The Dome is Still Tarnished: Notre Dame, Criminals, and Lower Academic Standards for Black Athletes

PK Note: In a week or so, the most personal book I’ve done yet (Opiate of America: College Football in Black and White) will be released. Tomorrow, SBPDL will publish an article on Paul “Bear” Bryant that will correctly argue his legacy is far worse than the one of Joe Paterno at Penn State.

Much will be made about the recent comments by former Notre Dame fullback and current radio analyst for the Irish football broadcasts Allen Pinkett, who on an appearance on WSCR-AM 670 in Chicago said (Allen Pinkett: Notre Dame needs ‘criminals’ to be successful, South Bend Tribune, August 29, 2012):

Controversy is brewing over comments made by Notre Dame football radio analyst and former Irish running back Allen Pinkett.

During an appearance on WSCR-AM 670 in Chicago, Pinkett said Notre Dame needs a few “bad citizens” in order to win.

“I’ve always felt like to have a successful team you’ve got to have a few bad citizens on the team,” Pinkett. “That’s how Ohio State used to win all the time. They would have two or three guys that were criminals and that just adds to the chemistry of the team. I think Notre Dame is growing because maybe they have some guys that are doing something worthy of a suspension which creates edge on the football team.

“You can’t have a football team full of choirboys,” Pinkett continued. “You get your butt kicked if you’ve got a team full of choirboys so you’ve got to have a little bit of edge. But the coach has to be the dictator and the ultimate ruler. Here’s my opinion: You don’t hand out suspensions unless you know you’ve got somebody behind that guy that can make plays.”

Pinkett’s words were part of a discussion over the recent two-game suspensions of Cierre Wood and Justin Utupo on top of the earlier one-game suspensions for Tommy Rees and Carlo Calabrese.

Given a chance to back off his comments, Pinkett kept going.

“I absolutely meant that,” Pinkett said. “The chemistry is so important on a football team. You have to have a couple of bad guys that sort of teeter on that edge to add to the flavor of the guys that are going to always do right because that just adds to the chemistry of the football team. You have to have … you look at the teams that have won in the past they have always had a couple of criminals.”

Let’s be honest: Pinkett wants the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame to field teams that resemble the coal Black football squads of the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Caste football reports that since 2005, Notre Dame has started (out of 22 players 11 on offense and 11 on defense) 10, 11, 11, 11, 10, 10, 11, and now 12 white players, which is well above the average of the your typical SEC squad.

Last year, the University of Georgia started two white players in the opening season loss to Boise State (which started 16 white players); three years ago, the University of Florida secured an all-Black recruiting class, which now Ohio State head coach – then the Florida head coach – correctly stated was full of thugs.

But he recruited them all. It would be in this past years Gator Bowl between Florida and Ohio State that we would see the type of “thug” athlete Pinkett hopes to one day wear the cherished golden helmet at Notre Dame (Buckeye linebacker calls foul on race-baiting Gators, Graham Watson, January 3, 2012, Yahoo! Sports):

Trash talking is as old as football itself. A player baiting another player with a taunt or threat is usually par for the course during any game, especially a game between rivals or with championship significance.

So, it was no surprise that Monday’s Gator Bowl between Florida and Ohio State — two teams that have loved Urban Meyer — had a little more vitriol than usual. What was surprising was the type of caustic comments being said.

Ohio State linebacker Tyler Moeller said Florida players hurled racial slurs at him throughout the game and that that sparked some of the chippiness during the 24-17 Florida win.

“They’re classless. That’s the way I’d put it,” Moeller said, according to Marcus Hartman from Buckeye Sports Bulletin. “I’ve never seen more people swing at our players and call us racial slurs. I’ve never been called a ‘cracker’ more in my life than I have today. So I don’t really have much respect for them in terms of that but they’re a good team. They came out and outplayed us today.”

Notre Dame prides itself in having high academic standards, which Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung asserted in 2004 was the reason the Irish were having so much trouble winning games on the gridiron (Hornung: Irish should still lower standards, April 1, 2004,

Former Notre Dame great Paul Hornung has apologized for controversial comments he made on how the Fighting Irish can improve their football fortunes.

Hornung told Detroit’s AM-1270 The Sports Station, an ESPN radio affiliate, on Tuesday that Notre Dame must ease up on its academic restrictions because “we gotta get the black athlete. We must get the black athlete if we’re going to compete,” Hornung said.

Hornung was asked in the interview about the state of college football and why it seems that there “just aren’t giants anymore.”

“No, no,” Hornung said in agreement. The interviewer asked, “Is it limited scholarships?” Hornung then gave his response.

Hornung said that Notre Dame’s schedule was a factor in his having that opinion.
“You can’t play that type of schedule,” Hornung said. “We’re playing eight bowl teams next year … and it’s always year in and year out … one of the toughest schedules.

“You can’t play a schedule like that unless you have the black athlete today. You just can’t do it, and it’s very, very tough, still, to get into Notre Dame. They just don’t understand it, yet they want to win.”

