Saturday, March 27, 2010

Race and College Basketball

Anyone watching the Kentucky - West Virginia basketball game will come away admiring the skill and athleticism of the players on the floor. These players are terrific talents, no question about it.

I just can't help but notice a far more interesting phenomenon. For long stretches during the first half, all ten players on the floor were black players. In contrast, when the cameras turned to the crowd, it was predominantly white, as were the bands for both teams, the announcers and the coaches.

Finally, around the 10:47 mark, what appeared to be the first white player stepped on the floor for West Virginia: Deniz Kilicli, a freshman forward from Istanbul, Turkey.

I kid you not.

This is embarrassing in so many ways that I don't even know where to begin.

Above all, I wonder whether the people of Kentucky and West Virginia are as welcoming of students who apply to their university as they are of their basketball stars.

I also wonder whether admission officials at both schools are similarly welcoming of applicants of color as they are of basketball players, black or white.

Same for residents of both states: I wonder about their views on race and affirmative action.

Back in January, I wrote about the blatant the hypocrisy in the affirmative action debate, written in the context of the hiring of two white coaches whose credentials were questionable at best. I wondered then whether we could only "find Ward Connerly when we needed him."

I am still waiting for the outrage. After all, aren't these players taking seats on college campuses -- and college teams -- away from deserving whites?

Maybe the tea partiers could add this issue to their cause.