The way Arthur Ashe sees it, the world is doing a disservice to student-athletes. Pampered and surrounded by admirers during their college years, they often leave school without a degree, an education or a job.
To help combat this problem, Ashe and Washington businessman Kevin Dowdell yesterday announced the formation of the Athlete Career Connection (ACC), a non-profit organization designed to advise and aid student-athletes in their attempts to secure non-athletic employment.
Among other things, the ACC will expose student-athletes to role models from both the athletic and corporate worlds; organize workshops on interviewing, resume' writing and career searching; identify student-athletes qualified for internships; and facilitate interviews for prospective jobs.
"This attempt at trying to marry institutions and corporate America was born out of frustration," said Ashe, former tennis pro and a frequent critic of the NCAA. "The 18-year-old black male who is a hot-shot athlete is the most highly recruited black male in society. And for the wrong reasons."
The ACC will attempt to expand moderately, pitching its ideas to more schools as time passes. So far, six have agreed to cooperate with the organization: Howard, American, Seton Hall, Fordham and Atlanta's Morehouse and Spelman colleges. The participating corporations include IBM, Hyatt Hotels and Aetna Life & Casualty.
Congressmen Tom McMillen (D-Md.) and Ed Towns (D-N.Y.) and CBS sportscaster James Brown also appeared at yesterday's news conference to express their support.
"My concern is that there's a form of exploitation going on in this country," said McMillen, former Maryland and pro basketball player. "I don't think it's overt, it's subtle. It's based on the fact that the incentives are in the wrong places."
Dowdell, president of Dowdell Business Enterprises, said it could take up to five years for the ACC to establish a national presence.
Other long-term goals for the organization are to establish a scholarship fund for student-athletes based on academic merit and financial need and a group insurance fund to help injured student-athletes complete their education.
Ashe said the ACC had no intention of replacing the academic advisers at the participating schools, but instead would supplement them.