New Orleans The Southeastern Conference (SEC) is a monster in collegiate sports in America. Whether Alabama, Louisiana State University, or Georgia, SEC schools are regularly in the final playoffs and winners of the NCAA football championships. The LSU women won the NCAA basketball championships last year. The sports pages of local papers regularly report how many more SEC players go to the NFL as pros than from any other conference. The SEC is the big dog barking in sports.
Catching up on old papers, as I came off the road, there was a graphic in the Times-Picayune/Advocate that showed the diversity breakdown at SEC universities. Now, this was interesting to me. The paper was bragging that LSU was at the top of the SEC list for diversity according to enrollment data from 2022, and they listed all of the schools with their numbers of White, Black, Hispanic, and other students. As I looked at the figures, I was perplexed. It was only possible to tout LSU’s record if you were saying they were the tallest among a group of pygmies. They were more diverse compared to other state schools in the South, but were abysmal if anyone bothered to look at how they were performing in comparison to their state’s demographic data, especially when looking at Black enrollment.
LSU’s 16% Black number was half of the 32.8% state Black population. Alabama’s 13% was half of the 26.5% Black population, although better than Auburn, the other state university in Alabama, that enrolled only 5% of Black students when they would have needed five times that to match the state’s population. Georgia was about as bad with 8% Black enrollment against 31% population, a quarter of what it should be, everything being equal, which obviously it is not. Florida about the same with 6% compared to 15.1% statewide. Then there is Mississippi with 11% against the state’s Black population of 37.8%. Mississippi State doesn’t represent much better at 15% black. No matter what the politicians, news spinners, and the Supreme Court says, these figures are pathetic after all of these years and should be an embarrassment to the leadership of these universities, not cause for applause.
Most of these universities were better at enrolling Hispanics, which says plenty as well, but they still weren’t great. Alabama and Mississippi just barely enrolled slightly more than the state’s numbers. All the rest were under by anywhere from a little to a lot. Florida where 53% of the state claims Hispanic heritage in the census only enrolls 21%.
Perhaps the reason the SEC tries to keep the discussion about sports is to keep people from looking at their failures to fully serve their state’s education needs and its total population. This is normally called discrimination, not diversity.