Student Athletes & Background Checks – What’s This All About?

Estimated Read Time: 5 Minutes


  • Screening your athletes is a good idea since over 600 college athletes have been arrested over the past two years
  • Social media is one of the more prevalent sources to find information about your incoming student athlete
  • There are strict compliance guidelines you must follow when searching someone’s social media accounts
  • Anti-discrimination laws like the ADA, ADEA, GINA, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act each play a hand in regulating how you can use the information you find in a social media search
  • Having comprehensive information about your student athletes is important for the safety of your students

“You need to screen your athletes! It’s crucial you conduct background checks for all your potential athletes.” By this point you’ve probably heard that a million times. But have you heard why you need to be doing this? Or even what goes in a background check? What information are you allowed to see? What information aren’t you allowed to see? And where does social media fall into this? Background checks can be a lot to deal with…but it doesn’t have to be.   


What’s All Included In a Background Check?    

So you’re thinking about beginning to do background checks on your potential athletes. Not a bad idea, seeing how over the past two years nearly 600 college athletes have been arrested. But what information are you getting once you conduct that background check? 

Below is a list of things you should expect to receive when conducting background checks on your potential student athletes

Criminal History – Criminal history over the past 7-10 years

Credit History (If applicable)

Address History – Address history over the past 7-10 years

Live Court Record Searches – Live research is the product of a network of researchers gathering criminal record data from the source of that information. Research of official court records ensures that the report you commission is accurate and compliant. As opposed to doing a national database search which has a 41% error rate. (Live court record searches are unique to Validity Screening solutions. To find out what the difference between a live court record search and a database search click here)

For more information on what you can expect to receive from your background check and how our process works, check out this link here .


But What About Social Media?  

Social media is probably one of the more prevalent sources to find information about your incoming student athletes. Just about everyone is on social media, especially high school and college students. This information is also easily accessible, so why would you want to use a screening agency to do it for you? But did you ever consider the risks you’re taking? Even with all the unique benefits of using social media, there is a huge elephant in the room – legal compliance.


Social media content gives you access to content that you wouldn’t normally have through traditional screening tools. You are also gaining access to a treasure trove of content that, if used in your decision process, can land you in hot water because you could be breaking some serious compliance rules.


Compliant Background Screening Practices
The Companion Guide

The topic of Background Checks is a tricky labyrinth to navigate these days. Let us help with the directions.


Whether you are using a third party or doing it alone, there are legal guidelines that must be considered while treading through information from social media. Regardless of whether or not you are using a third party to conduct your background checks, anti-discrimination laws like the ADA, ADEA, GINA, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act each play a hand in regulating how you can use the information you find in a social media search. But that’s not just the only risk, information found through social media channels lack the level of accuracy of traditional background screening methods. Identities are harder to verify and the legitimacy of content often comes into question.


The problem is that much of the content on an applicant’s profile is very subjective. Something innocuous may be misinterpreted by someone without the proper context. So is there any middle ground, here? Unfortunately not really. The main issue is that protected information like lifestyle choices, pregnancy, disability, etc. can’t be unseen. If you were to decide to admit a student athlete after seeing that information you would have a hard time refuting a discrimination claim, regardless of whether or not that information impacted the decision.  


So Why’s It All Even Worth It?

When a student athlete is involved in a incident, it’s embarrassing for the university and can become a public relations nightmare. But that’s just where it begins – the student may be suspended, not just from athletics, but from the university. Possibly even expelled. But what if the student athlete has displayed this behavior before? Maybe the coach that recruited them let it slide because of the great talent they bring to the team, or maybe you just truly didn’t know about it. There have been countless times incidents like these have happened, and it leaves the university embarrassed and looking for a solution.

Wouldn’t it have been nice for you to have known this information before hand? To be equipped with everything you should know about the athletes you’re bringing to your university? We’re not saying kids who have made mistakes don’t deserve second chances, but you don’t want to be blindsided with news of your star quarterback having a checkered past. Because now your university is embarrassed, and possibly, your other students may not have been safe. That’s what it truly comes down to. Having all the information you should about your student athletes is important for the safety of your students. You should know as much as you’re able to about the athletes you bring onto your campus.   


Closing Thoughts 

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