Posted on September 28, 2018

Bias Against Female HBCU Players, Study Reveals

Jeremy Bauer-Wolf, Inside Higher Ed, September 28, 2018

A new study suggests that long-standing claims of bias aimed at black athletes in college sports could be true, at least in some sports. The study, which appears in the Howard Journal of Communications, finds that teams from historically black colleges and universities are among the most heavily penalized, despite their small representation in athletics overall.

Andrew Dix, an assistant professor of communication at Middle Tennessee State University, analyzed data from the National Collegiate Athletic Association on women’s basketball teams that played from 2008 to 2017 in Division I.

Dix identified 23 teams from HBCUs and 310 from predominantly white institutions. Then he totaled the number of personal fouls from every game and calculated a 10-year average for each team.

Despite HBCU teams representing just a fraction of those in the division (less than 7 percent of the 333 teams), they were the five most penalized over the 10 seasons, Dix found. Overall, eight out of the 15 most penalized teams were from HBCUs.

HBCU teams were called out for 1.5 more personal fouls per game than teams from their predominantly white counterparts. Dix said that this proves bias among referees.


The phenomenon extends to professional sports, too. A 2007 study of the National Basketball Association shows that white referees from 1991 to 2004 called fouls at a greater rate against black players than white players. {snip}


She [Marybeth Gasman, director of the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions] said that HBCUs generally face the same bias as black people in the rest of the world — the public “often think they are inferior and their students are as well,” she said of HBCUs.

“If some of them are black, the implications are different and more complicated than this study portrays,” Gasman said. “If they are white, I agree that there is racial bias and I’d like to see the NCAA look into this issue.”


Shaun Harper, executive director of University of Southern California’s Race and Equity Center, said he was unsurprised by Dix’s results in both studies, which suggest that racial bias exists against black men and women in almost every facet of society.

He said it would be helpful to know the races of referees in Dix’s sample.