Notre Dame spokesman Matthew Storin called Hornung an illustrious alumnus but objected to his comments.

“We strongly disagree with the thesis of his remarks,” Storin said in a statement. “They are generally insensitive and specifically insulting to our past and current African-American student-athletes.”

 Like Stanford, perhaps only 350 – 400 of the 3500 high school athletes who sign letters of intent with Football Bowl Series (FBS) schools meet the academic requirements to get into Notre Dame. Michael Rosenberg pointed out that Notre Dame still prides itself in maintaining high academic standards, while football factories in the SEC accept partial qualifiers into their schools; thereby cheapening the degrees real students earn:

This is an ongoing debate at Notre Dame, between playing like a champion today and excelling in school from Monday to Friday. The school boasts one of the great winning traditions in American sports history, but it also has a history of worrying that football is too important at such a fine university. When the team has been too successful, the administration sometimes tightened academic standards or otherwise tried to reel it in. Notre Dame never wanted to be Alabama.

And even in this big-money era, when the entire enterprise feels like pro sports, Notre Dame is determined to be Notre Dame. When the NCAA announced its Academic Progress Rate scores in June, 17 Irish teams posted multi-year scores in the top 10 percent of the sport. That was more than any other Division I school in the country. Duke was second with 13. Boston College, Northwestern and Stanford each had 10. (The Irish football team was not one of the 17, but the football team has posted consistently strong APR scores.)

Notre Dame has tried to blend its athletes into the rest of the university, to make them go to class, to treat them like regular students.

You could say Notre Dame is stuck in the past. I think the rest of college football is stuck in the present.

Pinkett should be applauding his school. Columnists who rip Notre Dame for not winning enough (I have occasionally made cracks myself) should also be congratulating Notre Dame for remembering that the football team is a branch of the University, not the trunk or the roots. Twenty years ago, Notre Dame was one of the top five programs in college football. The Irish won the 1988 national title and came within a field goal of winning one in 1993. Lou Holtz brought in top-five recruiting classes every year. The program created future NFL stars like Tim Brown, Jerome Bettis and Ricky Watters.

Those were the glory days, but there were also some days that made administrators uncomfortable. A book called “Under the Tarnished Dome: How Notre Dame Betrayed Ideals for Football Glory,” included accusations of steroid use, academic misconduct and a coach (Holtz) who cared only about winning.

Administrators decided to make some changes. Holtz desperately wanted to bring in a young, troubled receiver from West Virginia who loved Notre Dame. The administration denied him admission. His name was Randy Moss. He might have helped the passing game a bit.

Holtz left. The school has not won much of consequence since, in part because of poor hirings, and in part because, in this ultra-competitive age, even Notre Dame needs to do a lot of things really well in order to have a chance to win.

If all schools played by the same academic rules, then recruiting “criminals” (Black players) as Mr. Pinkett put it, wouldn’t happen. Starting in 2016, the NCAA is adopting new academic rules that will hit Black athletes hardest, making it difficult for the SEC to continue to enroll “criminals” into their institutions:
The latest changes in eligibility standards will apply to this fall’s high school freshman class, but we won’t know their full effect until 2016, when those students prepare to step foot on college campuses. They are already sending ripples through the college community because they are so drastic — a jump in the required minimum GPA from 2.0 to 2.3 and, perhaps more challenging, a rule that requires high school athletes to complete 10 of their 16 required core courses before their senior year of high school.

35.2: Percentage of football players who enrolled in 2009-10 but would not meet the 2016 academic standards

This measure sounds interestingly like that of Prop 48 from the 1980s, which the New York Times whined in 1988 kept Black athletes ineligible for enrollment at major universities:

The majority of college football recruits disqualified because of Proposition 48 this year are black, according to a survey by The Associated Press. The survey also found that the overall number of academically ineligible recruits has stabilized. 

The survey was able to identify the race of 213 of the 274 recruits disqualified this year by Proposition 48, or 77.7 percent. A total of 185 of those recruits are black, 86.8 percent.

Critics have said that these numbers show that standardized tests such as those used under Proposition 48 are culturally biased.

”We know that standardized test scores are correlated with socioeconomic status,” said Ursula Walsh, director for research for the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Walsh said black recruits accounted for 81 percent of football ineligibles in 1986 and 90 percent in 1987, according to an N.C.A.A. survey. Aptitude Tests Defended.

Proposition 48 requires recruits to score a minimum 700 out of a possible 1,600 points on the Scholastic Aptitude Test, or 15 out of 36 on the American College Test, and have at least a 2.0 high school grade-point average in 11 mandatory courses to be eligible. Difference in Average Scores

In 1987, the average S.A.T. score nationally for all students was 906. The average score for blacks was 728.

The 274 recruits who failed to meet the N.C.A.A.’s academic requirements this year was a slight improvement over the 278 last year.

 Having academic standards (and character standards) would put schools in the same category as that of Brigham Young University, with its dreaded “honor code” and academic requirements that harken back to a world untouched by the “criminals” who now populate major college football rosters. Especially in the SEC.

