Greeson: Admissions scandal a mixture of shock and yawn

Greeson: Admissions scandal a mixture of shock and yawn

March 14th, 2019 by Jay Greeson in Opinion Columns

The scandal that has the country talking is the college admissions scam.

For years, when we think of college sports corruption, what comes to mind is any number of outrages: Southern Methodist University football getting the death penalty, the checkered history of Miami, college basketball corruption — as well as the all-time hush-hush, wink-wink surrounding all of it.

Who knew that University of Southern California crew was the Al Capone of the college sports realm?

Jay Greeson

Jay Greeson

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

We always knew that coaches paying top players was bad. Who knew that parents paying coaches was going to get the attention of the FBI?

But is anyone really surprised by this scandal? Seriously.

Rich people paving the way for their less-than-talented tots with cash? Really? They have always spent gobs of money to buy favor and influence and opportunity for their kids. In this case it's a federal crime. In other circles, it's called boarding school.

As we rubber-neck at the epic fail of the wealthy — arguably one of America's favorite guilty pleasures, up there with Cookies 'n' Cream ice cream and any of those "Bachelor"-type shows — the headlines and details leave me wondering.

First, I am shocked that Lori Loughlin rather than Dave Whatshisname or either of the Olsen twins is the first "Full House" alum to get indicted for a felony. Shocked. Say it ain't so, Aunt Becky.

Next, we should all be super relieved that the country is so safe and so crime-free that the FBI has the time and resources to crack down on Wake Forest volleyball. That's excellent news.

Not to downplay the criminal aspect of those 50 indicted folks, but for the FBI to spend more than a year, with more than 200 agents across six states working around the clock to bring down this ring of corruption makes you wonder.

Sure, white collar criminals are assuredly criminals, but think of the scope of this. That's 200 FBI agents, at an average of more than $131,000 a year, according to Glassdoor.com, which means the taxpayers spent more than $26 million in salary alone.

Either way, the 33 parents involved are about to have the book thrown at them. Yes, they will all have $1,000-an-hour counsel, but this goes beyond bribes and test-fixing.

In most cases, the feds are alleging parents shuffled their bribes through a nonprofit charity known as The Key Foundation, and here's betting the half-a-million Laughlin pumped into the scheme, and the millions more from others, was listed as tax-deductible by the parents. So yes, it's fraud, it's bribery and could be tax violations.

All kidding aside, here are three takeaways:

First, if Laughlin or fellow Hollywood actress Felicity Huffman or any of the folks with more dollars than sense, had made that $500,000 donation to the USC school of business for textbooks or a new wing on the admissions office, that's not called a bribe. That's called a donation, and it likely gets your kid into said school. Just ask Jared Kushner.

Second, as long as standardized testing is a prominent part of the admissions process, the admissions process is flawed. Think how many educators cuss the entire premise of the standardized test at every level, and now there is even a corruption element to those complaints.

Finally, a very interesting side point is the drastically lower standards set for athletically gifted students. The stat I saw stated a scholarship athlete with the same test scores and grades as a regular applicant is 30 times more likely to get into any school, and this is from Division III all the way to Alabama football.

Thirty times.

The system was broken before we knew the level of corruption in the admissions process at these elite schools. And most of the follow-up stories are clear that this is just the beginning of stories like this.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com and 423-757-6343.

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