The Demographics of College Athletics

I was poking around the National College Athletic Association website looking for a university-by-university breakdown on how much money college athletics lose. I never could find that but I did stumble across a report on ethnicity and college sports. Click here (and scroll to page 12) to view a breakdown of participation in 30 college sports by ethnicity. It’s a fascinating sociological profile.

In the spirit of healing racial divides, let me point out that black and white Americans have more in common than they realize: They’re much bigger fans of football and basketball than Hispanics, Asians or American Indians. Indeed, blacks and whites are far more likely to participate in college athletics than other ethnicities. (This may or may not be a good thing when it comes to academic achievement, but that’s another issue.)

Which sports are most closely identified with a particular race, in that the ethnicity is over-represented in that sport? I’m glad you asked.

The whitest sports are skiing (90.9% of male student-athletes are white), lacrosse (90.2%) and golf (87.1%). The skiing thing makes sense, given the sport’s Nordic origins. But lacrosse? Hey, the Iroquois invented the sport, and American-Indians account for only 0.3% of male college lacrosse players. Maybe it ‘s because lacrosse has become identified with preppies.

The blackest sports are basketball (37.8% of male basketball players are black), football (28.1%) and outdoor track (20.2%). The two college sports where you wont’ see any black men…. badminton and equestrian.

The most Hispanic of sports is NOT baseball (only 4.1% of male college baseball players are Hispanic). Nope. The big sports for Hispanic men in college athletics are volleyball (14.4%), water polo (5.8%) and soccer (5.5%).

How about Asians? Their big sport is… fencing (7.9%)! Not a surprise, actually, if you consider the long tradition in Chinese and Japanese cultures of the sword-fighting martial arts. Then comes gymnastics (6.1%) and tennis (4.1%).

As for American-Indians, let’s just say that Jim Thorpe was an outlier. American-Indians aren’t much of a factor in college athletics. For males, the biggest sport is water polo, where they account for 0.7% of student athletes.

(Note: Female participation rates tracks male participation in most sports fairly closely.)


P.S. In case you wondered about sports profitability, in 2010, Division I college sports generated only 74.1% of the revenue needed to support their programs. The rest came from student fees and institutional support. For the typical (median) school, men’s football generated a profit of $3.1 million, men’s basketball made $790,000 in profit and everything else lost money. If I ever find the numbers for Virginia institutions, I will publish them.

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2 responses to “The Demographics of College Athletics”

  1. juxtapose this – how many blacks in school are shooting for an athletic scholarship verses how many blacks are shooting to be able to pass the armed forces aptitude test…

    how about this: no one can get a college scholarship unless they can get a passing score on the armed forces aptitude test?

  2. […] athletes also has a racial component (which should not come as a surprise, in this country): 40% of unpaid college basketball players and 30% of unpaid college football players are Black, compa…. In addition to the football team, the graduate students, who held a short strike when they […]

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