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Hornung apologizes for comments

Pat Leonard | Thursday, April 1, 2004

Former Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung apologized Wednesday for controversial comments he made concerning Notre Dame’s admission of athletes during a radio interview Tuesday in Detroit.Hornung told WXYT-AM – an ESPN-radio affiliate – that Notre Dame must “ease it up a bit” when considering its admission of athletes, especially African-Americans.”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,” he said in the interview. “We must get the black athlete if we want to compete.”On Wednesday, Hornung expressed regret in a telephone interview with the Associated Press.”I was wrong,” he said. “What I should have said is for all athletes it is really tough to get into Notre Dame.”According to the Associated Press, Hornung initially defended his comments. He apologized after receiving heavy amounts of phone calls and negative response.Matt Storin, a University spokesperson, called Hornung an “illustrious alumnus” of the school but spoke against the former player’s comments.”Paul Hornung … in no way speaks for the University, and we strongly disagree with the thesis of his remarks,” Storin said. “They are generally insensitive and specifically insulting to our past and current African-American student athletes.”Notre Dame went 5-7 for the 2003 season, its third losing season in the last five years.According to the Associated Press, Hornung said he believes Notre Dame lowered admission standards in the late 1980s, when the Irish won their last national championship.”Notre Dame has increased the diversity of its student body significantly in recent years, including its percentage of African-American students,” Storin said in response. “Our records show that admission requirement for athletes have remained constant over those years in which we have had both great success and occasional disappointments with our football teams.”Hornung played quarterback for Notre Dame under coach Terry Brennan and won the Heisman Trophy in 1956. He is the only player in college football history to win the Heisman while playing on a losing team. The 1956 Irish were 2-8.