Friday, July 3, 2020

Time For HBCU Athletic Departments To Demand Assistance

In this current climate of #BlackLivesMatter expanding beyond criminal justice and into every fabric of our society of systemic racism the timing is now for HBCUs to demand assistance from the NCAA, federal and local governments, and corporate partners to assist their athletic departments. Early in the morning of July 3, 2020 Five-Star basketball recruit Makur Maker announced he will be attending Howard University in the fall. This is a huge announcement, but it does come with some concerns that will get lost in the excitement.

Makur Maker
Photo Credit; The Undefeated 
Coming from a family rich in HBCU tradition and have attended one myself it is refreshing to see high level high school prospects considering attending an HBCU. But there is concern on whether they are prepared to adequately provide the level of resources to support high end talent. According to the National Center for Education Statistics in 2018, there were 101 HBCUs located in 19 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Of the 101 HBCUs, 51 were public institutions and 50 were private nonprofit institutions with a approximately 293,00 total students. That’s an average of 2,900 students per institution.

HBCUs are small, meaning they have very limited resources to support athletic departments. Two conferences, the MEAC (Mid Eastern Athletic Conference) and SWAC (Southwestern Athletic Conference) compete in Division I basketball and other sports and FBS in football. HBCUs face challenges recruiting and maintaining quality coaches and support staffs. 

HBCUs facilities and support staffs are not on par with mid level Division II programs. Men’s and women’s basketball are tasked with playing a gauntlet schedule in “guarantee” games against schools in major conferences to generate revenue for the entire athletic department. Even with that revenue many are fortunate to break even and most are at a deficit at the end of an academic year.

The time is for leadership from HBCUs to put a comprehensive plan together to present to their partners for certain baseline items so their programs can succeed such as:

  • Facilities Improvements
  • Support Staff (trainers, academic advisors, coaches salaries)
  • Travel Expenses 

If Makur Maker starts a trend by attending an HBCU they need to be better prepared to take on a player of his caliber and support the student-athletes in general. The issue is not going to fix itself. The gap between the haves and have nots has widen. It will take being intentional for that to change. 

Jamaal Piper

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Prominent Players Spoke Up Too Late in NFL's CBA Talks

The sports world has been on pause with the coronavirus outbreak. The NFL still had business to tend to regarding their Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). For several years the NFL’s owners have been pushing for additional regular season games. The players have been adamant that they did not want to play any additional regular season games. But here we are by a small margin after the players voted with potentially a 17 game regular season and expanded playoffs.

Many current and retired players have voiced their concerns over the CBA. This is what can happen when prominent players are not at the negotiating table from the beginning. The owners successfully used a divide and conquer strategy. They appealed to the short term needs by NFL standards of the middle and lower class knowing they were the majority, 1,019 yes-959 no final vote. Unfortunately in most instances the NFL has had to be forced to do what is right by their players by lawsuits or threats of a lawsuit.

-The late Reggie White led a class action suit in 1992 to get unrestricted free agency that we see today.
-The late Johnnie Cochran threatened to sue the NFL over its lack of hiring of Black Coaches with a 15 year report that chronicled hiring and firing practices. In 2003 the Rooney Rule was instituted making it mandatory that minority candidates are interviewed for head coaching positions. Its 2020 and issue has gotten worse, not better.
`-In 2013 ex-players agreed to a $765 million settlement over concussion-related brain injuries among its 18,000 retired players. But there is a lot of red tape and interpretation regarding who gets money and how much.
-Commissioner Roger Goodell has disciplinary power over players with many instances ending up in court and decisions being reversed or reduced.

The NBA last CBA both parties walked away pleased. Partly because prominent players like Chris Paul and LeBron James were involved in the negotiating. Reduced preseason, extended All-Star Break, less three games and four night stretches. And they play a game with less injury concerns than football. It helps when the commissioner is a listener and negotiator not a pawn. 

Saturday, January 26, 2019

NBA Midseason Review

It has been a entertaining first half of the season. Time to compare my preseason predictions at the midway point of the season.

