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The Changing Racial and Ethnic Composition of NCAA Division 1 Men’s and Women’s Fencing Rosters 2007-2008 to 2014-2015

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The racial and ethnic makeup of the NCAA Division 1 fencing roster has changed significantly in recent years and is likely to continue to do so in the foreseeable future. According to our analysis of data from the NCAA’s Sport Sponsorship, Participation and Demographic Searchable Database, the percentage of white student fencers has declined from 71.2 percent in 2007-2008 to 56.8 percent in 2014-2015. Over the same period the percentage of Asian American fencers has increased from 8 percent in 2007-2008 to 13.2 percent in 2014-2015.

The sports with the highest percentage of Asian American male athletes in Division 1 in 2014-2015 are fencing (13.1), gymnastics (8.2), squash (7.3), tennis (5.2) and rugby (5.0). Fencing (13.4), synchronized swimming (12.2), golf (10.2), squash (9.2), gymnastics (6.2), tennis (5.4) and rugby (5.3) were the Division 1 women’s sports with the highest percentages of Asian American athletes in 2014-2015. All other sports for both men and women had less than five percent Asian American athletes.

The definitions for race, ethnicity and residency status categories are provided at the end of the post. The sizeable change in the racial and ethnic composition of the Division 1 fencing roster is even more pronounced in The Ivy League as discussed below. The twenty-four Division 1 schools with NCAA-sanctioned fencing teams are grouped into six conferences as illustrated in the following table. You may click on a column heading to sort the data based on that criteria 

NCAA Division 1 (Excluding The Ivy League) Men's and Women's Fencing Schools

InstitutionConferenceGenderStateRegion
Boston CollegeAtlantic Coast ConferenceM & WMANortheast Region
Cleveland State UniversityIndependentM & WOHMidwest Region
Duke UniversityAtlantic Coast ConferenceM & WNCMid-Atlantic/South Region
Fairleigh Dickinson University, Metropolitan CampusNortheast ConferenceWomen onlyNJMid-Atlantic/South Region
Lafayette CollegeIndependentM&WPAMid-Atlantic/South Region
New Jersey Institute of TechnologyIndependentM & WNJMid-Atlantic/South Region
Northwestern UniversityMidwest ConferenceWomen onlyILMidwest Region
Pennsylvania State UniversityBig Ten ConferenceM & WPAMid-Atlantic/South Region
Sacred Heart UniversityIndependentM & WCTNortheast Region
St. Johns University (New York)IndependentM & WNYNortheast Region
Stanford UniversityIndependentM & WCAWest Region
Temple UniversityIndependentWomen onlyPAMid-Atlantic/South Region
The Ohio State UniversityIndependentM & WOHMidwest Region
U.S. Air Force AcademyIndependentM & WCOWest Region
University of Detroit MercyMidwest ConferenceM & WMIMidwest Region
University of North Carolina, Chapel HillAtlantic Coast ConferenceM & WNCMid-Atlantic/South Region
University of Notre DameAtlantic Coast ConferenceM & WINMidwest Region
University of the Incarnate WordIndependentM & WTXWest Region
Source: National Collegiate Athletic Association

In 2014-2015, the highest percentage of men and women fencers in the Ivy League were white (42.3 and 43.9 percent respectively) with the next highest percentage of fencers being Asian American (25.8 percent for men and 20.3 percent women). The percentage of white men fencers on the Ivy League men’s fencing roster has declined from 63.5 percent in 2007-2008 to 42.3 percent as illustrated in the accompanying graph. Over the same period the percentage of Asian American men fencers has almost tripled growing from 9.5 percent in 2007-2008 to the current 25.8 percent. To put that in perspective, only about 6 percent of the country’s population is Asian American. 

The percentage of Hispanic/Latino male student fencers has increased from 1.4 percent to 6.2 percent over the period and the percentage of male nonresident aliens (foreign student fencers) has been reasonably consistent at about 4 percent. The sports with the highest percentage of Asian American male athletes in The Ivy League in 2014-2015 are swimming (21.7), (fencing (17.5), track, indoor (11.2), tennis (10.5), track, outdoor (9.1), golf (5.6) and squash (5.6).

The percentage of white female fencing student athletes on the Ivy League fencing roster has declined from 58.4 percent in 2007-2008 to 43.9 percent in 2014-2015 as illustrated on the accompanying graph. The percentage of Asian American women fencers has almost doubled growing from 10.9 percent in 2007-2008 to 20.3 percent in 2014-2015. 

Over the period, the percentage of black female fencing student-athletes on the Ivy League fencing roster has declined from a high of 7.9 percent in 2007-2008 to a low of 3.3 percent in 2014-2015.  The sports with the highest percentage of Asian American female athletes in The Ivy League in 2014-2015 are swimming (15), fencing (13.4), tennis (13.4), golf (11.2), rowing (10.7) and squash (5.9). So the question needs to be asked: does fencing compete with swimming, tennis and golf in attracting more Asian Americans to our sport, and if they do, what do we need to do to ensure that fencing gets an increasing share of this important market?

To provide more insight into the racial and ethnic composition of the Division 1 fencing roster, we have excluded data for the Ivy League roster from the remaining analysis.  In 2014-2015, the highest percentage of male and female fencing student athletes was white (63.6 percent for males and 60.6 percent for females followed by Asian American fencing student-athletes (8.7 percent for males and 10.2 percent for females). The percentage of male white fencing student-athletes has steadily declined from 78.8 percent in 2007-2008 to 63.6 percent in 2014-2015. At the same time the percentage of Asian American male fencing student-athletes has grown marginally from 6.5 percent in 2007-2008 to 8.7 percent in 2014-2015. 

The percentage of female white fencing student-athletes has steadily declined from 70.2 percent in 2007-2008 to 60.6 percent in 2014-2015 as illustrated in the following graph. At the same time, the percentage of Asian American female fencing student-athletes has grown marginally from 8.1 percent in 2007-2008 to 10.2 percent in 2014-2015. 

According to a comprehensive nationwide survey by the Pew Research Center (2012 Asian-American Survey), Asian Americans are the highest-income, best-educated and fastest-growing racial group in the Unites States. As a consequence Asian Americans are likely to assume a greater role in the further development of fencing given their current involvement and commitment to the sport as exemplified by their increasingly important role in the Ivy Leagues fencing roster.

Racial and Ethnic Category Definitions

For the purposes of this analysis the following definitions were used for the race, ethnicity and residency status categories:

  • American Indian/Alaskan Native – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North America and who maintains cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition.
  • Asian – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia or the Indian Subcontinent. This includes people from China, Japan, Korea, the Philippine Islands, India and Vietnam.
  • Black, Non-Hispanic – A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa (except those of Hispanic origin).
  • Hispanic/Latino – A person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.
  • White, Non-Hispanic – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, North Africa or the Middle East (except those of Hispanic origin).
  • Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa or other Pacific Islands.
  • Two or More Races – A person having origins in more than one ethnicity category.
  • Other – A person unable to identify with the other ethnicity categories.
  • Nonresident Alien – A person who is not a citizen or national of the United States and who is in this country on a visa or temporary basis and does not have the right to remain indefinitely. Please note that we do not collect information on specific countries of citizenship of the Nonresident Alien student-athletes.

Source: National Collegiate Athletic Association. (2015). Sport Sponsorship, Participation and Demographics Search [Data file]. Retrieved from http://web1.ncaa.org/rgdSearch/exec/main.

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