Who is Most at Risk? Where are Hot Spots?

Every athlete was at risk of being hazed. Some athletes, however, were at higher risk than were others. Using chi-square analysis, we determined at a confidence level of 99% the athletes most at risk of being hazed to join a team. They were:

  • Male
  • Non-Greek
  • Swimmers or divers
  • Soccer players
  • Lacrosse players
  • In the east or south
  • On a rural campus
  • On a residential campus
  • On a campus with a Greek system
  • In a state with no anti-hazing law

Having learned, in general, which athletes were most likely to be hazed, we then analyzed the risk by category of athletes. The results are:

Type of behavior

Earlier in this report, we divided initiation behaviors into four groups based on severity. Below we describe which athletes were most at risk at each level of severity.

Unacceptable Initiation

Athletes most at risk of being subjected to unacceptable initiation activities, regardless of the involvement of alcohol, were:

  • men
  • swimmers, divers, football players or water polo players
  • students at southern or midwestern institutions

Alcohol-Related Initiation

Athletes most at risk of being subjected to alcohol-related initiation, but not other unacceptable initiation activities, were:

  • women (6)
  • lacrosse players
  • students at eastern or western institutions

Questionable Initiation

Athletes most at risk of being subjected to questionable, but not unacceptable, initiation activities were:

  • football players
  • students at campuses in the south or west

Acceptable Initiation

Athletes most likely to be involved in only acceptable initiation were:

  • women
  • members of a Greek organization
  • members of track, fencing, or tennis teams
  • students at midwestern or western urban, commuter campuses

Different profiles emerge as we look closer at athletes who are involved in alcohol-related initiations, specifically alcohol on recruitment visits and drinking contests, regardless of their involvement in other types of behavior.

Alcohol on Recruitment

Athletes most at risk of consuming alcohol on recruitment were:

  • Division I scholarship athletes
  • members of swimming, diving, lacrosse, football, or soccer teams
  • students at rural, residential campuses in eastern states without anti-hazing laws


There were clear differences in the way men and women initiate new members onto an athletic team.

Women were more likely than men to be involved in acceptable initiation activities: participating in preseason practice, taking oaths, keeping a higher GPA, doing volunteer work, completing a ropes course, dressing up for team functions and participating in other team-building activities. The ropes course (a professionally designed outdoors challenge course) or team trip demonstrates the biggest contrast: 43 percent of the women as opposed to 29 percent of the men.

Women were as likely or nearly as likely to participate in some initiation activities as men, as shown on the table below.

Initiation Activities with Comparable Male/Female Participation Rates
Initiation Activities Male (n) Female (n) Total (n)
Participating in calisthenics not related to a sport 14% 125 11% 127 13% 253
Associating with specific people, not others 12% 101 11% 124 11% 226
Acting as personal servant to players off the field, court 10% 85 8% 95 9% 181
Depriving oneself of food, sleep, or hygiene 7% 56 8% 85 7% 141
Consuming extremely spicy/disgusting concoctions 8% 69 5% 60 6% 129
Participating in drinking contests 35% 302 34% 387 35% 693
Making prank calls or harassing others 12% 105 8% 91 10% 197
Engaging in or simulating sexual acts 7% 64 5% 52 6% 116

For other activities, there are clear differences between men and women. Men are consistently more likely than women to be subjected to any one of the questionable or unacceptable activities, except wearing embarrassing clothing. Men were notably more likely than women to be yelled, cursed, or sworn at as part of their initiation.

Women were much less likely than men to be subjected to unacceptable acts: destroying or stealing property, beating up others, being tied up or taped, being confined in small places, being paddled, beaten, kidnapped or transported and abandoned.

Initiation Activities with Dissimilar Male/Female Participation Rates
Initiation Activities Male 877 Female 1142 Total 2027
Wearing embarrassing clothing 22% 33% 29%
Being yelled, cursed, or sworn at 38% 25% 31%
Consuming alcohol on recruitment visits 42% 39% 42%
Participating in a drinking contest 35% 34% 35%
Destroying or stealing property 11% 5% 7%
Being tied up, taped, or confined in small space 8% 3% 5%
Being paddled, whipped, beaten, kicked, beating others 5% 1% 3%

Sports:Swimmers or divers and lacrosse, soccer, football, hockey and water polo players were significantly more likely to be subjected to a greater number of questionable and unacceptable initiation activities than any other athletes.

Football is the only sport that had a relatively low response rate among athletes. Football players who did respond reported higher levels of hazing behavior for other college groups than for their own collegiate athletic team. Still, football players were more likely to be involved with most of the unacceptable initiation activities and the questionable activities, but not the alcohol-related activities.

Overall, athletes in track, fencing, and golf were significantly less likely to be hazed. In addition, cross-country, basketball, rowing, and tennis were significantly less involved with alcohol and other unacceptable activities.

Percentage of Student Athletes by Sport and Initiation Activity (PDF format - will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to read).

Percentage of Student Athletes by Sport and Initiation Activity
NCAA Div. % Hazed % Total Population
Division I 41 42
Division II 22 21
Division III 37 37

Greek and other campus organizations: Although this study does not focus on Greek initiation rites, each athlete was asked if he or she was a member of a Greek organization and if there was a Greek system on campus. Based upon reported behavior, this study found that non-Greek athletes were most at risk for athletic hazing. This study also found that Greek athletes were significantly more likely than non-Greeks to report they had participated in acceptable initiation rites exclusively. However, the presence of a Greek system on campus was highly correlated with questionable and unacceptable initiations among collegiate athletes.

In comparing athletic hazing to hazing by other groups, we relied upon respondents who identified themselves as hazing victims, which is a very small group compared to those who were involved in hazing behavior. Further study is needed to clarify the prevalence of hazing among members of various student groups for various collegiate organizations.

The survey showed that some students were hazed by more than one group. Athletes were asked: 1) if they had ever been hazed for collegiate athletics and 2) if they had ever been hazed for another group. Twenty percent of student athletes reported that they were hazed in college, of whom:

  • 12 percent reported that teammates hazed them
  • 12 percent reported that members of non-athletic groups hazed them
  • 4 percent reported that both teammates and members of non-athletic groups hazed them

Athletes reported being hazed by teammates as often as they reported being hazed by fraternities, sororities or other groups. So even though it has received far less attention, hazing to join college teams may be just as prevalent as hazing is to join other organizations, including fraternities and sororities.

Coaches and administrators ages 20 - 39 were more likely than any other group of respondents to report being hazed to join an athletic team, whereas coaches and administrators ages 40 and older were more likely to report having been hazed by another group. Whether this suggests a long-term trend in hazing behavior is a subject for further study.

Geographic Variations:Alcohol-related hazing was most common on eastern, rural, residential campuses. Athletes involved in only acceptable initiation activities were found to be primarily from midwestern and western, urban, commuter campuses. Still, the unacceptable activities were more prevalent on southern or midwestern campuses and the questionable activities were more likely to occur on southern or western campuses.

(6) While there were fewer women overall involved in hazing activities, if women did participate in hazing, it was more likely to be alcohol-related.