Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Black, high-profile, Division I, Sociology, academic, mentorship, counter-story football, basketball, NCAA

Major Advisor

Laura Burton

Associate Advisor

Robin Grenier

Associate Advisor

Joseph Cooper

Field of Study

Learning, Leadership, and Education Policy


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


The academic outcomes for high-profile Black Athletes (HPBAs), the young men participating in men’s basketball and football, continue to trail those of their peers, especially in college. Researchers have uncovered ample evidence that dispels beliefs about reduced intellect, instead pointing to systemic injustices that result in academic under-preparation and miseducation. But these findings have not resulted in widespread systemic change for HPBAs. Therefore, I designed a study to take another look into this underperformance phenomenon, applying a scarcely used framework, methodology, and findings presentation in HPBA research. I applied an ecological systems theory (EST) framework to seek out the specifics about the various HPBA environments and timelines to isolate potential change agents and/or areas. I carried out this task using narrative inquiry to receive full stories about the HPBA experience from four former HPBAs. The four narratives are presented in the findings, supported by my EST analysis, to demonstrate an example of my study’s additional purpose: bridging professional and public sociological research. HPBA systemic issues cannot be solved by keeping critical knowledge predominantly within academia, so I sought to accessibly present the knowledge to the public who needs to receive it if academic outcomes are going to change. The key audience includes the HPBA’s earliest mentors, who the study found to be fundamental to HPBA initiation into the system that eventually exploits their talents and denies too many of them educational equity.