Preseason Finals Pick: Boston vs. Golden State
Mid season: Sticking with these two teams. Boston is still adjusting to having its full compliment of players. Milwaukee, Toronto and Philadelphia will be tough outs. They’ll most likely face one or two of them to come out of the East. Golden State has a fantasy team with Boogie Cousins back, enough said.

Preseason MVP: LeBron James
Mid season: With his injury it will hurt his LeBron’s chances. He’ll have to go in a tear the second half of the season. Harden and Giannis are front runners now.

Preseason Rookie of the Year: Luka Doncic
Mid season: Luka is running away with this so far. He may not end up being the best player out of his draft class which was loaded with talent. But he was best prepared to have immediate impact with his experience overseas.

When it comes to the hometown team Washington Wizards. They’re not better without John Wall, they seem to be better off without him. They’re still not out of the eighth spot. They play small entirely too much for my liking and it hurts them defensively. But they have been competing and playing hard. As tough of a season as it’s been they’re still not far from being in the playoffs. BradyBeal should be an All-Star.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Hampton Joins The Big South: It Was Time To Move On

Yesterday it was announced that my beloved alma mater Hampton University was leaving the MEAC and will be joining the Big South conference beginning July 1, 2018. It was not surprising that the announcement was met with mixed emotions. My freshman year at Hampton in 1995 was Hampton’s first season in the MEAC. President Dr. William Harvey made it known then and repeated yesterday that Hampton’s goal was to be the best midsize athletic program in the country. In order to reach that goal it was inevitable that leaving the MEAC was necessary to achieve it.

It wasn’t a matter IF Hampton would leave the MEAC, just when would they be presented with the opportunity. There are mixed emotions from excitement to asking why, tradition, sellouts, it won’t be the same, etc. This is about growth. It may sound harsh and bias, but Hampton’s overall profile had overgrown the MEAC.
Hampton upsets Iowa State in 2001 NCAA Basketball Tourmanet

Hampton shares common goals in other areas with other MEAC institutions. But in terms of the direction of their athletic departments it’s different. Other HBCUs 'are in a similar position and could follow in the coming years. A move under these circumstances has never happened for a HBCU.

Most HBCUs' (Historically Black College and Universities) don’t share the same aspirations for their athletic departments. The focus is on academics and finances. President Harvey’s approach has been to achieve success academically, financially, and athletically. In 2001 #15 seed Hampton upset #2 Iowa State in the first round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The image of head coach Steve Merfeld being lifted in the air after the victory is the moment that has been played over and over again the last 16 plus years. The following season Hampton returned to the to the tournament and battled a very talented Connecticut team. The men’s and women’s basketball teams have made a combined 16 appearances in the NCAA Tournament since 1999. Those moments were not fleeting for the university. They were used as momentum to build the national profile of Hampton and improve the other sports but in the athletic department.

The last few years there has been a lot of movement within college athletics of conference realignment. The trickle-down has finally impacted HBCUs’. Initially they will be some bumps with an increase in the level of competition. Hampton will be positioned to recruit better athletes, be a member of a conference with a television deal, visiting teams will bring more fans to games. I have confidence Hampton will adjust and be successful.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

NFL, What's Next?

As a big sports fan the NFL the past year has become exhausting. Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling to bring attention to police brutality against black men and women and the continuous racial inequities has gotten further away from that. It started soon after his protest. It became about the military, the anthem, patriotism, respect for the country , the flag and other talking points.

Photo Credit; Getty Images
He is still without a team. Ratings are reportedly down. There are opposing boycotts with each side wanting to take credit for the ratings decline. When the drop in ratings is a combination of many factors which include the opposing protests/boycotts. Then there was Donald Trump’s comments at a Alabama rally last Friday that led to the “Unity” moments throughout the NFL this past weekend. That was the tipping point for me to be exhausted with how all of this has played out.

Most of the NFL’s key sponsors have been quiet. “I’d expect most sponsors to stay quiet, at the risk of alienating a significant percentage of their customers,” said Bob Dorfman, executive vice president of Baker Street Advertising in San Francisco.

