Should the University of Michigan require a race-quota football team?

By Les Kinsolving

Editor’s note: The following conversation is a fictional account of what the writer imagines could happen.

Suppose head coach Lloyd Carr of the University of Michigan football team was in the process of trying to recover from the great pain of losing this year to archrival Ohio State, by 14-9, when he received a phone call from the university’s president, Dr. Mary Sue Coleman.

And suppose he was told that the university has been taken to the United States Supreme Court in two lawsuits, because they use race as one of the criteria for admission to the university and its law school.

And suppose, after listening to an extensive discussion of these (actual) cases: Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger – which our nation’s highest court has agreed to hear – Coach Carr was to ask:

“Well, Dr. Coleman, I wish the university luck in court – but I have to ask what has all this to do with Wolverine football?”

President Coleman: It is said, wisely I think, that the Supreme Court justices also read the morning papers – which on Sundays have lots of coverage of college football – particularly our loss to Ohio State.

Coach Carr: I’m really terribly sorry about that. We did our best but that’s one of the best Buckeye teams in history.

Coleman: That is not why I am calling. I’m calling because our football team does not practice affirmative action by race – like the university does in admissions. Our legal counsel and I have concluded that this very notable inconsistency might cause us to lose in the Supreme Court.

Carr: We have both blacks and whites on our team, and we pick players on the basis of ability alone regardless of race.

Coleman: Fourteen percent of the American people are black. The Wolverine team I have seen every week surely has a lot more than 14 percent blacks!

Carr: They are picked for the team because they are the best. Do you think if we started selecting football players on the basis of their race rather than their ability that there wouldn’t be protest riots from the student body and cancellation of ticket sales – as well as contributions from the alumni?

Coleman: We are admitting students to the university and to our law school on the basis of race. Do you think law and medicine are less important than football?

Carr: Well, that isn’t my area of authority. But since you ask, I believe both football as well as the medical and law schools should select on the basis of ability alone. Using skin shade to admit is, to me, as wrong as admitting on the basis of the color of one’s eyes or the color of natural hair.

Coleman: But we need diversity! And on our football team I have not seen a single Asian-American, Hispanic-American or Native American.

Carr: If you can find me some Jim Thorpes that are better than our black players, I’ll replace them with Thorpes, but they have to be more able than our blacks.

Coleman: Diversity on our football team is as essential as it is in our student body and our law school – regardless of ability.

Carr: All right, you do that with another head coach! I’ve been offered an assistant coach’s job with the Detroit Lions. And after you install a race-quota team, Michigan Stadium’s 107,501 seats will be near empty every Saturday.

Coleman: I accept your resignation. And we are going to win in the Supreme Court.

Carr: Do you think you can get your race-quota team some games with any Michigan high schools? And what does getting into law school because of your race do to your reputation as a lawyer? Goodbye.