Black Public Scholars

March 14, 2011

The Fab Five Documentary Details All That’s Wrong with the NCAA

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 

I lived through the Fab Five era within college basketball, literally breathing the same air and vicariously identifying with the brothers who brought power and style to the sport. I was approximately the same age as the five freshmen who took their team to the NCAA championship, and I even wore black socks on the court (yes, I am ashamed to admit that). An ESPN special recently took my mind back down memory lane by replaying the experience of the Fab Five and how they changed college basketball forever. To this day, there has been nothing like them, and I wouldn’t be surprised if their feat is never replicated again.
The most intriguing aspect of the Fab Five special on ESPN was not their exploits on the basketball court (which were amazing), it was the conversation about money. When these five young men stepped onto the court for the University of Michigan, they instantly became cash cows for their universities. Sales of University of Michigan merchandise went from $1.5 million per year to over $10 million per year shortly after their first season. Jalen Rose, one of the members of the Fab Five, mentioned seeing that Nike had released a sneaker named after the group, and they regularly found their academic schedules being interrupted with trips around the world to promote a brand that was making everyone rich except for their own families.

 

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