One of our nation’s former presidents, Ronald Reagan, liked his jellybeans. Who doesn’t? He also liked to say a phrase or two a bunch: “Trust, but verify.” We believe the highly selective college admissions process could greatly benefit from heeding the words of the leader who was known as “The Great Communicator.” In the weeks to come, we are going to present ideas on how elite universities can improve their admissions processes to ensure that such a cheating and bribery scandal — a scandal we’ve offered our commentary on here — never happens again. This is the first post in the series.
Don’t Take College Athletic Coaches at Their Word
The college admissions scandal brought to light how certain Division I athletic coaches — people who are employees of colleges that receive public subsidies be they public or private institutions — took bribes in exchange for designating as recruits students who had no business being designated as recruited athletes. Soccer players who couldn’t dribble, water polo players who couldn’t swim much less eggbeater, and football kickers who couldn’t kick were among those who received such coveted slots that should have been reserved for student-athletes who worked hard in their respective sports to earn them. So what could college admissions officers do moving forward to make sure water polo players who can hardly swim never receive such designations going forward?
Admissions Officers Should Check Boxscores, Heat Sheets, and More
Trust, but verify. If a basketball coach has designated an applicant as a recruited center, check that student’s high school basketball statistics through past boxscores. If that student averaged 3 points, 0 rebounds, and 4 turnovers a game in high school basketball, it’s unlikely this student is worthy of being a Division I basketball recruit. If he happens to be 6’2, it’s also a good indication that something fishy is going on as he’s simply not tall enough to compete on the boards with true Division I centers. If a swim coach has designated an applicant as a recruited breaststroker and her best times — which can all be found online in consolidated databases (like this one for USA Swimming) or even through individual meet heat sheets — is a 1:10, it’s unlikely this student is worthy of being a Division I swimming recruit. And so on.
Elite universities, among them the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University, have announced in recent days that they’ll be hiring outside consultants to review their admissions procedures in light of recent events (including a previous, eerily similar athletic scandal in which a former UPenn basketball coach and current Boston Celtics assistant coach accepted a bribe to designate an undeserving player as a recruit). We hope these outside consultants see the logic in implementing such a check and balance on college athletic coaches. It’s certainly simple enough!
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