While it might be hackneyed to say that sports is a metaphor for life, a ruling one week ago in a federal appeals court is an upset threat to Michigan.
A Georgia-based federal appeals court ruled that the University of Georgia”s admissions policy, which gives an ever-so-slight preference to non-white applicants, is unconstitutional despite the United States Supreme Court”s 1978 Bakke ruling, which said universities can use race as a factor so long as it”s not the only factor.
The three-judge panel unanimously ruled that having more non-white students does not ensure a more diverse student body and said that Georgia “did not even come close” to making its case that a greater variety of races automatically yields diversity.
This contradicts what a federal judge in Detroit ruled in December that Michigan can continue its affirmative action policy for undergraduate admissions.
It is only a matter of time before a race-based admissions ruling shows up again in the Supreme Court. Both Georgia which barred blacks until 1961 and didn”t begin meaningful desegregation until 1970 and Michigan are likely candidates for such a case.
Twenty-three years ago, Justice Lewis Powell Jr., who ruled in the Bakke case, wrote that an admissions case using race must “consider all pertinent elements of diversity in light of the particular qualifications of each applicant.”
The ruling in Georgia endangers the spirit of Powell”s wisdom.
Imagine if Lloyd Carr never saw or met recruits, and recruited solely by 40-yard dash times and bench-press reps. Or imagine if Tommy Amaker only recruited players solely based on height and size, without ever meeting them.
It”s tough to imagine any coach agreeing to such a policy, yet many admissions offices take this approach when they base admissions solely on grade point average, test scores and an essay.
When Brian Griese came out of high school, most coaches looked at him without seeing a smart, great leader rather, they saw a slow, weak quarterback who, they thought, would never make it. Left without a scholarship offer from Michigan, his dream of playing for the Wolverines was in jeopardy.
Undeterred, Griese talked to Coach Carr and walked on to the team.
Five years later, his teammates attributed their national title to him.
But more often than not, players like Griese take the scholarship, rather than walk on at Michigan. Without this break in 1992, chances are Michigan might still be trying to win its first national title in over 50 years.
There are numerous stories about stars slipping through the cracks. Maybe stardom awaited Griese, regardless of where he went.
If so, he still needed an opportunity. While his story of hard work and dedication leading to success is inspiring, he needed the break he ultimately received.
Many students don”t catch such breaks.
A classroom full of students with similar backgrounds and perspectives is not as interesting, intellectually stimulating or educational as a heterogeneous one. This is why Michigan is such a desirable University for many.
Classrooms are like athletic teams in that everybody brings something to the table. A team of 85 Grieses would not have won the national title but don”t fool yourself, neither would a team of 85 Charles Woodsons.
The 1997 Wolverines needed Woodson”s talent and Griese”s leadership one without the other and Michigan likely would have been back in the Outback Bowl, facing another four-loss season.
Four years ago, the football team found itself at a crossroads. Four-straight four-loss seasons left many wondering if Michigan”s cachet was gone.
That year, the Griese-led Wolverines found themselves in the Rose Bowl, playing for the national title.
Four years later, the University finds itself facing another big game with high stakes.
Raphael Goodstein can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.