UVA law

Daily Progress fileStacks of chairs are seen on the University of Virginia Lawn near the Rotunda in preparation for Final Exercises in May 2019.

After a national scandal revealed that parents had paid off coaches at some prestigious colleges to manufacture a spot for their child, the University of Virginia decided to audit its own practices in a confidential review, which was made public on Friday.

The inquiry, which looked at the hundreds of students considered and admitted by the Office of Admissions in the past four years, led to a set of new procedures, the university announced in a news release, which it says will strengthen the admission process for the admission of student-athletes.

“The overall results of this review were positive and reassuring,” Director of Athletics Carla Williams said, according to the release. “I am grateful for the professionalism and integrity of our coaches and staff.”

The Varsity Blues scandal led to federal criminal charges against 50 parents, coaches and college prep advisers who allegedly conspired to buy spots at universities. UVa has not been implicated in the federal investigation.

At UVa, some scholarships and spaces in the incoming first-year class are specifically designated for student‑athletes. If accepted, all student-athletes must also demonstrate the potential for academic success at the university. The review revealed a number of cases in which athletically talented recruits were denied admission, according to the release.

The review did not uncover cheating on the SAT or ACT or other standardized tests, nor misrepresentation of academic credentials by prospective student‑athletes, as was true in the federal cases being prosecuted. The review also found no evidence of private payments made to athletics or admissions personnel for exercising illicit influence.

The review did identify a small number of cases from “several years ago” where the prospect of a gift appears to have motivated the recruitment of student-athletes, according to the release. The review also found a few instances where recruited student-athletes did not ultimately participate on the team for which they were recruited, for reasons UVa was unable to confirm.

When asked if the review had caused any university employees involved in decisions to be fired, placed on leave or otherwise disciplined, university spokesman Wes Hester declined to answer.

“As indicated in the announcement, the university will not discuss specific cases or findings in order to protect the privacy of our students,” Hester wrote in an email. “The university has, however, taken remedial action where appropriate and has put in place new procedures designed to strengthen the process for considering the admission of student-athletes and adhere to best practices.”

UVa has implemented the following policy recommendations from the review:

» Refrain from soliciting or accepting financial contributions from prospective student-athletes and their families during the recruiting and application process;

» independently verify information supplied by coaches about all recruited student-athletes;

» audit the rosters of all athletic teams to ensure the participation of all recruited student-athletes;

» require all recruited student-athletes to pledge, at the time of admission, to participate in the sports programs for which they have been recruited and allow rescission of admission offers if the student-athletes do not participate and the university concludes that their pledges were not sincere;

» and design and implement robust training for all coaches regarding the university’s academic standards and the process by which the Office of Undergraduate Admission considers the credentials of prospective student-athletes. This training will also include information about coaches’ roles in fundraising for their respective sports and the Department of Athletics, as well as specific direction that a family’s potential philanthropy should not influence the recruiting process for any particular student-athlete.

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Ruth Serven Smith is a reporter for The Daily Progress. Contact her at (434) 978-7254, rserven@dailyprogress.com or @RuthServen on Twitter.

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