Race in collegiate athletics


Getting into college is a daunting task for any student, let alone an athlete. One would like to think that an athlete’s grades and talent on the field is all that he/she needs to worry about, but that’s just not the case.

Something that should be mentioned to all student athletes facing recruiting is the fact that there is the unfortunate possibility that their race will play a role in the interview. And, it’s up to them to ask the right questions to find out whether the coach’s perspective will mess with their athletic career.

When coaches are trying to recruit wanted high school athletes, they sometimes will try to play to the athlete’s race in order to make joining their team more desirable.

According to the Student-Athlete's College Recruitment Guide by Ashley B. Benjamin, racism exists in recruiting in two ways: channeling and stereotyping.

An example of stereotyping would be if a coach emphasizes academics to appeal to an Asian-American athlete. This would be based off of the stereotype that he/she is academically motivated.

On the other hand, channeling is when coaches place athletes in certain positions because of their racial profile instead of their individual strengths. An example would be putting a Caucasian sprinter in distance events because the perception is that he/she can’t compete with the African American sprinters.

Both channeling and stereotyping reflect heavily on the coach, and it’s important for athletes to ask questions like, “Where would you place me on the team?” or “How do you handle racism within the team?” so they can make sure those things won’t affect their experience.

Despite all of this, some may say that what I’m describing rarely happens. All one must do to realize that this is a real problem is look at what is called the College Sport Racial and Gender Report Card (CSRGRC)*. The report card for 2017 gave college sports a C+ for racial hiring practices.

No one wants to admit that racism still exists in the area of recruiting, or that incoming high school athletes may be affected by it. However, if they pay attention to signs from the coaches and ask the right questions, athletes will be able to avoid letting racism affect their athletic careers.


During and after the recruiting process, student athletes get their first opinion on the coaching staff they’re going to spend a lot of time with for the four years they are in college. The issue is these coaches in most instances are white and this is sparking discussion as to whether or not this is causing racism in the coaching community and for the the players being coached.

According to Lapchick, Hoff, and Kaiser’s (2011) latest Racial and Gender Report Card for college athletics, only 5.1% of football coaches and 21% of basketball coaching staffs are black. Statistically, it could be seen as a lack of opportunity for black coaching staff members that want to eventually be head coach/athletic director. In some cases though, the issue could just root in general stereotypes and other cultural differences.

When referring to certain stereotypes it’s important to talk about a few things. For one, white people have proved to play more central positions such as quarterback in football pitcher in baseball, etc. This could result in the sports programs hiring these more key positions rather than the others to cause this abundance of white coaching staffs.

The problem could also lie in the fact that races split into different roles in a sports team. 60.9% of student athletes are black and as a majority, this could be pushing white people to assume more coaching and leadership roles in the team as 81.8% of athletic director roles are filled by white people.

In the end, it is a very new discussion that’s worth looking into and examining more in the future. Below is a site where racism review does a great job of examining the statistics related to race in collegiate sports.


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