If you thought the college admissions scandal that brought down Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin was confined to Aunt Becky, think again. Federal prosecutors also indicted nine college coaches for their role in an alleged bribery scheme that funneled rich kids into elite schools.

That’s because part of the scheme involved creating fake athlete profiles for applicants that otherwise could not academically qualify for enrollment. Here’s how it worked.

Pay for Play?

The admissions standards for prospective athletes at many schools are often lower than those for regular students. According to prosecutors, William “Rick” Singer exploited this loophole using his college admissions consulting business, The Key. As ESPN reports:

  • “The Key bribed college coaches with large and varying sums of money to tell their school’s admissions department that the students were prospective athletes, even though in most cases the student in question did not play a sport.”
  • “Employees of The Key fabricated athletic résumés for the students. Coaches sent those résumés to their admissions department and listed the students as recruits they wanted the school to accept. The fake profiles often included made-up achievements, participation on club teams and photographs.”
  • “The Key bribed some college coaches to vouch for a student’s participation on club teams. Fake photos were sometimes created by editing a student’s face onto the body of an actual athlete, or by staging photos.”

Many of the coaches involved in the scheme worked for the University of Southern California, including the water polo coach, former women’s soccer coach, and even the senior associate athletic director. Tennis coaches from Texas and Georgetown were also implicated, as are coaches from UCLA’s soccer program, Wake Forest’s volleyball program, and Stanford’s sailing team.

All told, wealthy parents paid approximately $25 million over the past seven years to bribe coaches and university administrators to designate their children as purported recruited athletes to facilitate admission.

Out of Bounds?

While criminal punishment for the coaches involved is likely forthcoming, it remains to be seen whether the NCAA will sanction any of the schools themselves. “The charges brought forth today are troubling and should be a concern for all of higher education,” the NCAA said in a released statement. “We are looking into these allegations to determine the extent to which NCAA rules may have been violated.”

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