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Basketball coaches, leading military officers and many of the country's biggest businesses agree that the Supreme Court should preserve the use of race as a factor in college admissions. But they may be in a fight they cannot win, as the justices take up a case that presages tighter limits on affirmative action in higher education.
 
The court is hearing arguments Wednesday for the second time in three years in the case of a white Texas woman who was rejected for admission at the University of Texas.

Abigail Fisher did not graduate in the top 10 percent of her high school class, which would have won her a spot at the state's flagship college in Austin. She also did not get in under the program that looks at race among many factors and through which Texas admits about a quarter of its incoming freshman classes.

Lawyers for Fisher say the university has no good reason to consider race at all because the "top 10" plan that the state put in place in 1997 works well to bring in Hispanic and African-American students. Texas says the plan by itself is not enough and it needs the freedom to fill out its incoming classes as it sees fit.

Fisher's argument did not persuade the conservative-leaning federal appeals court in New Orleans, which has twice upheld the university's admissions process. The second ruling, last year, followed a Supreme Court order to reconsider Fisher's case.

Among the many groups urging the justices to leave the Texas program in place are the coaches, including Duke University's Mike Krzyzewski and University of Connecticut's Geno Auriemma, who said they have firsthand knowledge of the value of diversity on campus. "We are not writing as dilettantes or tourists. We live this life," the coaches wrote.


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