Albert 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.