Respective schools, not the NCAA, to blame in college admissions scandal

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The college admissions scandal has dominated the headlines of almost every news outlet over the past few weeks, and rightfully so. I won’t waste time giving you a recap of what has gone down — you probably already know.

Certainly, one of the more intriguing aspects of the story is the involvement of the NCAA in the whole ordeal simply by association. The “recruitment” of these “athletes” served as the gateway for many of these rich parents to illegally get their children into these schools.

It’s easy to blame the NCAA for their lack of oversight, especially given their track record of scandals. While the NCAA has quite the mess to clean up on numerous other fronts, we also have to hold the individual coaches and schools responsible.

To be sure, the NCAA has been wrapped up with several scandals recently, such as the ongoing pay-for-play investigation in college basketball, that they could not see these issues right in front of them. In this case, it was the FBI who dropped the news, and the NCAA was left to pick up the pieces in the aftermath.

Ultimately, the consequences fall on the universities themselves for allowing these practices in the first place. The implicated athletic departments shot themselves in the foot through their lack of accountability and inability to comply with their own standards.

As it is, recruiting is highly regulated by the NCAA, as both coaches and athletes must follow a strict set of rules and guidelines. But, athletes must first and foremost meet the admissions criteria of the respective school. It’s at that step in the process, where the schools entrenched in this scandal clearly demonstrated that their own rules can and will be broken.

Many community members have expressed outrage about the privilege of the families involved in the scandal, but more needs to be said about the privilege of these institutions themselves. Because of their prestige, rank and reputation, top institutions hold the belief that they can do no wrong.

The privileged bubble that surrounds those campuses reaches beyond the students to faculty, coaches and administration. The overall campus community truly buys into the culture they have created and live by. Yale is Yale. Georgetown is Georgetown. On the inside, anything goes, including personal bribes.

And the ironic thing is — is any of this really new? For decades, people have criticized notable wealthy community members for donating to top colleges while their children apply to those very schools. But because of Aunt Becky, only now has this become a public conversation topic.

By definition, there is a difference between a donation and a bribe. But at what point does a donation cross the line and become a bribe?

Donations may appear more acceptable in the public view because they are going directly toward resources that the university’s community will use. But the fact is, when money is involved, how can conflicts of interest not be up for debate?

As a result of what will forever be known as the “college admissions scandal,” the NCAA should implement more in-depth vetting of their athletes and stricter rules regarding payments and salaries for coaches.

The NCAA was built to be an organization that supports and promotes student-athletes and their achievements both on the field and in the classroom. Now the universities that affiliate themselves under the NCAA’s umbrella must do the same.

Charlie Griffen writes the Tuesday sports column about the evolution and current trends of college athletics. Contact him at [email protected].