Paul Hornung, who had an illustrious, Heisman Award career at Notre Dame and a brilliant Hall of Fame NFL career, may have had his Al Campanis moment last night in a radio interview when he stated that Notre Dame needed to lower its academic standards in order to attract black athletes:
Football great Paul Hornung said in a radio interview that his alma mater, Notre Dame, needs to lower its academic standards to “get the black athlete.”
“As far as Notre Dame is concerned, we’re going to have to ease it up a little bit,” Hornung told Detroit’s WXYT-AM in an interview before the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame banquet Tuesday. … “We can’t stay as strict as we are as far as the academic structure is concerned because we’ve got to get the black athlete,” Hornung said in the interview. “We must get the black athlete if we’re going to compete.”
Notre Dame, for its part, vehemently disavows itself from Hornung’s statement, which come at an unusual time for the storied Notre Dame football program. First, as any Fighting Irish fan will tell you, the sidelines look tremendously diverse on any given Saturday in South Bend. Second, the Irish hired their first African-American head coach two years ago, after stumbling with George O’Leary, who had engaged in a little resume padding during his career. While it’s true that ND has gone a long time between national championships — its second-longest drought — they have been competitive for the most part.
Notre Dame has always maintained that scholarship and athletics were not mutually incompatible programs, and for decades has fielded the teams that proved it. As recently as 1988, Notre Dame won a national championship with these same standards while benching star athletes for academic and rules violations. Rather than being proud of the integrity of his alma mater, Hornung instead endorsed the notion that a national championship justifies the exploitation of young men, challenging the Catholic university to lower its standards for athletes to those of Florida State and USC.
It’s sickening, and Notre Dame should cut all ties with Hornung. We fans of the Irish love this university not because we attended it — I didn’t — or because of Irish heritage, but because it has stood for integrity and excellence for over a hundred years, and we have few other examples of this in college sports. If Hornung can’t be proud of that, then he needs to find somewhere else to work.