Friday, December 4, 2009

Did Charlie Weis get fired because he's white?

My good friend Jim Chen and I had a running argument as to whether it would better for racial equality if whites were treated like people of color (Jim's position) or people of color were treated like white people (my position). In the case of Notre Dame's firing of Charlie Weis, it appears that Jim's view of racial equality prevailed.

I'm sure Weis was fired for a number of reasons, but it would be surprising if one of Notre Dame's justifications for firing Weis is that it did not feel that it could keep Weis after it fired Willingham under similar circumstances.  Afterall, Willingham had a better winning percentage than Weis, the man who replaced him. Though I believe that Willingham got a raw deal from Notre Dame, I still wished that Notre Dame had not fired Charlie Weis.
Prior to the firing of Willingham, Notre Dame had a reputation as an institution that ran its athletic program differently, with integrity and with long-term considerations in ming. When Notre Dame fired Willingham without allowing him to complete his initial contract, the school was roundly criticized for ditching its principles in favor of short-term gain. With the firing of Weis, who unlike Willingham, was given a five years to prove what he could accomplish, Notre Dame confirms that it is not much different than other athletic institutions.

When Jim and I were arguing about the best way to accomplish racial equality, my worry was that defining equality downward (treating whites the way blacks and other people of color are treated) will make our society overall worse off. Jim's point of course was the sensible one that once whites experienced "colored" equality, they'll change their ways.

I think Notre Dame would have been better off to have said: hey we screwed up with Willingham and we're sorry for that. But the best way to make-up for it is to return to our principles. What makes the least amount of sense to me is to treat Weis badly because Willingham was treated badly. So, appropos Luis' recent post on Toby Gerhart, was Charlie Weis fired because he is white?