The Best College Recruiter

Welcome to this edition of

First Downs and Second Guesses

Blog #166 - March 2019

Here we go again.  Another recruiting scandal in college athletics.  No, it doesn't involve basketball this time.  This one involves coaches in soccer, water-polo, volleyball, tennis, and, are you ready for this one?  Sailing.

This involves schools at major institutions of higher learning: Georgetown, Southern Cal, UCLA, Texas, Wake Forest, Yale, and Stanford.

This involves parents, wealthy to the gill and leaders of corporate America.

What in the name of the Benjamins is going on here?

The FBI investigation, dubbed "Varsity Blues", alleges that a ringleader by the name of William Singer, a college-preparation professional, created a scheme where wealthy parents would pay him to get their child (children) into prestigious colleges.  In order to accomplish this goal, Singer set up a network of college coaches, college administrators, and college testing companies that accepted tens of thousands of dollars in bribes.

How did it work?  College coaches, in what would be considered "non-revenue" sports, would include these students on their list of recruited athletes for their sport.  In many cases, these students either were not proficient in the sport or didn't play the sport at all.  In the case of testing companies, these students had someone else take the ACT or SAT test for them, or if the student took the test, test administrators would change their scores to a higher level of accomplishment.

Who are these coaches/school administrators alleged to have participated in this scam?

Gordon Ernst, the head men's and women's tennis coach at Georgetown.
Donna Heinel, a senior associate AD at Southern Cal.
Ali Khosroshahin: the head women's soccer coach at USC.
Laura Janke: an assistant women's soccer coach at USC.
Jovan Vavic: a water-polo coach at USC.
Jorge Salcedo: the head men's soccer coach at UCLA.
William Ferguson: the head women's volleyball coach at Wake Forest.
Michael Center: the head men's tennis coach at the University of Texas-Austin.
Rudy Meredith: the head women's soccer coach at Yale.
John Vandemoer: the sailing coach at Stanford.

I'd venture to say that greed/easy money was the motivator for the majority of these university employees.  Obviously, all of these people must think they are underpaid by their schools.  The sailing and water polo coaches probably thought no one would even consider thinking twice about checking the validity of their "recruits."  Tennis probably thought they were pretty safe, too.

But those soccer and volleyball coaches are in a little higher category of visibility on campus.  Those coaches must have thought they could "hide" the non-athletes within the list of legitimate recruits.  Unfortunately, every person was outed by Singer, who pleaded guilty to the scam and cooperated with authorities.

Some schools have already fired the coach.  Others put the coach on administrative leave while internal investigations are conducted.  Credit the schools for taking immediate action once the story was publicized.

The high-profile parents are taking a public bashing.  Many had to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in bond money to be released from custody.  The negative public scrutiny will dog them for years.  Rightly so.

What about the kids who were the recipients of this devious plot?  Did they know what their parents were doing?  The report said many of them were oblivious to what was going on.  I believe that could be true to those students who had their test scores changed because some people can be good test takers and some kids can luckily score well on college tests.  

I can speak to that issue.  My high school "strength" was English.  Yet I always scored higher on the math part.  Never could figure that out.

To the kids that received the athletic scholarship offer from the prestigious school I ask:  Didn't it seem a little strange to receive a scholarship notice from the sailing/water polo/tennis/soccer/volleyball coach when you didn't participate (or didn't possess the high level of skill) in any of those activities in high school?

This is another black eye for college athletics.  And it was so avoidable.  But money still talks to many of these college coaches and school administrators.  Those coaches/administrators know their behavior was unethical and criminal in nature.  They will be paying the price (and for some, jail time) for the remainder of their careers.  And the parents will be scorned in the public eye for a long time, too.  To all:  Was it worth it?

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