March 19th, 2011 at 3:44 PM ^

I thought the exact same thing.  Weren't the Fab 5 still a cultural phenomenon, changing the landscape of college basketball forever?  Or was that documentary full of shit?  They did much more in 2 years at UM than they could have at a smaller historically black school in 4 years. 

No one would have cared about them, and even if they did the racial undertones behind the Fab 5 would have been so much uglier.


March 19th, 2011 at 3:21 PM ^

I don't have a problem with black colleges but to say this...


"the Fab Five had simply made a wealthy white institution wealthier and had missed a grand opportunity to catapult a historically black college or university to the mountaintop of March Madness."


Is ridiculous...  Do you really think that had the Fab Five gone to, say, Grambling we would have ever heard of the Fab Five?  Grambling is generally acknowledged as the most well known HBC by the masses and it's still not a "big name" school.  That's not what it does - Grambling doesn't have top 10 recruiting classes, to think that had the Fab Five gone to Grambling that all of a sudden Grambling would have been as big as they were at Michigan is a preposterous claim rooted in nothing but jealousy.  You have to realize that the Fab 5 were what they were not only because of how amazingly talented they were but because they went to big name school like Michigan.  Heck, even if they had gone to say, George Mason I still doubt it would have been anything close to what they accomplished by being attached to an instantly recognizable name like Michigan.


/end of rant

Mitch Cumstein

March 19th, 2011 at 3:31 PM ^

I don't think the fab 5 would have been as successful on the court at a school like Grambling given the other pieces on the team they had at Michigan, as well as the coaching.  Don't forget those Michigan teams had a lot of talent coming off the bench.


March 19th, 2011 at 4:05 PM ^

equate to "black empowerment" any more than attending Michigan??


if anything, attending a white college (unfair characterization, fyi) like Michigan and breaking down cultural barriers on the grand, "white" stage was better for black empowerment, no?


Also, Michigan is not a white college. It's a public school with a long-standing history of black success in the classroom and especially in athletics. This guy is an idiot.


March 19th, 2011 at 4:27 PM ^

That's the part that bites me the most too. I want to sit this fellow down and talk to him about Willis Ward and Gerald Ford, the Underground Railroad through Detroit-Windsor, Detroit's influence on the Great Migration, and how Michigan holds one of the most diverse metropolitan areas in the country in Detroit. Calling it a white school is the real controversy, IMO.

Section 1

March 21st, 2011 at 12:50 AM ^

who as GM of the Brooklyn Dodgers, signed Jackie Robinson and broke MLB's color barrier, was another product of the University of Michigan.

Jackie Robinson, a great halfback on the football field, was himself a product of a "white university" (!?!); UCLA.


March 19th, 2011 at 4:17 PM ^

Not an exaggeration. I've got a lot of respect for NYT, but Grant Hill's Op-Ed completely mistook Jalen Rose's comments to start off this "controversy" in THIS paper. And then they follow it up with this article, which basically takes a "controversy" they started and sums it up as such:

"Jalen Rose called Grant Hill an Uncle Tom, but shouldn't, because I think HE'S and Uncle Tom."

Seriously - that's  what I gather from this article. How is this responsible at all?

On top of that, nevermind whether they would have been successful at a Grambling or a Florida A&M - how about we recognize that A) part of what made them special was they did this at MICHIGAN, at a time when the epitome of strong and silent was the AD here, while they were loud and rambunctious, and B) Two of the most important parts of the Fab Five, Jalen Rose and Juwan Howard, were poor kids who relied heavily on their families for support - and were from Midwestern inner cities. Because HBCUs were started to force states (that didn't want to open enrollment to non-whites) to comply with the Morrill Act, and because the Midwest was always integrated (de jure), Howard and Rose would have had to travel ~1000 miles as immature 18 years olds to even begin doing what he's asking of them. If they were mature enough to do that, Jalen would've been mature enough to never think Hill was a Tom in the first place, and this whole discussion would never have happened, and I wouldn't have been dumber for reading this article.

Then again, their immaturity is what made that documentary so captivating, and what made their time at Michigan so memorable. This article still sucks.


March 19th, 2011 at 4:45 PM ^

I also enjoy a lot of their other pieces - specifically the ScienceTimes. FiveThirtyEight was a quick response, and I didn't start following it until it was on NYT.