The owners had their business attacked, sent statements and joined players in an attempt for feel good unified moments. The players, coaches, and owners taking a knee, staying in the locker room and/or locking arms were more in protest of Trump and an attack on their right to protest rather than what started the kneeling in the first place. From a political standpoint this was a trick play by Trump straight out of the Nixon Southern Strategy playbook. It shift focus from health care, North Korea, Russia, Puerto Rico and the other long list of issues. Now that the photo ops from this past weekend
are over, what’s next?

This is an opportunity the NFL can take advantage of, but it must be organized and clearly communicated between NFL owners and players. The league does plenty of charity work. Players volunteer their time and resources to worthy causes. For a league that 70% of their players are black it is time to include causes that are a reflection of the concerns that affect them and the communities they came from which Kaepernick has been doing the last year. 

Where was the NFL during the water crisis that is still a problem in Flint, MI? Where was the unity when Michael Bennett had a gun to his head in Las Vegas? JJ Watt of the Houston Texans used his platform to raise over $37 million after Hurricane Harvey with support from other athletes, celebrities, and over 200,000 donors. The NFL didn’t have a league wide coming together to address that on a game day. 

The NFL is an over a $13 billion industry. Visiting their foundations website there isn’t a person of color on their board. Their grants appear to be focused on youth football and physical activity. Both are worthy causes, but how about causes and programs that could impact the conditions in the cities of these teams such as Baltimore, Chicago, and Detroit. 

In February 2016 the NFLPA launched a new resource program for player members called Foundation Fundamentals. Foundation Fundamentals works in partnership with The Giving Back Fund, a national nonprofit organization that encourages and facilitates charitable giving by professional athletes, celebrities, high-net worth individuals, existing nonprofit organizations, corporations and others who truly desire to “give back.”  

There is a clearly a disconnect. The NFL has an agenda about their causes which is different from their players. This is an opportunity for both sides to come together organize, plan, invest and implement resources and programs that can have a profound impact on communities.

The NFL is always reactive instead of proactive. Recent examples are Ray Rice with domestic violence because of a video and player safety because of lawsuits.

Since law enforcement is a hot topic and local police forces do not invest in mental health, physical health, cultural awareness and education for officers like they should the NFL could create or give funding to existing programs. 

It will take leadership within the league to get things moving past symbolic gestures. Protest are meant for discomfort and create discussion then they need to transition to action.  It’s time for the NFL to start that process.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Why I Started Running

Over the course of my fitness journey I have been sporadic doing cardio. I have been active my entire life. Playing sports and exercising since I can remember. During college and into my early twenties I started lifting weights and continued to play pickup basketball. As I got more serious into my lifting and played basketball less I would use machines such as the elliptical and the stairmaster.  Recently I realized it has been many years since I did cardio consistently. I would do circuits with my weight training and attempt new sequences that would get my heart up, but still wasn’t doing traditional cardio. 

I’m blessed with good genetics. My metabolism is very fast and I’m naturally very lean. My concern was to maintain size and strength that took a long time to put on through trial and error. From a health standpoint I realized it was time to increase my cardiovascular training. The best way to do it was to incorporate something I have never been a fan of and that is running!

For the first time in many years I wasn’t concerned about how much I weighed or size. This time it was to improve my endurance. The only sport I still play consistently is softball and that is three months out of the year and only one day/week. I was going to do other forms of cardio besides running. I knew this would a mental challenge as much as physical because it was something I did not care to do.

I train six days/week. I started with running two days, stairmaster two days, elliptical and row machine two days after lifting. The first day I got on the treadmill  I looked down and it was only a quarter of a mile and it felt like my heart was coming out of my chest. I had to keep pushing. I started with a mile. After a few weeks of two days I decided to keep doing the stairmaster on my two legs days and add one day of running. After a week of that I could feel myself turning the corner. I was increasing the speed and mentally I knew when the fatigue would first hit me that I would get a second wind.

