Whether Paul Hornung meant what he said or didn t mean what he said, about black athletes equating to lower college admission standards, is irrelevant to me.
If Hornung truly feels that way, that s his hang-up.
Instead of shooting the messenger, I choose to listen to Hornung s message.
It s a message worth listening to. And learning from.
Hornung spoke of the need for Notre Dame to loosen entry requirements for the football program this week on a Detroit radio station: We gotta get the black athlete. We must get the black athlete if we re going to compete.
I always believe it s better to know how someone feels about you, rather than not knowing. Knowledge is power.
If I were a black college athlete, especially one performing well in the classroom, I d hate to think that some of the people cheering me from the stands on Saturday afternoons equated black and “athlete with dumb jock without knowing me personally.
It would make me angry and resentful.
It would make me reassess my priorities.
It might make me less inclined to select academic courses just so I could remain eligible to play football. I d probably be more inclined to sign up for courses that would enable me to graduate.
More important, I wouldn t attend a school that didn t look at me as a total person.
You don t have to attend a football factory to play in the NFL. That s a myth. You don t have to sacrifice having a well-rounded college experience by going to one of the bigger schools. There are plenty of small-college players earning big money in the pros.
Besides, it s not like everyone who attends a football factory is guaranteed an NFL job. As sports sociologist Harry Edwards has said for years, a black college athlete has a better chance of being struck by a meteorite than playing pro ball.
There s nothing more pathetic than to hear the story of a college athlete complaining after his eligibility runs out that he isn t on course to graduate because someone (a guidance counselor? a coach?) instructed him to take the wrong course; i.e., Coaching Principles and Strategies of Basketball.
When I hear those stories I don t feel sorry for those people. I really don t.
I blame the system. But I also blame the athlete for allowing himself to be used.
Still, there must be some truth to Hornung s comments. Otherwise, why would he make them?
Here s some food for thought.
According to the most recent NCAA statistics, during the 2001-02 season, 48.8 percent of Division I-A football players were white, 43.8 percent were black. Thirty-five of the 68 scholarship players on Notre Dame s current spring roster (55.2 percent) are black.
According to Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics at the University of Central Florida, more than 50 Division I basketball programs had failed to graduate one black basketball player over a 10-year period.
Instead of judging a book by its cover, Hornung should champion reforms for a college system that chews up black athletes and spits them out at an alarming rate.