Steve Sailer has a great writeup on Notre Dame, race, and academic standards (from the mid-2000s), with this particular admission worth noting:

And Brian S. Wise in Intellectual Conservative has some inside sources on how Notre Dame won its last national championship back in 1988:

Having been born and raised in South Bend has allowed me the chance to accumulate a few sources inside Notre Dame’s football program over the years; one was unavailable for this column, another told me that the things people should know are generally those they aren’t supposed to know at all. For example, that academic exceptions have been made when it mattered most, especially under Lou Holtz between 1986 and 1990. Todd Lyght (cornerback), Tony Rice (quarterback), Raghib Ismail (wide receiver), Bryant Young (defensive lineman) and Jerome Bettis (running back) are just five examples of very good players admitted with less than stellar academic backgrounds. All but Rice played in the NFL, they all managed to graduate. The point is that if the University truly had standards set in stone – as it suggested in a press release Wednesday – none of those players, and in that I mean none of them, would have ever been admitted.

Said my source, “If Tony Rice’s transcript and SAT scores were brought into the admissions office today, they would be set on fire.”

Nothing ever changes. In 2022, we’ll be having this same conversation: why can’t Notre Dame recruit more non-white athletes to help the Irish win football games, when SEC schools like Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Florida, Tennessee, and South Carolina recruit Black athletes (excuse me, “Criminals” per Pinkett’s lexicon) who couldn’t spell S-E-C if you spotted them the S and the E.

The book Beyond the Cheers: Race as Spectacle in College Sports by C. Richard King and Charles Springwood has some hilariously honest quotes from Father Theodore Hesburgh, the man who served as president of Notre Dame during some of its greatest football heights (p. 146- 149):
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During his tenure, he engineered Notre Dame’s precarious balancing act of synthesizing, at once, its continually emerging Catholic, secular, American, athletic, academic, and Irish identities.
Interviewed in the Black Issues in Higher Education, in 1992, Father Hesburgh acknowledges the existence of racism in the Catholic Church, but he noted that is prevalence mirrored the presence of racism in the United States generally. He also criticized what he termed Afrocentric scholarship, ghetto schools, and Black English. On inner city schools, he said:
“Schools are so bad in the ghetto… I think we need to clean the place out and have a campus like we have here at Notre Dame or at most state universities. Organize the thing just for educating poor kids, but make the schools so good that white kids will want to attend. I’m talking about 500 acres of a park or something. You could create it in Harlem; you could create it in Chicago. In fact, the first thing I would do [after it is built] is put a fence around it. In fact, two fences, 20- feet high with wild dogs running between them.”

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On black English, he remarked, “Black English is not good English. It may be spoken by a certain class of people, but [they are not] the most successful or educated.”
During the same interview, Hesburgh attempted to address the question of why so few African Americans attend Catholic universities such as Notre Dame:
“I often ask myself why we don’t do better. I think one problem is most blacks are City people. They tend to be in large cities where there is work. For someone from Harlem to come to Notre Dame it would be a culture shock. It’s a different atmosphere. It’s rural. We have everything we need here to live, have fun and learn. For city kids used to jive and Black kids around, that might be a bit strange. It’s a very quality school. The average SAT’s are about 1,250. Another problem would be social adjustment.”

 Well, according to Mr. Pinkett, Notre Dame must do everything possible to get “criminals” Black athletes enrolled in the school if the university hopes to remain competitive. Father Hesburgh doesn’t seem to believe this will happen. More importantly, the statistics of Black males enrolled at Notre Dame offer a telling glimpse into the academic quality of these “ghetto” dwelling scholars (Brains & Brawn:Black players want ‘student’ put back in student-athlete, Daily Northwestern, March 3, 2004):

About one in four NU [Northwestern] black males played a varsity sport last year, according to NCAA statistics from fall 2002. The disproportionately high number of athletes within the black male population influences student life.

The NCAA also shows the disproportionately high numbers of black male student-athletes wasn’t exclusive to NU. At both Stanford and Duke universities, about one-fifth of black males are athletes. Half of black males at the University of Notre Dame are on an athletic scholarship.

Unless you lower academic standards, and become an academic joke like that of the coal Black SEC (hilariously, all the now 14 SEC schools boast student body populations that are majority white, with the University of Georgia having the paltry Black male student population of under two percent), then Notre Dame will just have to stick to recruiting “choir boys” predominately white players who can meet the academic requirements of the university.

Only after integration of college sports have we had this problem: now, all schools are populated with “criminals” Black players that force each academic institution to regress to the mean in a veritable “Cold War” for the best Black talent, all the while trying to maintain some modicum of academic standards.

Once, even the SEC recruited athletes who would try and live by the standards set by BYU’s “Honor Code”; of course, that was a much different world and it was Bear Bryant who helped bring that world down for good, leaving us with the plantations at Oxford, Tuscaloosa, Baton Rouge, Columbia, Auburn, Athens, Gainsville, Miami, Tallahassee, Starkville, and Knoxville that we have now.  



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