I know they write a lot of provocative pieces just to get reaction, like Grant Hill's piece, and Mitt Romney's a few years ago. But they still give a pretty good counterweight to the WSJ, which I also enjoy reading (but that has since died down because of their paywall).


March 19th, 2011 at 4:31 PM ^

The whole concept of black colleges never really made any sense to me at least in this day and age. This writer does not understand that Michigan itself was instrumental in the Fab 5 hype. In order to have such a big impact, you need to have a big stage, Michigan provided this.


March 19th, 2011 at 10:30 PM ^

If you look at where most of those schools are set up, you'll see their historical significance.  Black kids couldn't just walk through the doors at Ole Miss or Clemson.  So they needed their own schools to get an education.  And they're good, quality schools so they are still viable today as institutions or higher learning. 

I think the writer is taking an assumption that the Fab 5 would've been a story regardless of where they went to school.  Maybe in March, but definitely not during the season.


March 20th, 2011 at 10:29 AM ^

Not never but today or in this day and age is how I worded it. Everything you state is correct and supports my initial statement that you misread.

40 years ago it was one of the few options for black people to further their education. As of today, I believe that door has been kicked down a few times over. This explains the HBC tag as was explained to me after my post which makes sense for today's time. I am in no way down playing what an important role they played in educating and advancing blacks when no one else would.

Feat of Clay

March 20th, 2011 at 10:56 AM ^

I know what you are saying, but they still do a very good job getting their students graduated, and grads enjoy a supportive alumni network.

They're like women's colleges, IMO--started at a time when they were absoutely necessary; now their mission has changed but they remain an excellent option for certain students.   They've got a unique climate.

Generally speaking, diversity in higher education is a good thing, and I'm glad that students have choices.  I am also glad that the Fab Five chose us.  LOL


March 19th, 2011 at 4:51 PM ^

The New York Times never seems to have a problem when the Left calls Colin Powell or Justice Clarence Thomas an Uncle Tom. But How dare someone call a basketball player an Uncle Tom. ZOMG that's so taboo.


March 19th, 2011 at 6:14 PM ^

Breaking the gentlemen's agreement in baseball was to strip the Negro League's of their power? Calling Michael Jordan a Tom? This guy is certainly blunt.

I'll give him this - at least he walks the walk, being from Chicago and playing football at an HBCU (although I guess based on his age it was just a black college when he was there) all the way in Baltimore. Of course, had he gone to a school closer to home, maybe he wouldn't be so hateful of black athletes who don't go to HBCUs.


March 19th, 2011 at 6:50 PM ^

Well considering that the Fab Five weren't exactly a package deal and committed at different times, I doubt they were going to school just for the sake of black empowerment. I think they just wanted to go to a school they liked and had a chance to be successful at. Rhoden's just being controversial for the sake of it IMO. Really reaching for straws with this article.


March 19th, 2011 at 7:57 PM ^

agreed.  this whole thing is headed into territory it was never meant for.  michigan is not a "white school."  what is a white school?  is it just not an hbcu? michigan invented affirmative action for god's sake....  i don't think the fab 5's motives were ever to promote black power, i think they just wanted to ball and play at a good school and win games.  


definitely trying to make this more racist than it ever was supposed to be. 

Will Vereene

March 19th, 2011 at 8:26 PM ^

The one thing I do not  get is why basketball players would want to be recruited by Duke anyway. 

Michigan academic programs rank higher than Duke's. The alumni network is also higher than Duke's and I gotta think that there are just as many Michigan alumnus in upper levels so the good ol' boy network is just as significant with Michigan grads.

Since Duke has higher graduates in their athletic programs, that tells me that most of their players have sports as their second priority.

Feat of Clay

March 20th, 2011 at 1:11 AM ^

Duke is considered an excellent academic school. I can't agree that the athletes who go there must have a lesser commitment to academics. It's a solid place and a basketball powerhouse to boot.
<br>I hate Duke basketball with passion, but i get why kids might choose to go there over U-M. It's not that they lack academic aspirations. It's that they have no souls.


March 19th, 2011 at 8:40 PM ^

Of course I also went to a HBCU so my perspective is a little more in line with his. The reaction in this thread to what he wrote is pretty much parallel to what Grant Hill's reaction was to the Fab 5 documentary. It's addressing the verbiage of the message more than the message. 

