How Collegiate Sports Were Central To The Recent Admissions Scandal

The scandal was a “wide web” of misconduct in which coaches played an important role.

By Laura RiceApril 1, 2019 9:09 am, ,

The recent college admissions scandal revealed how some students with wealthy parents can make themselves look more academically desirable to universities – whether it’s through less common illegal fraud schemes, or more common but nonetheless expensive test prep programs or academic coaching. But the scandal also revealed a glaring problem within collegiate athletics.

Daron Roberts is founding director of the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Sports Leadership and Innovation, and says the scandal is a “wide web” of misconduct in which coaches played an important role.

“Different coaches across the country at select universities were using their particular sport, let’s say tennis or golf, to get kids admitted,” Roberts says.

He says these coaches vouched for students who weren’t student athletes, and that gave those students an advantage in the admissions process.

“They weren’t in the regular pool of students who are applying who aren’t playing sports,” Roberts says.

UT’s tennis coach, Michael Center, was charged for doing just that, and the university recently fired him. But Roberts says he expects the same thing to happen to more coaches at other universities as the scandal continues to unfold.

“Many people think that this is just the beginning,” Roberts says.

He says the scandal revealed inequities in the college admissions process at large.

“Some of these kids from lower-income backgrounds … don’t have this kind of capital to invest into the admissions process,” Roberts says.

But Roberts is hopeful that the scandal could be the start of large-scale reforms to college admissions. He says legacies – when a student applies to a school from which their parent graduated – are an example of one thing that could change, since they give students an “added bonus” to their admissions application. Wealthy families who donate large amounts of money to a school, or who get a building named after them, is another example of how wealth can give some students an advantage.

He’s skeptical that an overhaul would have an effect on affirmative action. He says affirmative action critics, who argue that the practice gives an unfair advantage to certain groups like African-Americans, haven’t said much since the scandal.

“A lot of the affirmative action opponents have been somewhat quiet because I think a scandal likes this really makes you question this notion of a meritocracy,” Roberts says.

“I think that there are some difficult questions and answers that all of us are gonna have to confront over the next couple of years,” Roberts says.

Written by Caroline Covington.