado State University and for the Indianapolis Colts of the National Football League. He holds a master’s degree in sports psychology from Purdue University and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from the University of Texas.

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  1. Dr. Bimper,

    I think this is a very good area to research, especially for black male athletes in football and basketball. Having been a faculty athletics representative for a Division I AAA over 10 years, I know first hand some of the issues that prevent students from focusing on their academics as opposed to their respective sport. I believe, however, that there are two critical pieces to the puzzle that should be explored: 1) how strong an emphasis does the Athletic Director and the coaching staff places on the importance of working towards degree completion and not just continued eligibility; and 2) whether the FAR can ensure that faculty demand the same efforts of student athletes within the classroom as they do those who are non-athletes. The treatment of student-athletes within the classroom is important especially if there are obvious differences, whether ‘negative’ or ‘positive’.

    I would also suggest that FARs should be interviewed to assess the level of support they receive and what types of initiatives they have to monitor academic success for student athletes.

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