Often obsessed with a gap on academic tests that consistently favor white over black students, the Evanston Township High School District 202 Board of Education Monday night will explore a different gap, leading to potentially high-priced jobs, that favors its black students.

It is the athletic gap, where participation rates at the school overwhelmingly show black students leading their white counterparts in three of the top four major sports—football, basketball, track, and baseball—even though only 29.8 percent of the students are black, compared with 44.1 percent that are white.

Of these four top sports, only baseball attracts more white students than blacks participating in the sport, according to data being presented to the board for discussion at Monday night’s meeting.

In football, there were 62 black students participating in the 2016-2017 school year, compared with only 36 white students. Comparable figures for males in basketball are 36 black vs. 16 white and track, where there are 35 black students and 28 white students.

White students, however, outnumber blacks, 54 to 7, in baseball.

On the female side, there were 32 black participants in basketball, compared with nine white students, and in track, there were 19 black students, compared with 11 white students.

While it is unlikely that few, if any, athletes of any ethnic background will ever star in their sports where they receive multi-million-dollar annual salaries, there are thousands of jobs in the sports sector of the economy that command reasonably high salaries, and participation in high school sports is generally considered a positive factor in achieving such jobs.

According to the Occupational Information Network, a U.S. Department of Labor database, the average wage of an agent or business manager is $62,940, for a fitness or wellness coordinator is $76,930, and for a physical therapist is $84,020. Even for athletic trainers, the median wage is $45,630, and the football coach at many leading universities earns more than the college president.

Due to widespread publicity about football injuries, enrollment nationally in high school football has declined about 4.5 percent over the past decade, according to data compiled by the National Federation of State High School Associations. Board members are likely to ask Athletic Director Chris Livatino if ETHS has experienced a similar decline.

On the academic side, student athletes at ETHS earned a 3.55 grade point average, which is .52 higher than for those who did not participate in athletics.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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  1. Sports the problem with academic gap ?

    I hope someone is looking into how the participation in sports hurts the academic gap. Maybe  the 0.52 margin is real [or is it from easy courses, easy grading, ‘passing’ along].

    Just look at  how the schools and press gives the vast press to sports and so little to academic success and performance.  Added to TV and newspaper, this adds to the message “play sports and get fame and money.”

    1. Athletics and Academics @ ETHS

      ETHS and its Athletic Director, Chris Livatino deserve a lot of credit for developing a holistic approach for the athletic programs at ETHS. As stated in its ETHS Athletic Mission Statement, “The core mission of ETHS Athletics is to develop young men and women into hard-working, self-reliant, confident, and selfless leaders and citizens. All student-athletes will represent and support ETHS with class, sportsmanship, humility and passion as they strive towards excellence in academics, athletics and life.

      ETHS coaches and student-athletes are guided by core values including Effort, Selflessness, Self Reliant, Passion, Character, Leadership, Skill, Academics, and Excellence.

      This is the message that is being delivered by ETHS coaches to their athletes. While it may not be 100% successful, our family has personally experienced this positive approach to athletics in the girls varsity swim program and the boys varsity soccer team.

      The added bonus? Our kids academic performance during their sports season was generally their best since they were required to manage their time and focus on getting their homework done.

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