Myth Debunked: Student Athlete Screening Isn’t Just For Football Players

Estimated Read Time: 4 Minutes


Screening student athletes is a concept that has not quite caught on for most colleges. Studies show that only 2% of universities screen their student athletes, and less than 1% screen all of their student athletes. And universities that do conduct student athlete screenings are only screening one sport, like football, basketball etc. But why is that? Studies show that 275 student athletes were arrested in 2016, and while less than 4% of college students are athletes, student athletes are involved in 19% of sexual assault reports on campus. So might it be worth screening all of your athletes in hopes to avoid bringing athletes to your school that might add to these statistics?

The Myth

Most college universities do not have an athlete screening program. Studies show that only 1% of universities screen their transfer athletes, 2% percent screen some of their athletes, so that being only screening one or two sports, and less than 1% of universities are screening all of their athletes.

Those are scary statistics. Less than 1% of colleges are screening all of their student athletes because they believe that they only need to focus on football. But that’s just not true. Not only should you be screening your student athletes you should be screening all of your student athletes. Not just one or two sports. It is a myth and completely false to believe that it’s ok to only be screening one or two sports at your university. “But why does it matter? Why should I pay to have all of my student athletes screened if the majority of my student athletes that get in trouble are only coming from one sport?”

Myth Debunked

If you’re screening some of your student athletes you must be screening all of your student athletes. Let’s say you’re a university that is only screening athletes from the tennis team, and maybe the tennis team is predominantly made up of one race of people. Isn’t it unfair for only that group of athletes to be singled out going through the screening process? Some would say that’s discrimination.

Compliant Background Screening Practices
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“Discrimination? What are you talking about?!” To only screen one sport or to not be screening all sports at your university you are discriminating. Consider the following questions, “What is the demographic makeup of your school’s different sports teams?” There are cases where universities have sports teams and the team is predominantly a certain race, if that is the only sports team at your university that you’re screening you are discriminating towards that sports team and could land yourself into some serious trouble. For more information read about the EEOC’s (The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) guidance on disparate treatment and disparate impact here “Well if I have to screen all of my student athletes then I just won’t screen any of my student athletes.”

Doing Things The Right Way

In 2016, 275 student athletes were arrested. Schools may have been able to avoid this by screening their student athletes and learning more about the athletes they are bringing into their school in hopes to avoid their athletes getting arrested. Implementing a screening process all starts with

  1. Creating a background screening policy and a decision matrix that includes what will and will not be tolerated, and what penalties follow whatever offense a student athlete may have done.
  2. Reviewed by legal counsel.
  3. Find a background screening company

Once finding a third-party background screening vendor below are a few questions you should consider.

  • Does your vendor conduct live criminal record searches?
  • Does your vendor conduct criminal database searches?
  • Does your vendor provide cases that resulted in dismissals or acquittals that can be used in a hiring decision?
  • Does your vendor test and audit your employees to make sure they meet industry standards?
  • Does your vendor provide free consolation and education for clients on the FCRA and other regulations?
  • Does your vendor have an online account management system?
  • Does your vendor have a FCRA management system, where clients can collect releases and send out adverse action letters?
  • Is your vendor accredited by NAPBS (National Association of Professional Background Screeners)?
  1. Once finding said background screening company, ensure that they have a training and compliance program to assist you in learning the ins and outs of your new background screening services.

Making sure you keep your college students safe while still bringing in the best students athletes can be tough. But it doesn’t have to be. Knowing is half the battle, and it all starts with good information and knowing your athlete’s history. You’re not able to be knowledgeable, confident or defensible if you’re not collecting information in an accurate and compliant manner. Having that extra information and ensuring you’re bringing the best athletes into your program is doing things the right way.

Closing Thoughts

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