College football teams with Black coaches are penalized more, according to a new study

Even a handful of additional penalty calls can affect a team’s entire season.

Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott during the Clemson Football Spring Game (Orange and Wh...
Jacob Kupferman/Csm/Shutterstock

In recent years, Republican lawmakers have crusaded to ban trans athletes from competing in college sports, claiming that they have an unfair advantage over their cisgender counterparts. But if they really care about a level playing field, they should actually be worrying about college football, where teams with Black coaches receive more penalties than teams with white coaches, according to a new study.

The study, published in Social Science Quarterly, analyzed the number of penalties given during Division 1 college football games from 2014 to 2020. They found that teams with Black coaches were given anywhere between five to seven more penalties per season than teams with white coaches, regardless of the experience level of the coach or the competency of the team, per Buzzfeed News. Although that’s only about 5% more penalties than teams with white coaches, just a few more penalties per season in a sport like football could make a difference in a team’s overall success.

Of course, there’s no way to draw concrete conclusions about the referees’ motivations and the extra penalties given to teams with Black coaches could be a result of unconscious bias. There are studies out there that suggest Black players already tend to get more penalties earlier in a game than their white counterparts, so the idea that the treatment is extended to their coaches is not super far-fetched.

The bottom line is that college football is going to need to get their shit together. Only 14, or 10%, of Division 1 coaches are Black; this is even worse in the NFL, which currently only has two Black coaches despite the fact that 70% of NFL players are Black. I’m no sports connoisseur, but someone in the Republican party should really be looking into this, since it does feel more important than inquiring about the gender identity of college swimmers.