Bribery scandal points to the athletic factor: A major force in college admissions

By Nick Anderson and Susan Svrluga | The Washington Post

The University of Michigan, a charter member of the Big Ten, is widely regarded as an athletic powerhouse. Brown University is not. The Wolverines are a household name and routinely draw national television audiences for football and basketball. Brown’s Bears are not and do not.

But federal data show the Ivy League school equals Michigan on one measure: They each had 910 varsity athletes in 2017.

Because Brown is smaller and more exclusive, that means a far larger share of its coveted admission offers every year – nearly 9 percent – are set aside for recruiting in sports from baseball to water polo. The athletic portion of admissions for Michigan’s public flagship is 2 percent.

These are two examples among many – drawn from interviews, documents and a Washington Post survey – that illuminate the powerful and pervasive role sports play in admissions to the nation’s most prestigious private colleges and universities.

The admissions bribery scandal unfolding since March has cast a spotlight on the connections between athletic coaches and college gatekeepers. Some schools acknowledge that a plug from a coach or athletic official can provide a strong “tip” for applicants whose academic accomplishments otherwise might not suffice to ensure admission. At the most selective schools, where stellar grades and test scores are a given, that thumb on the scale can be crucial as athletic talent helps applicants stand out.

In the scandal, wealthy parents – including actress Lori Loughlin – are accused of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to help their children use fake athletic credentials to secure entry to prominent universities through what a consultant called “the side door.”

On Wednesday, a former Stanford University sailing coach caught in the scheme, John Vandemoer, was sentenced in Boston to one day of prison for racketeering conspiracy. But the federal judge in the case deemed the term already served, so he will avoid time behind bars. The Operation Varsity Blues investigation also led to charges against soccer, tennis, water polo and volleyball coaches at various universities.

Colleges say athletic fraud in admissions is rare. But the Varsity Blues investigation underscores a broader issue: the wide pipeline of legitimate athletic recruits into highly selective schools and the questions it prompts about equity and academic standards.

“America is so enthralled with the celebrity involvement in the scandal and the wealth being thrown around here,” said Gerald Gurney, an assistant education

Source:: East Bay – Entertainment


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