Looks like Paul is backing off his earlier comments:
Hornung Regrets Remarks About Notre Dame
By TOM COYNE
AP Sports Writer
March 31, 2004, 7:35 PM EST
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Former Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung expressed regret Wednesday for saying his alma mater, Notre Dame, needed to lower its academic standards to "get the black athlete."
"I was wrong," he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "What I should have said is for all athletes it is really tough to get into Notre Dame."
During a radio interview Tuesday night in Detroit, he told WXYT-AM before the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame banquet that Notre Dame has to "ease it up a little bit" on its standards.
"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. "We must get the black athlete if we're going to compete."
Hornung, who is white, said in the AP interview on Wednesday that he changed his mind after being flooded with telephone calls from friends and media.
"I stood by my comments, but then when you have time to reflect you can always come up with some ideas," he said. "I rethought it and if I had to do over again I wouldn't. What I should have said was for all athletes it's very tough to get into Notre Dame."
Notre Dame spokesman Matthew Storin called Hornung, who played with the Green Bay Packers, an illustrious alumnus but objected to the comments he made Tuesday night.
"We strongly disagree with the thesis of his remarks," Storin said in a statement. "They are generally insensitive and specifically insulting to our past and current African-American student-athletes."
Hornung, who is part of the Westwood One Radio team that broadcasts Notre Dame games, said he had not talked with anyone from the university, but he had heard the school's response.
"I don't know if it was insulting, I would say insensitive. It was insensitive because I didn't include the white athletes," he said.
The AP left a telephone message seeking comment from Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham, the first black head coach in any sport in school history. Wednesday was a day off from spring practice for the Irish.
Notre Dame went 5-7 last season and has had three losing seasons in the last five years, the only time in school history.
The academic standards at Notre Dame have long been discussed as a reason why the Irish no longer win consistently. Ara Parseghian, who coached the Irish from 1964-74, winning two national championships, has said he heard the comments when he first took the job.
Discussion had been more widespread in recent years. The Irish have gone 15 seasons without a national championship, the second longest drought in school history. The longest stretch was 1949-66.
"Our records show that admission requirements for athletes have remained constant over those years in which we have had both great success and occasional disappointments with our football teams," Storin said.
But Hornung, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1956, said he believes the academics were eased in the late 1980s, when the Irish won their last national championship. He pointed to quarterback Tony Rice, one of only two Proposition 48 players ever to play at Notre Dame.
"Tony Rice honored himself and graduated in four years," Hornung said. "I think if he were trying to get in the university today it would be tougher."
Of the 68 scholarship players on the Notre Dame roster for spring practice, 35 are black and 33 are white. Of the incoming freshmen, 12 are black and five are white. If no one leaves the program, 55.2 percent of Notre Dame's football players next season would be black.
According to the latest NCAA statistics available, during the 2001-02 season, the percentage of Division I-A football players who were white was 48.8 percent and 43.8 percent were black.
Of the remaining players, 2.1 percent were Hispanic, 1.9 percent were Asian or Pacific Islander, 0.6 percent were nonresident alien and 2.2 percent were listed as other.
Copyright © 2004, The Associated Press