There's no doubt in my mind that had the Fab 5 had gone to another school, ANY school, they would have had just as much success and been just as much of a phenomeon. However I think what he's trying to get at is that there could have been an additional cultural impact at an HBCU that wouldn't have been possible anywhere else. Would they have been on TV as much at an HBCU? Not at all, at least not until March. Would they have sold as much merchandise? Heck no! But they would have put that school on the map and in the minds of millions of people, especially young black kids. There's also the potential financial impact. That money goes a lot farther at a school Hampton and than it does at Michigan.

I don't completely agree with what he's trying to say but I do understand what he's trying to say, so there's that. 


March 19th, 2011 at 9:37 PM ^

And I can see how the Fab 5 would have had an immense impact if they were at an HBCU, both financially and culturally, and would therefore have a huge positive impact on black empowerment in general. But his language is at the very least far too provocative - calling Michigan a "white institution" is over the top, as is saying the Fab Five "played in the big house." At least that last line is ironic when you're talking about our athletic department.

I feel like anyone who writes something that strong believes it too - just like Jalen did twenty years ago, as a college freshman. And it is offensive and judgemental. But Mr. Rhoden is in his fifties and is saying this now.


March 19th, 2011 at 8:44 PM ^

Michigan is a historically white college?  Okay.  At the risk of sounding controversial, it was U of M that ended up before the Supreme Court on the subject of affirmative action.


March 19th, 2011 at 10:15 PM ^

The term used in academic circles is "Majority institution".  Before everyone started using the HBCU term frequently, people called those schools black schools.  It may not be the politically correct thing to say, but it's not meant to be offensive either.  It's not meant to be a slight against the school.  It just is what it is.

I'm not sure why Mr. Rhoden's education background is, but the majority of HBCU's were founded by white people.  So let's not forget that fact.  Also, those schools do have ridiculously small athletic budgets when compared to UM or other large schools.  While people may think that their impact would have been smaller, then you're being shortsighted.  If for some reason, the Fab Five would have attended Howard University for instance, they probably would've run through their conference and into the tourney, where they could've made a name for themselves and big cash for that school. 

I can't fault a guy for wanting that for schools that do great work, but never get publicity when you look at US News rankings and the like.  And I can't fault a person for being grateful for all the excitement that the Fab 5 brought to campus.


March 19th, 2011 at 11:00 PM ^

I'm not sure why Mr. Rhoden's education background is, but the majority of HBCU's were founded by white people.  So let's not forget that fact. 


Perhaps we also ought not forget the historical context either.  Howard University, for example, was founded in 1866.  Emancipation Proclamation was 1865 and the Civil Rights Movement didn't begin until 1948, Brown v. Board of Ed was 1954.  The March on Selma wasn't until 1965 and the Voting Rights Act was 71 IIRC.  Exactly how would a Black person have founded a College in this country without help from a full citizen in 18anything? Or most of the 1900s for that matter. I, for example am the first person BORN with all of the rights and privileges of being an American citizen in my family.  My dad was born in 52, my mom in 61.  King was assassinated in 68. Civil rights Movement ended shortly thereafter but at least a great deal of the work had been done by then so that the next person born, me, would be born into the benefits.  Funny enough, I almost missed affirmative action in the state of Michigan. 


Just as an aside, I think that sometimes people take inner-group pride as a slight at an out-group.  The Civil Rights Movement, for example could not have been successful without people of all "races" and faiths and other categories coming together for a common purpose.  But at the end of the day, although I am glad they didn't, a White person has the option of always going back to being White whether they exercise it or not.  And believe it or not, there are people smarter than us (I know, lolz) who have reached conclusion backed by scientific studies and data that integration was actually a bad thing.  Some of those arguments center on things like the Fab 5 going to Michigan instead of say Grambling.  Or, for example if Thurgood Marshall were born today I doubt he would have gone to Howard.  He likely would have looked at the U.S. News Rankings like I did, and went to the highest ranked school he could get into.  I got into Howard #121 (formerly tier 3) and the school I ultimately chose, Wash U #18.  For undergrad I was choosing between Michigan and Morehouse (one of the most prominent HBCUs).  I was working at Arby's in Royal Oak and asked customers which I should choose.  They had no idea what Morehouse was.  I chose Michigan.  The point is most of our best talent is not being funneled back into our community.  And I can definitely see a problem with that.  But that gets way off sports and into a different conversation.  Heck, a lot of times, as illustrated by the angry alum/fan letters in the fab 5 documentary, many part of the community of the institutions we help build hate us.  Kind of like an uncle who molested you but paid your college tuition.  


