Cal Poly

More than a quarter of all black students at Cal Poly are athletes

Cal Poly's lack of diversity, laid bare in a recent string of racist incidents on campus, is even more pronounced when viewed through the lens of the athletic department.

In athletics, 61 percent of the student-athlete population identified as white — 324 of the 535 athletes — according to diversity numbers provided by the Cal Poly athletic department for the 2017-18 academic year.

That’s higher than the 54.8 percent of Cal Poly's total student body who identified as white, which is the highest mark of any school within the 23-campus CSU system or the 10-university UC system.

And while the percentage of black athletes is significantly higher than the campus as a whole — 8 percent of the total student-athlete population compared to 0.7 of the student body — if it weren't for the athletics department, Cal Poly would be even whiter.

The 44 black athletes from 2017 made up more than 26 percent of the entire black student population.

Cal Poly's football team is among the most diverse group in the athletics department, with 44 percent of its 101-player roster identifying as white, 20 percent black, 17 percent Hispanic/Latino, 11 percent multi-racial and 7 percent Pacific Islander.

Of Cal Poly's entire black student population, 12 percent (20 players) are members of the football team.

The least diverse sports at Cal Poly include indoor/sand volleyball (85 percent white), golf (71 percent white) and swim/dive (82 percent white).

In the athletics department as a whole, Hispanic/Latino student athletes account for 15 percent of the population while 8 percent identify as multi-racial. That's compared to a 17 percent Hispanic/Latino and 8 percent multi-racial population on the entire campus. Asian Americans make up 2 percent of the student-athlete population compared to 11 percent campus-wide. (Numbers are rounded to nearest whole number.)

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Statewide diversity numbers for athletic departments were not easily available, but The Tribune did obtain diversity breakdowns from this year for the athletic departments of Cal Poly Pomona and Cal State Fullerton for comparison.

Of the 234 student athletes at Cal Poly Pomona, 31 percent identify as white, 31 percent Hispanic/Latino and 23 percent black. At Cal State Fullerton, a school that competes against Cal Poly in most sports, 34 percent of its 339 student athletes identify as Hispanic/Latino, 22 percent identify as white and 14 percent identify as African American.

The numbers for Cal Poly Pomona and Fullerton, schools without the typically more diverse sport of football, closer reflect statewide numbers when compared to Cal Poly.

According to Statistical Atlas, a website that analyzes data from the U.S. Census Bureau, California's ethnic breakdown as of July 2017 was 39.7 percent white, 37.4 percent Hispanic, 13.3 percent Asian, 6 percent African American.

“We are trying harder to reflect the diversity of our state, and obviously we are not there. There are a lot of obstacles to those things. Location, majors, requirements — all those things will factor in,” Cal Poly athletic director Don Oberhelman said.

There is also a lack of diversity when it comes to Cal Poly head coaches.

Of its 16 head coaches, there are apparently no head coaches of color (Cal Poly could not confirm the ethnicity of each coach because it does not maintain records on the ethnicity of its staff, according to Oberhelman).

Oberhelman said Cal Poly needs to do a better job of building a diverse coaching staff.

He also acknowledges that there is a real possibility that the recent racist events at Cal Poly will hurt the diversity numbers within the athletic department moving forward.

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