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Two Student Athletes Present Findings Regarding Race and Recruitment in Sports

BYU sociology students and football players Keenan Ellis and Lorenzo Fauatea identified racial disparities in the recruitment of players and coaches at both predominantly white college institutions and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). They presented their findings at the Annual Meetings of the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport in Quebec. See video presentations below.

Their research was mentored by Mikaela Dufur and Ryan Gabriel, both sociology professors at BYU.

Headshot of Keenan Ellis
Keenan Ellis


While playing college football, Keenan Ellis, from San Diego, played defensive back and wore #2, and Lorenzo Fauatea, from West Valley City, Utah, played defensive line and wears #55.

The first study, presented by Ellis, showed that even at HBCUs, white players were recruited to key positions and received more playing time than Black players. This occurred even when white players' performances were not as highly rated as minority players' performances.

Another issue found in college sports is stacking, where players are racially segregated by position due to a player's perceived athleticism or intellectual decision-making ability. This was the topic of the second study, presented by Fauatea.

"This study showed that positional stacking is even more intense in coaching than on the field," says Dufur. "White coaches were favored even when coaching for positions overwhelmingly filled by minority players."

Even at HBCUs, white players were recruited to key positions and received more playing time than Black players. This occurred even when white players' performances were not as highly rated as minority players' performances.

Ellis and Fauatea worked with Dufur to gather preliminary data for the study by creating demographic parameters: surveying 4,500 coaches and 26,000 student athletes associated with college football teams, and pulling information from team media guides and recruiting sites of over 262 schools.

After a colleague from another university shared initial data on players' schools and hometown, Dufur hired the two students who took her sociology class to assist her in the project.

Headshot of Lorenzo Fauatea
Lorenzo Fauatea

Fauatea and Ellis’s experience as athletes gave them focus and drive during the research projects. "They worked well in a team and were receptive to feedback," says Dufur. "They were very easy to work with and we are incredibly proud of the work they’ve done.”

Gabriel remarks how the two provided, “perspective and more real-world ground truths [about the field of college football].”

Both mentors commend the athletes for the incredible tenacity they displayed in pursuing the significant and revealing findings from their research.

Using highly advanced modeling to analyze the data gathered, the research team was able to compile a comprehensive set of results.

The research team was unable to physically travel to Quebec since both Ellis and Fauatea were participating in graduation ceremonies at the same time as the conference. However, they presented via a recording, and wore their caps and gowns. See their presentations here.

North American Society for the Sociology of Sport: Ellis and Fauatea about Player Recruitment at HBCUs
North American Society for the Sociology of Sport: Ellis and Fauatea about Sideline Stacking

Learn more about sociology and watch both parts of their presentations.