Operation Varsity Blues

The college admissions/bribery scandal has attracted a lot of attention and more surprise and righteous indignation than it deserves.  I am not suggesting that bribing the sailing team at Stanford to give your kid an edge in gaining admission to Stanford is a good and proper thing for anyone to do.  I am suggesting that the shock and horror expressed by many folks is out of proportion.  I prefer to live in the reality of the moment and here is reality:

  • Rich people can – and do – use their wealth at times to influence the decisions of other folks in ways that are beneficial to the rich people or the spawn of those rich people.

If you want to decry that element of the human condition, please have at it.  When you have finished your one great moment of resentment, please come back and join me in the reality dimension.  If I am surprised at anything that has come to light so far in this scandal is that somehow, people donated more than $700K to the Stanford sailing team and no one noticed that.  Some of the schools named in the scandal have scrambled to make it look as if they are “taking action here”.  Let’s hear from the folks in charge at Yale:

“The ongoing federal investigation has publicized wrongdoing by one Yale coach who participated in this scheme; however, I have decided that we must conduct our own searching review in order to learn whether others have been involved in activities that have corrupted the athletic recruitment and admissions process.”  [Yale President, Peter Salovey]

There is a footnote here.  That “searching review” to look into who and what may have “corrupted the athletic recruitment and admissions process” will be conducted by – – you guessed it – – the Yale Athletic Director.  I believe the fashionable term of art for this sort of situation is “bad optics”.

At UCLA, they are doing another internal investigation to examine “every aspect of the student-athlete admissions process.”  The UCLA Athletic Director said that the existing processes for such things at UCLA “among the most demanding and thorough in collegiate athletics but, as the recent news illustrates, it is not foolproof.”

  • Memo to UCLA Athletic Director:  Evidently what you thought was “most demanding and thorough” was neither.  Good luck with whatever changes you make; they too will not be foolproof.

And at Stanford, they have already implemented a “fix” for this problem.  They did what any ossified organization would do under the circumstances; they added another level of review to the existing process.  Here is a description of that new level of review:

  • An official – not specified – in the Athletic Department will in the future “review and confirm” the athletic credentials for recruits in all men’s and women’s varsity sports.

That added layer of review must mean that such “review” and “confirmation” was not done in the past which might make one wonder what all those functionaries do for a living.  But that’s just me…

Look, might we deal with a tad of authenticity here for a moment?  First, rich people have avenues of influence not available to us mere mortals – – and they use those avenues of influence.  I am not shocked by news that confirms that statement.  Let me give an example here:

  • Phil Knight – the kingpin of Nike – is a major supporter of athletics at the university of Oregon.  Reports say he contributed $100M to the construction of the new arena there and that he and his wife donated $500M to the school to build a science campus.  I don’t know if those numbers are correct, but let’s assume they are close to correct.  Now ask yourself this question:
  • If Phil Knight’s granddaughter applies to the University of Oregon, will her application be treated exactly the same as every other application?
  • The answer is of course it will not and there is no procedural step that can be inserted into the admissions process that will assure that it would.  The bottom line here is that if Knight’s granddaughter (this is purely hypothetical; I don’t know if he has a granddaughter) has a high school diploma and has an IQ greater than a stove bolt and is not currently serving time in a penitentiary somewhere, she will be admitted to the University of Oregon.
  • Such is life at the intersection of “Reality” and “Like it is” …

There is another aspect to this scandal that has not attracted any attention so far and I find it very interesting.  Once again, Federal law enforcement resources have been used to bring the hammer down on people who violate NCAA regulations – and in this case violate collegiate admissions regulations and procedures.  Once again, our tax dollars have been used to uncover wrongdoing(s) that one might think the NCAA bloodhounds might have picked up on.

  • Would it be too much to ask of Dr. Emmert that he thank the taxpaying citizens of the US for doing what his minions should have been doing all along?
  • The answer is that it is indeed way too much to ask down here at the intersection of “Reality” and “Like it is” …

Finally, Brad Dickson summed up all of this mess in a recent Tweet:

“The scandal continues to grow. It’s now alleged that Lori Loughlin & her husband bribed an official $250,000 to get their not-so-bright dog into obedience school.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



4 thoughts on “Operation Varsity Blues”

  1. What’s funny about mentioning Stanford and its sailing team is that 30 years ago it was involved in another scandal that ended up cashiering then – President Donald Kennedy amid allegations of improper payments and slushy transactions. The SF Chronicle had an article about it on Sunday. As a Cal Bear, I’m not surprised since even their tree logo looks like a dollar sign. Just sayin’.

    These things the NCAA didn’t find even though they have remarkably intrusive documentation about player status was a good point on your part. One wonders whether the Congresscritters will look at this and address whatever legal protection from antitrust law exists for the NCAA.

    Of course, my dog needs money for obedience school too. For her staff.

    1. Rugger9:

      I think the NCAA is laying low on this scandal because of the point you make here. They try to regulate what toppings you can serve with bagels on a recruiting visit but miss out on “scholar athletes” who are neither?

  2. Another part of this particular puzzle is the competition for top athletes also may involve breaks for pals. One only needs to look at the adventures of the Ball clan at UCLA, the regular rating systems for prospects comparing recruiting classes and the like to understand that any edge (getting the girlfriend in, perhaps?) will be on the table for discussion to get that five-star blue-chip hotshot.

    Some of the harrumphing sounds a lot like the comparison between “honest” and “dishonest” graft as noted by Tammany Hall in Boss Tweed days.

    1. Rugger9:

      The college basketball recruiting system is not much “cleaner” than the Tammany Hall shenanigans were back in the day…

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