I am a huge Georgia football fan for a lot of reasons. But I have to give Nick Saban his due. Coach Saban consistently builds winning teams.
I am convinced that his ability to build winning teams year in and year out is directly tied to his willingness to put the best players on the field no matter what. Coach Saban is no respecter of persons when it comes to talent. If you are the best player in your position, you play -- period. That's the foundation of Alabama football culture.
It appears, though, Saban's philosophy may not be the foundation of Alabama sorority culture.
The Crimson White, the student news organization of the University of Alabama, ran an article last week with this provocative headline, "The Final Barrier: 50 years later, segregation still exists." In the article, a member of Alpha Gamma Delta talked about the discussion she and some of her sorority sisters had regarding the sorority's fall rush prospects.
She alleges that a rush candidate who had a 4.3 GPA and an influential Alabama family with longstanding ties to the University was removed from consideration by alumnae members of the sorority because she was black. To further support her claims, the story quotes members of other predominately white sororities on campus who say the same candidate was dropped from consideration by alumnae in their organizations for the same reason, because she was black.
I believe that private organizations have the right to offer or deny membership to whomever they choose. When you look at the success of Alabama football, though, why would anyone on that campus support denying membership in any organization to a person who can help the team win? If this young woman is as strong a rush candidate as has been reported, why would any sorority not want her to wear their colors?
When Vivian Malone faced Gov. George Wallace in the doorway of Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama in 1963, she probably wasn't thinking about the black girls who would want to join white sororities 50 years later. But her fight for access to the university did not just help the plight of black students; it made the University of Alabama a better place for everyone. When the doors opened for Malone, James Hood and other black students, the University of Alabama gained access to new intellectual and athletic capital that has helped the school excel in many ways over the past 50 years. I can only believe that when the doors of Alabama's sororities open, similar success will follow.
So, as the congregation of the 16th Street Baptist Church gathers today in Birmingham to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the church being bombed and four beautiful little black girls being killed in the civil rights struggle, 60 miles down the road in Tuscaloosa other black girls struggle to be deemed qualified for participation in what is arguably one of the Old South's most hallowed traditions. Perhaps as they are cheering the Crimson Tide at the next home game, the rush chairs and alumnae should take a minute to ask Nick Saban how he feels about that.
Karl Douglass, Columbus native and resident, is a frequent commenter on local, state and federal politics. Follow him on Twitter@KarlDouglass or facebook.com/karldouglass.