Celebrity engagement has diverted attention from college coaches at the heart of the ‘Varsity Blues’ scandal
If the parents involved had been ordinary wealthy people, the ‘Varsity Blues’ scandal would have been placed where it should be: on the sports pages, almost at the top of the worst episodes in college sports history.
However, some of those rich people were also famous: movie star famous, TV star famous, fashion world, all kinds of fame that functioned to push this to the network news lead and People magazine cover.
This was doubly unfortunate. Because at the heart of everything that happened, besides the hurt admissions advisor and the megalomaniacal parents, there are the coaches who agreed to sell their sport for money.
MORE: Poll reveals that most fans don’t think college football will take place this year
Unless you’re talking about Dave Bliss, there has never been a worse scandal in college sports. However, since the sports involved are not football or men’s basketball, the coaches at the heart of this outrage do not receive the contempt they deserve.
(A mighty big star is justified here: * Since Jerry Sandusky was no longer a Penn State coach when he was arrested and convicted, we don’t consider that horror for the purpose of this discussion.)
In any case, the young men who insulted the sport of college basketball in the 1950s had the excuse that they were not paid for their athletic endeavors and might have legitimate financial needs. The four college basketball coaches who landed in the 2017 FBI sting could rationalize taking money from a clueless brand that thought he had come up with a new way to build a sports agency. (The man was an undercover FBI agent and all four were convicted of criminal charges).
Jorge Salcedo, who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering on Monday, had the best job in college football for men. When the scandal broke in March 2019, he was in his 15th season as the head coach at UCLA, the four-time national champion, the school that produced the campus of Brad Friedel, Carlos Bocanegra, Benny Feilhaber, Paul Caliguiri and Joe-Max Moore. so beautiful that it may have borrowed the blueprints from Eden.
Salcedo received a base salary of $ 227,000, yet he admitted that he had accepted $ 200,000 to facilitate the admission of two students to UCLA as football recruits. One was a young woman for whom an artificial football biography had been made; another was a young man who did not play the sport.
One of the underestimated benefits of being a highly competitive athlete is the opportunity to be preferred by colleges seeking to sponsor winning teams in the sport they sponsor. Rick Singer, who had a consultancy, was aware of this. At one point, he decided to exploit this circumstance by bribing coaches to use their influence to get special shots for young people who were not legitimate prospects as college athletes or were not athletes at all.
The key to this scheme: coaches willing to take money to violate the most sacred doctrines of their sport. One would hope that such miscreants would be scarce, especially in an era of college athletics where money didn’t exist. At the highest level, head coaches are now well compensated, not just those who earn billions of dollars in football and basketball.
Unfortunately, Singer found willing participants in many elite universities.
Former Georgetown tennis coach Gordon Ernst was accused of accepting $ 2.7 million from Singer over a period of years. Ernst pleaded innocently. Rudy Meredith was a women’s soccer coach at Yale and reportedly received nearly $ 1 million in exchange for recommending admission for students with made-up athletic credentials; he pleaded guilty in March 2019. There was a women’s soccer coach in Southern California, Ali Khosroshahin, and a tennis coach in Texas, Michael Center. They made plea agreements.
The public was largely unaware of these names. And they are still unknown, because Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin are. They were two of many parents charged with involvement in the scheme. Huffman, one of the most honored television actors of the past two decades, was sentenced to 14 days in prison and served 11. Loughlin, a sitcom star married to fashion designer Mossimo Gianulli, agreed to a two-month prison sentence in May. Gianulli agreed to a five-month term.
Those who follow college sports have likely heard of at least one of the Division I assistant coaches who pleaded guilty after the FBI investigation into the basketball talent game: Chuck Person of Book Richardson or Tony Bland of Lamont Evans. In general, they took less money than the “Varsity Blues” coaches in exchange for dubious promises to escort athletes to agent or money managers who were usually unfulfilled.
Numerous incidents described in the Varsity Blues indictment have actually happened: Students were given access to many prestigious schools for more deserving students – and certainly more deserving athletes.
The victims included the schools themselves, which were denied young people access to their favorite universities and, more than anything else, the institution of peer athletics. So many millions of youth have benefited from participating in football, tennis, or swimming at Division I level. The coaches who want to sell the integrity of that experience deserve much more contempt than they received as a result of this scandal.
They were able to implement these schemes because their sport was not highly regarded, which has helped them to remain unclear.
In the everyday sense of the word, that is a crime.