Hint: It’s not vacating football games.
Alcorn State University owes the NCAA $5,000 for a compliance error that allowed dozens of ineligible athletes to compete in 11 of the school’s varsity sports for three years. The Braves will keep all of their SWAC championships won over the audited period, and the NCAA has ruled that the fine money can be paid towards improving athletic compliance systems.
If you haven’t heard a lot about the story, it’s because it is exactly that: a non-story. It’s just another example of how HBCUs grossing a few million annually, struggle to keep up the mirage of amateurism within a billion-dollar Division I sports enterprise.
But today’s story is about $5,726; the amount of money that football players, students and alumni have raised towards a $50,000 goal to honor a former Brave football player, gunned down just a month after graduating from Alcorn.
Tollette “Tonka” George finished his career as a 1,000-yard receiver, but could not outrun New Orleans, a city to which he returned to help in reducing the violence and poverty which grips too many of its black communities.
Now, his teammates and classmates are working to preserve his legacy with support to future students and Alcorn athletes.
Tonka was committed to giving back to his community and we believe that access to an Alcorn education should not depend on students’ financial circumstances. Through the generosity and support of students, alumni, faculty, staff and friends, we hope to ensure Tonka’s legacy by financing the education of Alcorn students for years to come.
These are the kind of efforts HBCU students make, but which are rarely covered in the common mainstream narrative about black colleges. Many students choose to enroll at HBCUs expressly for opportunities like this, when the pursuit of a degree directly intersects with the opportunities to make black lives and black communities better, even in the face of harrowing tragedy.
For a school at the end of highways with dozens of country miles behind them, that unity is not a difficult feat. HBCU culture orbits around the notion of people caring for, arguing with, becoming frustrated with, and loving each other under and through the harsh times and conditions.
The death of a student or a young graduate is among the harshest, so it isn’t surprising to see this campus with this kind of heartfelt response. Most outlets will report on the overdone angle of HBCU deficiencies in Division I sports operations, but there is room for showing the compassion and resolve students have in support of the athletes who represent our institutions.