Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Race, Centrality, and Educational Attainment: An NFL Perspective

Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Race, Centrality, and Educational Attainment: An NFL Perspective

Article excerpt

Using the organizational principles of Hubert Blalock and Oscar Grusky, the interrelationships among centrality, educational attainment and race were examined for the population (N=1525) of 1991 NFL players. It was hypothesized that players occupying central positions, vis-a-vis noncentral positions, would be more likely to possess academic degrees. The results of the analyses are reported in twofold fashion: (1) a description of the data source for the variables of race, position, team, college/university attended, and area of concentration, and (2) the interrelationships among race, centrality, and educational attainment. Among the most significant findings is that black NFL players are "stacked" in the noncentral positions and white NFL players are "stacked" in the central positions. Further, there appears to be no relationship between position occupancy and educational attainment when race is controlled.

The sociology of sport literature contains explorations of the concepts of centrality and educational attainment. Theories and explanations have been proposed to unravel the manifest and latent aspects of each and their operation in the sporting environment (Davis & Cooper, 1934; Riesman & Denney, 1951; Rehberg & Schafer, 1968; Loy & McElvogue, 1970; Worthy & Markle, 1970; Brower, 1972; Williams & Youssef, 1972, 1975; Edwards, 1973; Jones & Hochner, 1973; Castine & Roberts, 1974; Dunn & Lupfer, 1974; McPherson, 1975; Roper & Snow, 1976; Medoff, 1977; Otto & Alwin, 1977; Curtis & Loy, 1979; Sack & Thiel, 1979; Chu & Griffey, 1982; Figler, 1984; Henschen & Fry, 1984; Shapiro, 1984; Adler & Adler, 1985; Purdy, Eitzen, & Hufnagel, 1985; Kiger & Lorenzen, 1986; Best, 1987; Brede & Camp, 1987). Although each inquiry has yielded its own conclusions, their--centrality and educational attainment--academic marriage has not been consummated. Such an investigation is not only timely, but warranted.

Race, Centrality, and the Sociologies of Education and Sport: Theoretical Observations

The theoretical foundation for the concept of centrality resides in the organizational principles of Blalock (1982) and Grusky (1963). Centrality can be viewed as the spatial positioning of individuals within the organizational hierarchy. However, perhaps even more importantly, the effectiveness of the organization is governed by the occupants of central positions, who, due to their tendencies to interact with all members of the group, influence the destinies of other group members and the group and individual outcomes.

The concept of centrality has been utilized to explain various tactics of positional allotment housed in the sporting environment. Numerous interpretations (Loy & McElvogue, 1970; Blalock, 1962; Grusky, 1963; Ballinger, 1981; Dougherty, 1976; Jones, Leonard, Schmitt, Smith & Tolone, 1987; Jordan, 1969; Worthy & Markle, 1970; Leonard, 1988; Jones & Hochner, 1973; McPherson, Curtis, & Loy, 1989; McPherson, 1975; Brower, 1972; Castine & Roberts, 1974; Medoff, 1977; Eitzen & Sanford, 1975; Williams & Youssef, 1972, 1975) have been proposed to explain the above phenomenon and its subsequent effect on the playing field.

Traditional theorists maintain that two of the primary functions of the educational system are to: (1) certify that an individual has completed a certain program of study and (2) "sort" that individual into an appropriate occupational niche. Quite often, the relationship between both processes is obvious (i.e., one will not be granted the authority to dispense prescribed drugs until that individual is trained and certified to do so). Other times, it is not as apparent (i.e., one does not need to be a licensed pharmacist to manage a drug store chain successfully; however, one should possess knowledge regarding managerial principles).

The transition from collegiate to professional football follows a similar pattern. …

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