Recent headlines regarding sexual assault and domestic abuse again have brought player behavior in professional and intercollegiate sports to the fore. With the suspension of Ray Rice of the NFL for viciously punching his wife and Jameis Winston in trouble for misogynistic behavior (earlier this year we commented on his sexual asault investigation), the larger question is whether the celebrity status of athletes condones a secret and shameful culture permissive of sexual assault and abuse?
Research has established that substance abuse (namely alcohol) contributes to higher rates of sexual assault. Additionally, research has established a trend of high drinking rates among student-athletes, and media stories like the ones above have illuminated a culture of sexual abuse and assault that is more prevalant among athletes than the public at-large. With this, I wonder if on college campuses with a strong "athletic culture" are there higher rates of substance abuse and sexual assault among the student body?
In a nascent research project, I am examining Clery data related to substance abuse and sexual assault among institutions classified at the highest tier, Football Bowl Subdivision, and the less competitive Football Championship Subdivision. To operationalize "athletic culture" I will rank institutions according to the ratio of money spent on athletics versus academics. (The Wall Street Journal recently did its own analysis of college football spending.) Along with other factors, I hope to establish that on campuses that strongly support athletics in relation to academics, this culture spills over to the general student body. I will be presenting my preliminary findings at the Education Law Association's annual meeting in November. I look forward to your feedback.