It has been almost two months of running and doing cardiovascular exercises consistently. I can see that I’m leaner with more definition and my body fat as decreased. I haven’t stepped on a scale since I started because I don’t care what my weight is right now. During my lifting session my recovery is faster and I’ve maintained my strength. My appetite has been the same, I eat 4-5 medium to large meals/day and 1-2 snacks. 

To preserve muscles I have increased my protein and carbohydrate intake and increased the volume of my strength training. Post workout I consume BCAAs, proteins, and carbohydrates, that hasn’t changed with the increase in cardio.

I’ve increased my running to four days/week for a one mile to 1 1/2 each time. Occasionally I have run for two miles. That has been a good balance because even though I know the weight I will lose is mostly fat I want to maintain muscle and strength. So far I have been pleased with the results. I’m getting more acclimated to running and will continue. I'm still not crazy about it, but the challenge of doing something different is what is driving me so I'll keep running.

Jamaal Piper
Health and Wellness Consultant/Personal Trainer

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

What’s Stopping You From A Healthy Lifestyle?

With the responsibilities that we have finding the time and energy to exercise and prepare healthy meals can appear to be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. I have had experiences working with clients of all ages with various responsibilities on their plate. Those that are determined that their health is a priority will find a way without compromising professional and personal responsibilities. Your focus on taking care of everyone and everything else and not yourself can interfere with your health. What happens is everything suffers because you don’t have the stamina to address it all. Your day is not planned including meals and exercise. The slightest obstacle will throw you off track. In my years in the health and wellness industry here are a few examples of what I’ve observed that are a hinderance to being consistent with healthy habits.


One of the common excuses why people don’t take care of themselves is their feelings. They like a certain food of drink too much or exercise is too hard. Your feelings should have nothing to do with how you approach your health. Life will constantly throw obstacles and stress our way. View prioritizing your health as a way to prepare you for what inevitably will lie ahead.

Find activities that you enjoy such as walking, hiking, cycling, yoga, and sports. Face head on the things you don't like if there aren't any physical limitations from you doing them. You’re not always going to feel like training and eating healthy meals, but if there’s nothing actually wrong, then you need to make yourself do it anyway. Practicing good habits when do don’t feel like it helps build inner strength, and afterwards you will also feel the benefits of a boost of positive endorphins. 

Exercise has been shown in countless studies to effectively treat stress, depression, anxiety and even the common cold. It's one of the best remedies out there. A study conducted at the Eastern Ontario Research Institute found that people who exercised twice a week for 10 weeks felt more competent socially, academically, and athletically. A second study conducted by researchers at the University of Bristol found that people who exercised daily had more energy and a more positive outlook, which are both critical for getting things done.


You lookup one, two, three weeks have gone by and you haven’t been consistent with your regiment. With all that is going on in your life it has become challenging. For some, they’re looking for a reason to stop exercising and eat what they want. It was easy to grab something to eat that wasn’t healthy because you didn’t meal prep or you just had the taste for something. You were too tired to go to the gym and the days added up.

In order to maximize your health you can’t be easily distracted. Set time aside to exercise with the time you have available. Prepare your meals or have knowledge of the places you’re going to purchase prepared food. The distractions can’t have more power than your desire for a healthy lifestyle. It’s one thing to have a bad day, don’t let it turned into weeks, months, and years.


Short term goals such as the summer is approaching, a vacation, wedding, etc. are good motivators to make lifestyle changes. But what happens when the event or trip is over? Was the motivation temporary or was it a springboard to being consistent? 

A challenge with long-term goals is that they are far off in the future and it will take a long time before they are achieved. As a result, staying focused on long-term goals can be challenging. You must trust the process. If you have a plan or consulted a professional that designed one stick to it. You will hit fitness plateaus and have to make adjustments. But what can’t change is your effort to press forward. Sometimes it is trial and error as you’re learning your body and how it responds. 

American Psychological Association’s most recent “Stress In America” survey revealed that not having enough willpower was the top reason people cited for being unable to make healthy lifestyle changes. Develop the willpower to delay gratification, resisting short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals.