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Declining diversity: Players choose football because of financial advantages

| Saturday, July 20, 2013, 10:54 p.m.
Charles Saunders, coach of the Braddock team of the Pittsburgh Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI), during their game against Greenfield on Thursday, July 11, 2013, at Woodland Hills High School.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Charles Saunders, coach of the Braddock team of the Pittsburgh Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI), during their game against Greenfield on Thursday, July 11, 2013, at Woodland Hills High School.

While talking about two of his promising seniors, Dontae Broadus and Harry Randall, Woodland Hills football coach George Novak excused himself for a moment.

“I have to take a phone call from Atlanta,” Novak said. “I've got a coach from Georgia Tech on the line about those guys we just talked about.”

Novak is counting on “those guys” to lead Woodland Hills' football team this year.

Broadus plays linebacker, receiver, quarterback and strong safety. Randall, the younger brother of New York Jets rookie Rontez Miles, plays quarterback and defensive back. Both are considered legitimate Division I college football prospects.

“They're outstanding football players,” Novak said. “Both of them could also play basketball, baseball or track.”

Broadus and Randall made the decision to concentrate on football instead of baseball at Woodland Hills. It's a familiar scenario faced by talented African-American athletes who must decide which sport to play in college.

“Dontae and Harry are good football players and really good baseball players,” said Charles Saunders, program director for Pittsburgh RBI, who is coaching a baseball team this summer featuring Broadus and Randall. “They're not getting the looks from colleges playing baseball that they can get playing football.”

Another current Pittsburgh RBI team member, Ta'Juan Dutrieuille, played varsity baseball three years at Woodland Hills and recently completed his freshman season at Penn State Greater Allegheny.

“In making the decision to play baseball, it was a lot harder because my friends played basketball and football,” said Dutrieuille, who receives a $5,000 college scholarship annually from the RBI program. Another local RBI graduate, Demetrius Baldwin, also received a $5,000 scholarship. Baldwin plays football at Bucknell.

During last year's RBI Mid-Atlantic regional tournament in Harrisburg, Saunders was approached by a Philadelphia Phillies scout inquiring about Randall.

“Harry is the best all-around athlete I've ever had,” said Saunders, whose RBI alumni include professional athletes DeJuan Blair (NBA) and Steve Breaston (NFL).

Broadus, like Randall, is concentrating on football. He recently attended a seven-on-seven passing camp at Virginia Tech.

“He's going to keep playing baseball but, right now, he's trying to get a scholarship in football,” Broadus' father, Ken Hodges, said.

Randall and Broadus declined to be interviewed.

Incoming Notre Dame freshman Torii Hunter Jr. plays center field like his famous father, who plays for the Detroit Tigers. He also was a four-star recruit in football, although he's been limited while recovering from a broken leg. He will attend Notre Dame on a football scholarship but worked it out so he can play baseball for the Fighting Irish.

“He was able to get a full ride in football, but the key thing was he'll also be able to play baseball in college. That was part of the agreement,” Hunter said about his son, who was selected in the 36th round of the MLB Draft in June. “You can't get a full ride in baseball, but through football he can play.”

Hunter's situation is rare. Pitt baseball coach Joe Jordano knows that baseball's limit of 11.7 scholarships often chases talented athletes to other sports.

“Of the 35 players that the NCAA permits in baseball, only 27 are allowed to be on scholarship,” said Jordano, who said the majority of his players receive only “25 to 30 percent” of a full athletic scholarship. “I've offered a full scholarship before, but it's rare. For most of them, it's a fraction of a scholarship.”

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