Bill ties college admissions, football

By Stephen Scheibal, Postcards from the Legislature
Austin American-Statesman
Tuesday, February 22, 2005, 04:41 PM

Some Texas universities aren't thrilled about the fall-back diversity policy they had to adopt when a federal appeals court threw out affirmative action nearly a decade ago. The so-called 10 Percent Rule provides automatic admissions for Texas high school students graduating in the top 10 percent of their classes.

Well, Rep. Harold Dutton Jr., D-Houston, has a solution.

In a bill filed Tuesday, Dutton proposes tying admissions to football. Specifically, universities would be exempted from the 10 percent rule if the percentage of minority students in the student body equaled that on the football team.

Reaching that benchmark would be a Herculean accomplishment in diversity terms and would make the 10 percent rule fairly irrelevant. A cursory review of the 2004 Longhorns football media guide indicates that much more than half the team consists of students from, in the bill’s words, "underrepresented racial or ethnic groups," most of them African Americans.

The 2003 University of Texas freshman class, by contrast, was nearly 60 percent white and 4 percent black.

Dutton said he wanted to make a point to universities that are able to identify football players from high schools with mostly minority students, but that don’t tend to recruit other students from those schools.

"Colleges and universities have a knack for placing sports above academics. . . . They look for the best players they can find," Dutton said. "That’s really what the 10 percent rule is about, to look for the best students they can find, but look in places they haven’t looked before."

His bill is HB 1443.