If there is an annual event that most clearly demonstrates the importance of merit and skill on American college campuses, it is the March Madness surrounding the NCAA basketball championships.

The public, whose support of higher education is sharply waning in light of increasing collegiate inanities, intensely roots for favorite schools and players. In higher education, where, in general, success is often hard to measure and the bottom line is exceedingly ill-defined, March Madness is a conspicuous exception. The best team must win several games against exceedingly competent and competitive opponents. Therefore, only the very best, most productive players can play. Can you say that about, say, the typical college English Department faculty?

I was blown away when Jared Gould, Minding the Campus’s Managing Editor, sent me a story by Haley Taylor Schlitz from The Black Wall Street Times, which, among other things, said, “As we revel in the triumphs and heartaches on the basketball courts, we must also confront a disturbing trend ... the systematic dismantling of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.” Basketball excellence is based on merit—outstanding performance resulting from great talent and hard work. Those having it are rewarded with high recognition, money—from name, image, and likeness revenues—and campus and community adulation.

By contrast, DEI is militantly anti-merit: people should be evaluated based on biological attributes, such as the color of their skin. Practically speaking, in America, DEI is primarily about expanding black involvement in college life—and even sometimes in corporate job placement—combined with a contempt for the free expression of ideas traditionally the hallmark of collegiate life.

To use March Madness to lament attacks on DEI strikes me as ludicrous.

One area where black Americans have excelled based on merit is sports. I attend many college basketball games and it is certainly not unusual to see 10 black men playing, but virtually unheard of to see 10 white men on the court. Black basketball supremacy is universally accepted and is a consequence of exceptional talent and hard work. If we used a DEI mindset emphasizing skin color over merit, there should be lawsuits over the vast underrepresentation of whites, Asians, and Hispanics from college basketball teams.

Americans historically have thrived by celebrating excellence—smart people earn more than those who are cognitively challenged, while in the distant past, those with physical prowess often did better financially than those who were weaker and, accordingly, less productive. Economic development over time has increased the value of brains relative to brawn. Indeed, universities have flourished primarily by providing the training needed to allow smart, often physically undistinguished people to excel financially—the ultimate revenge of the nerds. Universities are inherently largely mental meritocracies, with high-level collegiate sports being an exception globally rather than the rule. No one talks about the Oxford University soccer team—there isn’t one.

Americans don’t like racism. Voters in liberal states like California and Washington have rejected government-imposed affirmative action standards, giving preferences in college admissions, contracting, or hiring based on racial attributes. Californians twice have resoundingly voted against efforts of Sacramento politicians to use race as a consideration in admission practices—a viewpoint affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Harvard v. Students for Fair Admissions.

Thus, the efforts to dismantle DEI programs are to be expected and, from my pro-merit perspective, applauded. The spirit of DEI is the antithesis of what makes college basketball fun. Most of the present or past basketball greats—LeBron James, Steph Curry, Michael Jordan, Kareen Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, etc.—were black, but race played zero role in their success. Competence, skill, and determination did.