NCAA logo (Courtesy/Wikimedia Commons)
NCAA logo (Courtesy/Wikimedia Commons)

Despite pub­licly stating that it has never col­lected or recorded racial data on any of its stu­dents, Hillsdale College’s admin­is­tration has sub­mitted infor­mation on the race of all student ath­letes through the ath­letic department since joining the NCAA in 1990.

Last week, college admin­is­trators dis­covered that for two-and-a-half decades, Hillsdale has com­plied with an NCAA requirement man­dating that coaches collect and submit ath­letes’ race and gender infor­mation in order to com­plete a mandatory Demo­graphics and Sports Spon­sorship form, Ath­letic Director Don Brubacher said.

The president’s office is dis­cussing a variety of actions, ranging from seeking an exemption from this NCAA rule to more far-reaching mea­sures, such as reeval­u­ating the college’s ath­letic affil­i­ation with the NCAA, said Chief Staff Officer Mike Harner, who is also the asso­ciate coach for men’s golf.

Pres­ident Larry Arnn said he didn’t wish to comment until he had all the facts regarding the com­pliance process and had dis­cussed the college’s options with other admin­is­trators.

“There is pressure for us to violate the mission of the college, and we resist that with all our might,” Arnn said, adding that he plans to research a mul­titude of options to fight against the mandate.

At its founding in 1844, the college promised to offer an edu­cation to all “irre­spective of nation, color, or sex.” In the years since, the college has defended these prin­ciples in court, and its his­toric refusal to accept public funding is based in part on an unwill­ingness to count stu­dents by their race.

Last year, The Col­legian broke the news that the U.S. Department of Edu­cation excluded Hillsdale from its College Scorecard in part because of its failure to record the racial infor­mation of its stu­dents.

“We have never col­lected, that is, we have not col­lected this data for more than 170 years,” Arnn told The Col­legian at the time.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal last year, Arnn said, in ref­erence to keeping track of stu­dents’ races, “It’s hugely better if you can just ignore all that stuff, and we can.”

Brubacher said the NCAA requires the ath­letic department to submit numerous forms every year, many of them requesting racial infor­mation on student ath­letes. While he said the college has avoided filling out race infor­mation for some of the forms, the Demo­graphics and Sports Spon­sorship form doesn’t allow for that.

“It is my under­standing that there are some other NCAA forms where the college has developed methods to avoid sub­mitting infor­mation regarding the race of stu­dents,” Brubacher said. “The ath­letic department has not, up to this point in time, found a method to avoid pro­viding racial infor­mation on the Demo­graphic and Sports Spon­sorship form.”

The NCAA’s Demo­graphics and Sports Spon­sorship form exists for two reasons, according to Brubacher: to record the number of schol­ar­ships allo­cated to student ath­letes that verify the Chargers as a Division II ath­letic program as well as gather race and gender data for the NCAA’s research on grad­u­ation rates and injury studies.

Brubacher, as well as admin­is­trators in the president’s office, said it’s unclear if stu­dents are aware of this or how the coaches gather the infor­mation. While student ath­letes may not have known that their race is being recorded, all student ath­letes are required to fill out a student-athlete statement, NCAA form 16 – 3B, which includes the same racial infor­mation that the coaches collect and send to the NCAA.

Brubacher said the con­se­quences for not sub­mitting the required paperwork are extreme.

“If we do not submit the Demo­graphics and Sports Spon­sorship form, then we are barred from national cham­pi­onship play for all sports,” Brubacher said. “And if a student doesn’t sign the 16 – 3B release form, which allows for the NCAA to have access to the agreed infor­mation, such as race, then they are inel­i­gible to play. If these are a requirement for NCAA mem­bership and we do not submit these forms, then our ath­letic program changes dra­mat­i­cally. It has a huge impact on our student ath­letes.”

Senior Matt Schrzan, defensive lineman for the Chargers football team, said he was aware that he had to sign the NCAA student agreement form every year regarding his race. He said he never thought any­thing of it.

“To poten­tially leave a con­ference over the recording of race seems like it’s against our ideas,” Schrzan said. “Tech­ni­cally, it’s the NCAA recording this not so much Hillsdale. As an African-American Hillsdale student, I can say that by iden­ti­fying my race for those forms didn’t change my views on the college at all. That was me applying to be an NCAA athlete — not a Hillsdale College athlete.”

Harner said he is unaware of what moves the admin­is­tration will take but said it presents a con­flict for the college.

“While the form col­lects a racial demo­graphic of college ath­letes and not the college student body as a whole, it’s still cer­tainly a com­pliance burden,” Harner said. “I know we will resist that burden with every effort.”

Harner and Brubacher said they agree that the form puts the college in a tough spot, making them debate between the college’s prin­ciples and prac­tices.

“I see both sides of the issue,” Brubacher said. “I fully agree with the college’s his­toric position on sharing infor­mation on gender and race. That has the greatest impact on us, if it is shared with a gov­ernment agency that has reg­u­latory powers over us. The NCAA is an orga­ni­zation we chose to be a member of. It has nothing to do with reg­u­latory gov­ernment processes of any sort for Hillsdale College. Whether that makes it acceptable for Hillsdale College to agree to sub­mitting this data is ques­tionable.”

As the college delib­erates, Harner said the decision will come after admin­is­trators have addressed all options.

“We’ll act, as always, in the best interest of stu­dents and the college,” Harner said.

DII Form 16 3b Student Athlete Statement by Brendan Richard Clarey on Scribd