What to Know About the College Athletic Recruiting Process Amid Admissions Scandal
Take a look at the process that was turned upside down by affluent families during the alleged college admissions scam
The alleged college admissions cheating scandal — which saw members of affluent families and Hollywood stars such as Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman allegedly bribe athletic coaches from elite universities to admit their children as athletes, even if they didn’t participate in sports — has brought increased attention to the way colleges across the country recruit students to their teams.
A total of 50 people were indicted as part of the alleged nationwide scheme, which broke on Tuesday when 204 pages of federal court records were unsealed in Boston. The documents revealed families allegedly paid bribes up to $6 million to get their children into schools such as Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, University of Southern California, UCLA, University of San Diego, University of Texas and Wake Forest University.
In one of the most blatant examples, federal prosecutors say Loughlin — best known for her role as Aunt Becky on the ABC sitcom Full House — and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, “agreed to pay bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team — despite the fact that they did not participate in crew — thereby facilitating their admission to USC.”
Exam administrators and college coaches — including Jorge Salcedo, who coached the UCLA men’s soccer team; William Ferguson, who coached women’s volleyball at Wake Forest; and John Vandemoer, Stanford’s sailing coach — were also charged in the plot.
“As someone who is passionate about helping young people navigate a once-in-a-lifetime experience, this story is disgraceful,” Rex Grayner — a former baseball player living in Colorado who now helps families and students navigate the college recruitment process through his group, Student-Athlete Showcase — tells PEOPLE. “I mean, it’s very common for recruited athletes to gain an edge in the admissions process. But coaches accepting bribes from wealthy parents? It’s shocking.”
Grayner says that the typical recruitment process can prove to be daunting for both student-athletes hoping to pursue their sporting dreams and the coaches looking to fill a roster spot with the right players.
“Typically, it takes several months to successfully recruit and sign an athlete,” says Grayner, 49, who was an All-CIF pitcher at a small Christian high school before playing college baseball for four years in college. “Most college coaches perform thorough evaluations, including watching film, viewing transcripts, conducting several conversations with the athlete and those who know the athlete best, auditing their social media pages, scouting them in live competition and so on.”
Failing to find the best recruit for an established program, or failing to rebuild an already struggling team, will simply mean coaches may have to look for a new job sooner than they would like.
“Their success and longevity as a college coach is often a direct result of recruiting the right kids,” Grayner adds.
While court documents revealed that families paid for doctored photos of their children playing sports to help in the scheme, Grayner says it would be “nearly impossible” for high school students to fake their credentials with a reputable college coach.
“Stats and awards are mostly public information and very easy for coaches to validate,” he says. “But even then, these are minor ingredients in a much larger recipe. Coaches are way more interested in grades, talent and the person, which are far more difficult to counterfeit. Which means if college admissions were furnished with fake credentials, then it was likely the doing of a coach who was attempting to rig the admissions process for these kids.”
The university’s coaching staff will also visit the recruit and watch footage of their games if they can’t attend in person.
“As the recruitment of an athlete progresses, the coaching staff is eventually going to watch film, see the PSA play live several times in some cases, evaluate the athlete in camp and bring the athlete and their parents onto campus for an unofficial or official visit,” Grayner says, adding that the prospective student-athlete would also do their due diligence. “This is not a four-year decision for the student. It’s a lifetime decision.”
According to NBC News, students from Tulane University, Rutgers University and a community college in Orange County, California, filed what may become a class-action lawsuit against William Rick Singer, who was allegedly the scam’s mastermind.
“I only hope [the scandal] ends with this isolated incident,” says Grayner, “but I fear we’re merely seeing the tip of the iceberg right now.”