It’s not surprising that a University of Virginia review found a handful of instances where the prospect of a gift appeared to have influenced the recruitment of student-athletes. Pressure to attract top players is intense at every college. And the line between acceptable and questionable behavior can be vague.
But at UVa, that’s the worst of it. No actual gifts or monies changed hands, the review found.
A handful of other questions were raised by the review, and UVa has changed its policies to be doubly sure the policies are clear and fair and that coaches fully understand them.
Compare this to the national Varsity Blues scandal in which some 50 parents, coaches and college prep advisers are accused of conspiring to buy student admissions into prestigious colleges. Tactics reportedly ranged from directly bribing college officials to arranging ways for students to cheat on college entrance exams.
Several of the accused have pleaded guilty.
UVa was never implicated in the scandal — for good reason. There was no intimation of impropriety at the university.
Still, UVa took the scandal as a timely warning to review its recruitment history and its policies to determine if they were strong enough.
The university found a few areas of concern, including those incidents where the possibility of gifts might have influenced decisions.
UVa won’t say when they happened — other than “several years ago” — and won’t say whether anyone lost his or her job as a result.
The university’s review also found a handful of instances in which student-athletes did not participate in the sports for which they were recruited. It tightened up its policies here as well.
UVa reserves spots in each incoming class for promising young athletes. The students can’t win admission just on athletic prowess, however; they also must demonstrate the potential to make it academically.
If students were accepted as athletes but didn’t play their intended sports, that could mean that some deserving students who would have played were denied admission.
Among other things, the new policies:
» Reiterate the prohibition against financial contributions from prospective student-athletes and their families during the recruiting and application process.
» Require student-athletes to pledge to participate in the sports for which they were recruited or risk losing their right to attend the university.
» Require coaches to audit their rosters to make sure students are playing their intended sports.
» Call for a new training program for coaches and staff to make sure they understand the intricacies of the recruitment policies and will implement them appropriately.
It might not be surprising that UVa found a handful of instances where the mere possibility of a gift apparently influenced admissions.
But it’s not surprising, either, that the university pro-actively chose to uncover these cases on its own, and chose to address an apparent chink in its firewall against such practices by strengthening and emphasizing its policies.
We commend UVa for these actions.