Study Suggests Bias in Officiating of HBCU Women’s Basketball Games

A new study from a Middle Tennessee State University professor suggests that women’s basketball teams at historically black colleges and universities are called for fouls at a disproportionately higher rate than teams from non-HBCUs.

Andrew Dix’s ‘“ And 1” More Piece of Evidence of Discrimination Against Black Basketball Players,’ reveals that several HBCUs have been systemically disadvantaged by what may be racial and gender bias in officiating women’s games in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and Southwestern Athletic Conference between 2008 and 2017.

From the study:

“The uncovered findings revealed that referees verbally called a disproportionate number of personal fouls on female basketball teams from HBCUs. Several female basketball teams from HBCUs incurred a personal fouls per game (PFPG) average that was significant at the .01 level but no female basketball teams from predominantly White institutions (PWIs) incurred a PFPG average that was significant at the .01 level. The discussion portion of this investigation went on to spotlight theoretical implications, White male hegemony, and overstated communication in sports.”

Black colleges, particularly from the SWAC, were called for 1.5 fouls more per game than non-HBCU teams. Alabama State University, Alcorn State University, the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Southern University comprised four of the top five most penalized teams in NCAA Division I competition, with Tennessee State University posting as the fourth-most penalized team in the nation.

In all, 19 of the 100 most penalized teams in the measured period were HBCUs, and the research counters data presented on the NCAA’s diversity and inclusion initiatives. In 2017, the University of Central Florida’s annual College Sports Race & Gender Report Card gave the NCAA positive marks for efforts to improve diverse representation among minorities and women in coaching, administration, student-athlete composition and staff.

The report did not account for the racial or gender makeup of referees in Division I women’s basketball games.

In April, Sally Bell retired as the SWAC’s coordinator of women’s basketball officials after nine years with the conference, and 33 years as a hall of fame inducted college referee.