The U.S. Supreme Court is wrestling once again with the question of racial preference in college admissions.
It is entirely possible that it might end the controversial policy of affirmative action, given the conservative bent of five of the nine justices.
There’s an old story about a brilliant football prospect at the University of Texas whose racial considerations were being challenged by a white student denied admission four years earlier.
As the story goes, a young black man showed up at the university’s stadium in Austin and asked for a tryout. The coach told the equipment manager to outfit him with old, oversized pads, helmet and clothing. The coach then told the ambitious athlete to start on the one-yard line and run through the entire team, which was lined up down the field to stop him. If he could do this, he was told, he would make the team.
The young man took the ball and headed downfield with speed and grace that left the coach and his assistants breathless. When he reached the end zone 99 yards away, he turned around and ran back, outrunning and sidestepping tackle after tackle until he reached the coach and quietly handed him the ball.
At that point, the coach turned to his equipment manager and fairly shouted. “For crying out loud, can’t you get this Cuban kid something that fits?”
The story, of course, is apocryphal at an institution that has promoted a policy to overcome those times when it was, like other Southern schools, a bastion of segregation. Through decades of effort, this highly endowed jewel of a public institution has managed to diversify its student body — despite an earlier Supreme Court decision declaring that quota systems and other preferential devices in admissions based solely on race violate the Constitution.