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Keep standards of excellence

Observer Viewpoint | Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Paul Hornung’s recent comments about admissions standards for athletes should be denounced by everyone within the Notre Dame community. While the racially insensitive tone of those remarks is certainly despicable, I wish to respond to the idea that we have to lower our academic standards if we want to succeed in athletics.

Although Hornung would have our fine University compromise its integrity in order to win more football games, I personally find the idea disgraceful. Notre Dame has always stood for certain principles, among which is academic excellence. To diminish that aspect of our University would be to shatter a pillar upon which Notre Dame was built. Athletics is a major source of pride for this community and one which I celebrate often. I can also appreciate the revenue generated by the athletic department. But we must not forget that this is an institution of higher learning first and foremost.

While Hornung did not have to rely on a degree for his profession, he is the exception rather than the rule. In fact, most of our fine athletes will not become professional athletes. Like all other students they will rely on their education once they graduate. Perhaps it is easy for someone in Hornung’s unique position to lose site of the bigger picture. But the students of Notre Dame work extremely hard. They work hard not only to earn their degree, but also to earn the opportunity to come here. To lower admissions standards would devalue all of our hard work. Moreover, our pride in athletics comes not just from winning. It also comes from the fact that we win the right way. National Championships at places like Notre Dame and Stanford mean so much more because of that commitment to academics. I cringe at the idea of lowering ourselves just so we can win on Saturday. Those places tolerate low classroom standards for athletic achievement, and wind up becoming little more than minor league franchises. So I say to our administrators and athletic department: please do not take the “student” out of “student-athlete.” The University of Notre Dame would never be the same.

Matthew Tarrant



March 31