March 19th, 2011 at 10:27 PM ^

I have read this blog for many years and never really felt the need to comment.  But the comments to this article (that I haven't read yet) are funny.  I created an account to say this: 

If you think that Michigan is not a "White" school, I'd bet dollars to donuts that you are White. lol   

Enrollment in the 2010 report is as follows: 


61.4% White

4.2% Black

4.2% Latino

11% Asian

(They have some other weird categories with 12.6% being non resident aliens, 3% unknown and some other stuff)

For LS&A for example, in raw numbers there were 12,542 White students compared to 927 Blacks and 2120 Asians.  

I applaud the University for its efforts to make the campus more diverse, but being from Detroit (West Side 7 mile) and graduating from the University (c/o 2007 LSA) it sure as hell felt like a White school to me.  (If you haven't guessed yet, I'm also African American)

Something I think that often gets past the majority is this: 

Imagine being a Black student at the University of Michigan.  Over 60% of the students are White (AKA damn near everyone you see).  Those are just the people who actually identified being White in their records.  I couldn't tell you how many people "look white."  So let's take a walk though the Diag, going by the numbers, you don't see another black person but every 24th person you encounter.  Clearly, as I have on many occassions (if not most) you could be on the Diag and never see another Black person at all.  You walk into Angell Hall, there are flyers for IFC Frat things, dance marathon, ultimate frisbee tournaments, and a bunch of other things that do not necessarily cater to the average African American person.  Skeeps - White, Ricks, White, Touchdowns, White, Goodtime Charlies White, (until the brief time where my friends threw parties at Charley's upstairs in 07).  Umm... Main street -White, AAAALLLLL of the fraternities and sororities, those huge houses that are such a part of the University community and the college experience are probably 99% White.  


Let me tell you a story.  Yea we know the IFC has rules on non-Greek people at parties etc etc.  But we also know non-greeks get in.  In any event, during orientation my friends and I tried to go to a "White" frat party I won't name.  And we noticed that almost every Black person who walked up to the Frat was lined up along the fence (with us).  White kids were moseying right on in.  After maybe 20-30 minutes of this, one of the guys said "Why don't they just go home.  Can't they see they aren't wanted?"  I was there during Prop 2, I was there in 03 when the S. Ct. cases came out and I assure you the University of Michigan is very, very, very White.  Down in front, Blue hairs, the pub crawl, exactly what part of that is likely to attract a random Black person? I can't speak for everyone, but I think its a safe bet that although Maroon 5 is good music, a place that plays what would come on their Pandora isn't somewhere I'm dying to go on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday or any day for that matter.  But for the rest of the U, I'm sure they love it.  And, yea, they do play some "Black" music, but its Channel 95.5, ap top 40 stuff.  You won't see Wacka and Jeezy mixed in with Journey any time soon in a Detroit club that caters primarily to African Americans.


What do the Black students do? Other than go to Detroit? Our frats have regular houses that get shut down at an alarming rate.  There was literally one time Kappa Alpha Psi threw a party with one of the frats next door to the Union (maybe in 02 or 03) and the police came and shut the party down.  As I was leaving, I looked at the one next door and someone was literally swinging across the window on something that looked like a chandallier.  They were also having a party and were not interrupted.  


I said all of that to say that Michigan is indeed a White school as evinced by the student demographics and the activities surrounding it that cater to likely White student interests.  If you are a Black student there then you better learn to assimilate, find a ride to Detroit or stay tuned in so you find out when a "Black" party is coming up.  (Black party defined as one that has more Black people, and music you normally listen to than anything else).  By contrast, all of the things that come along with the college experience at an HBCU are catered to our interests.  The step shows, the parties, the frats, the music, the activities, the stores sell the kind of clothes you wear, etc.  It's the little things.  At Michigan we tried to add little pieces of those things as we went along.  Most White students wouldn't recognize our fraternities and sororities by name: Alpha Phi Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, Phi Beta Sigma: sororities Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Sigma Gamma Rho, Zeta Phi Beta for example.  They are called the Divine Nine and only one, Kappa Alpha Psi was founded on the campus of a predominately White university (IU).  My point is, our frats/sorors are just as large a part of our campus life as Beta Chi or Sigma Nu or Visa Visa Mastercard is for the White students.  They just aren't staples of the University writ large.  And that comes with the territory of being a minority.  


