‘Apolitical’ Coaches Take Harmful Political Stance

Stephen Bell, Petoskey News-Review (Petoskey, Mich.), October 31, 2006

When cats and dogs start plotting together, the mice better be on the lookout. First it was gubernatorial candidates Jennifer Granholm and Dick DeVos who came out against the Nov. 7 ballot Proposal 2 (“a proposal to amend the state constitution to ban affirmative action programs that give preferential treatment to groups or individuals based on their race, gender, color, ethnicity or national origin for public employment, education or contracting purposes”).

Monday in Okemos there was an even more surprising coalition. Michigan State’s Tom Izzo and Michigan’s Tommy Amaker were among five of the state’s college basketball coaches who gathered at a One United Michigan press conference to come out in favor of racial preferences and discrimination.

The coaches claimed that they were there as individuals, not as representatives of their universities. Of course, no one would pay them the time of day if it were Tom from Iron Mountain and not Tom from Michigan State.

Motives

Of course, college basketball coaches would seem uniquely qualified to talk about universities accepting students of questionable academic credentials. Michigan State had to appeal to the NCAA in order for Jason Richardson to be able to play as a freshman, just stretching in under the barest of eligibility standards. Izzo also recruited Zack Randolph, a convicted gun runner, for a one-year stint in East Lansing.

But when under-educated revenue sports jocks come to MSU, they have the advantages of a segregated learning environment, the Clara Bell Smith Center, and a bevy of tutors, which the average minority student doesn’t enjoy. Even with that infrastructure and support, minority athletes at Michigan State, according to Black Issues in Higher Education, still had the second-worst graduation rate in the Big Ten. That’s little surprise when one considers that the two factors which the State House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education says are the two clearest determining factors in graduation rates—standardized test scores and admissions selectivity—are the very factors affirmative action undermines.

New Central Michigan coach Ernie Zeigler may have tipped the hand to the true purpose of the coaches’ opposition. A former UCLA assistant, he said that when a similar proposal passed in California, and the number of unqualified minority students on campus dwindled, the players took notice. Don’t think that other college coaches didn’t notice the dearth of brown faces, too, and use it to recruit against UCLA, a tactic Michigan coaches can surely envision being adopted by their out-of-state peers should Proposal 2 pass here.

Colleges will go to great lengths to deceive high school students into the impression that their campuses are harmonious racial utopias. The University of Wisconsin Photoshopped into a brochure a black student into a crowd of white football fans. The University of Idaho’s website once put a black face on he head of a white student. But that’s nothing compared to former Clemson basketball coach Tates Locke, who once conspired to concoct a fictitious black fraternity on the South Carolina school’s backwater campus.

Perception is king to coaches showing off their schools to prospective ballplayers. Does it really matter that the previous students, per their academic records, didn’t really belong at UCLA? As long as it looked nice. Why, all the happy, different-colored young learners on the Westwood campus, it could be a WB set. Marketed to snowed-in Midwest college students to vegetate on while consuming over-taxed beer.

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“I want to be proud of my home as a place that is welcoming to all,” Amaker said at the press conference. “I’m afraid that if Proposal 2 passes, it won’t seem (emphasis added) that way anymore.”

It won’t seem, but it will be, open and ready to educate qualified students regardless of race. That doesn’t happen now at the University of Michigan, where students are treated differently because of their race. The discrimination is blatant. At U-M’s med school, according to the Center for Equal Opportunity based on data retrieved through the Freedom of Information Act, applicants with MCAT scores of 41 and gpa’s of 3.6 in their science courses were admitted at rates of 74, 43, 12 and 6 percent, depending on if the applicants were black, Hispanic, white or Asian, respectively.

Fight the future

“I know what it takes to build a team, and that is diversity,” Izzo said. “We need all kinds of players on our team, and we need all kinds of students on our campus if we are going to be successful in building the Michigan of tomorrow.”

The diversity of the Michigan State basketball team means mixing a long-armed shot-blocker, with a stalwart rebounder, with a lights-out shooter, with a slick ball-handler. I’m sure the professors at these schools would like to be able to teach only the very best and brightest, like the coaches are allowed to in their field. But instead, through affirmative action, the classrooms are degraded by students who are mis-matched with the universities, creating what economist Thomas Sowell calls artificial failure.

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