Paul Hornung is a Notre Dame alum, NFL Hall of Famer and Heisman Trophy winner. He’s done — and seen — some things. He is not some 68-year-old white guy who doesn’t “get it,” unless “not getting it” means being honest about the self-evident.
But that’s the issue.
We live in a society where candor and citing the obvious will get you in trouble in a hurry on certain sensitive subjects. And none is more sensitive — or volatile — than race, as Hornung was recently reminded.
In a radio interview the other day Hornung opined that his alma mater should “ease it up a little bit” on its standards. Specifically, such easing would enable Notre Dame to get more black players. “We must get the black athletes if we are to compete” were his words.
When the usual suspects, including Notre Dame officials, either recoiled in horror or simply backed away from such heresy, Hornung modified his stand. He was remiss, he said, because he “didn’t include the white athletes.”
Here is what Hornung should have — and probably meant — to say:
“Notre Dame has more than its share of black football players. What it doesn’t have is its share of blue-chip black players. And that has everything to do with standards — both academic and behavioral.
“It makes no sense, for example, for Notre Dame to play a daunting schedule, be expected to compete for the national championship and be precluded from recruiting the same blue-chip black players that the Oklahomas and Miamis do. Do you really think Notre Dame stood a chance of recruiting, say, Willie Williams, the nation’s top linebacker prospect who will either go to jail or the University of Miami? Do you think the administration or alumni would have bought the argument that nobody knew he had double-figure priors before he took his punk act to Gainesville?
“Here’s the reality, regardless of who doesn’t like it. If you look at high school graduation rates — and SAT scores — it’s obvious there’s a big disparity between blacks and whites, whether they play sports or not. (This isn’t the forum to debate why this is so, but suffice it to say it has more to do with a dysfunctional black culture than throwing more money at public schools.)
“Anyhow, the disparity is real, and the chasm only grows wider. As a result, it is OBVIOUSLY more challenging to get black athletes into universities — or black non-athletes for that matter. It forces universities and their revenue sports — football and basketball — to get creative and apply other criteria. Leadership, economic hardship, special skills, first in family to go to college, etc. Notre Dame has to get with the program and adjust.”
What Hornung is saying is that Notre Dame, which doubtless already does some of that, needs to do a lot more of that. In effect, Notre Dame needs to lower standards — or expectations. It won’t win big by recruiting more Irish.
Hornung did nothing wrong. Just got ensnared in another PC dragnet. Let’s not pretend it is anything other than that.