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On March 19, 2016, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Texas Western Miners’ victory over the Kentucky Wildcats in the men’s basketball national championship game. This game made history as the first time a championship team started a game with an all-African American lineup. What made the game even more significant was that the coach of the opposing team was Adolph Rupp of the Kentucky Wildcats. Rupp was rumored to be a devout racist, had an all-white team, and was the last coach to integrate in the Southeastern Conference. When the Texas Western Miners won the game 72-65, not only did they completely dispel any myth that black players were unequal or inferior to white players on the basketball court, but they also demonstrated how far blacks had progressed in American society.

Fast-forward 50 years to April 4, 2016, when the North Carolina Tar Heels meet the Villanova Wildcats in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. Long gone are any references to the racial makeup of the teams playing in the game. In fact, nine of the 10 starters in the game are likely to be black, but not many spectators will seem to even notice or care. The focus and analysis will be on which team is the best and more likely to win the game - a true sign of progress.

However, it may be that athleticism on the basketball court is not the best measure of how much progress has been made when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Because, to a greater extent, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is more about economics than it has ever been about the racial makeup of the players on the court. The NCAA earned $912.8 million in revenues during 2013 with approximately 84 percent ($763 million) of those revenues coming from the annual three-week NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The lion’s share of the revenues comes from television rights ($681 million), with a lesser amount coming from ticket sales ($82 million).

The 1966 Men’s National Championship game occurred at a time when minorities and women were restricted access to both playing on the court and from business opportunities arising from the mammoth tournament utilizing venues across the country. Today, while visible progress has been made on the court, the NCAA does not readily publish data on how minority- and/or women-owned businesses are participating in the real competition for economic prosperity and advancement.

It is likely that the NCAA’s revenues will soon exceed $1 billion in revenues in a year made almost exclusively from the athletic exploits of men and women from every segment of American society. And while most organizations of this size regularly share their measure of progress of doing business with minority- and women-owned businesses, the NCAA seems to be lagging behind the times in sharing or publicizing this very important information.

The Institute celebrates the progress of the NCAA and academic institutions in creating opportunities for athletes from all genders, races and cultures; and will continue to lead the efforts to ensure minority- and women-owned businesses also share in the economic opportunities and benefits coming from NCAA-sponsored events. Join us at the 2016 Executive Networking Conference in Charlotte, NC on April 14-16, when we will discuss business opportunities with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Visit our website at www.TheInstituteNC.org or follow the link to find out more about the conference here!