I used to always joke that I went to a different Michigan than other students and to a great degree it is true.  I feel like the experience helped me grow as a person.  I love Michigan, but I am not blind to its problems. I learned to like the Skeeps closing song, found out that Starbucks made me feel cool too and Mafia and beer pong are actually fun.  But I will never, ever understand why Northface is such a big deal and why its cool to wear shorts in 20 degree weather.  


March 19th, 2011 at 11:04 PM ^

"If you think that Michigan is not a "White" school, I'd bet dollars to donuts that you are White."

Just food for thought - might also be an Asian or some other ethnic minority whose childhood sounds a lot like your college experience, and for whom Ann Arbor was what Detroit was to you - a chance to actually be with people who look like you, act like you and were raised like you.

But everything else you say rings true - and while I take pride in much of Michigan's history, I think what makes the Willis Ward story so compelling is that it shows the positives and negatives of race relations at Michigan, and the complexity of race in America.

Race relations at Michigan are imperfect, I still take issue with the portrayal and strong language in Mr. Rhoden's piece. The Fab Five playing at Michigan != "playing in the big house."


March 20th, 2011 at 3:23 AM ^

That's an interesting perspective, although I'd trade 11% plus however much of the 12.6% non resident aliens that the Asians have enrolled over 4.2% any day.  I'm sure Ann Arbor kicks super major ass on average for a Caucasian person.  I was just giving things from my eyes.  The fact is that in America, it is a White person's world and the rest of us are trying to find our way in it.  You may have china town, mexicantown, Dearborn or whatever ethnic/racial subculture but when you walk into corporate or leave your neighborhood you join the majority culture.  It is what it is.  (all far away from the original point of just saying that Michigan is indeed a predominately White University, albeit the best one.  Though I am admittedly biased.)


March 19th, 2011 at 11:43 PM ^

You are black and graduated in 2007. That means Michigan did everything it could to get  more black students into the school with you. Recall that 'critical mass' black quota for admissions the school arm twisted out of the supreme court after their 20 point black point boost was found unconstitutional?

What, exactly, did you want the school to do besides a quota for your race?

If you recall, the people of this state were so steamed about the racial unfairness of the quota that they changed the consitution to make all races equal in admissions--after you were admitted.


March 19th, 2011 at 11:57 PM ^

He's expanding on Bill Rhoden's perspective - on why Michigan can be referred to as a "white institution" and it shouldn't be taken offensively (as I took it to be) - especially when compared to the HBCUs that Rhoden thinks the Fab Five should have represented.

I think getting into a discussion about affirmative action and Prop 2 crosses the "no politics" line and I'd rather we not cross it.


March 20th, 2011 at 3:17 AM ^

A little reading comprehension will go a long way.  You clearly saw one to four words mentioned in my comment and went to west hell with them.  There is a forest if you stop staring at that old sap. I won't even entertain the rest of your comments.  


March 20th, 2011 at 10:34 AM ^

I saw the rest of your comments. They were in the same basic vein.

I was on the student senate. We spent tens of thousands of all the students' dollars yearly on making blacks and hispanics feel welcome, from welcome weekends to special trips to special black and hispanic only extra graduation events. These were student dollars, which should have been used for fun or supporting events for all students, all programmed for the blacks and hispanics only.

This was also in addition to the huge pile of money the U was already spending out of the regular budget.

Nothing ever made me feel so bad as when a 'black student spokeswoman' came into the senate to demand that we use all the students' money to purchase personal kente cloth head scraves for them to wear in addition to their hoods---after we had already bankrolled a totally extra breakfast and ceremony just for the blacks and their families.

The women had been on a progressive dinner with us several months prior, where she complalned to my wife about the terrible unfairness she had faced in Jamaica. Her family had an estate there that she had flown to with her friends for break. Her father, trying to teach her a lesson, ordered her to leave the family car at the airport at Montego Bay filled with gasoline out of her own money. The horror.

She was demanding money from all the students for a racial headpiece. When it looked like she might not get it she hinted the card may be coming off the deck, and we folded.