Locker Room: Athletic scandal? That’s a bit of a reach

       I appreciate athletic competition. It doesn’t matter if it’s a football game, basketball game, baseball game, a sprint to the finish in track. Good competition is enjoyable. So I do not mean to slight the spirit of competition at any level or in any sport, but it seems the media has trouble getting things right these days.
      The defendants in the sweeping college admissions scandal began appearing in court this week and there are growing questions about just how many parents of so-called college students will eventually be caught up in the scandal.
    More than 750 parents used the “services” of Rick Singer to get their children into colleges across the country, most in California, when they were not academically qualified for admittance or for just the sake of appearance. A “High Society” sort of thing.  They just had to get their child in a particular school. Ain’t life great. It appears there will be considerably more subpoenas issued in the southern California region in the coming days. We could call that a “California State of Mind” I suppose. The land of beach volleyball where sometimes reality seems to fade.
     Some defendants in the scandal were caught on wiretaps talking about bribes aimed at getting their kids into elite colleges, there are documented emails, checks, and financial transfers for payments to Singer and his “charities.” This involves millions and millions of dollars.
    There are also a dozen athletic coaches involved  in the scandal. But this is an area that needs to be explained. They talk of the world famous Southern Cal water polo coach being involved. I wasn’t aware there was a “world famous” water polo coach. Then there are issues with admissions to students who were supposed to be on the Stanford sailing team. The “sailing team!” There are problems with members in the UCLA soccer program, and the scandal has also reached the tennis program at Wake Forest, and Georgetown, and even the hallowed walls of Yale.
    But the scandal was mostly centered in and working out of Newport Beach, California. Now better known as the land of sand and sun, beaches, and movie stars who have children that can’t score high enough on their entry exams to qualify for admittance to college, but wait, we are privileged people who have lots of money and normal rules that apply to all the normal people don’t apply to us, and did I mention they have lots and lots of money.
       But athletically speaking why are we hearing about crew, tennis, soccer, sailing, and such? Because those are not eyeball sports. They are not billboard programs. People do not pay to see them. Do not confuse those sports with actual scholarship sports. Sure, you can get special recognition and help getting admitted if you say you are going to play soccer or tennis, or go sailing. But you have to participate in those activities. Some involved in the scandal did not. But we’re not talking scholarship money here, just participation, but if you do, it might help you get admitted.
      But how do you pull it off? Simple, nobody is paying any attention to the coach, nobody is paying attention to how many kids he tries to help get in school to float in his boat, likely the athletic director doesn’t even know the name of a single player on his college’s tennis team. All of it took place in minor, non-revenue sports. Being bluntly honest, not many people care. So coaches got paid big bucks under the table to enable elite’s children to get in school, and you can pull it off because nobody knows who is who and very few even care. Nobody is paying attention!
      Now, could this happen in football, men’s and women’s basketball, or college baseball? Never say never, but it’s very unlikely. Why? Because those are billboard sports. People actually pay to see those teams perform. Those programs have real athletic scholarships. You can’t give one away to a friend’s child who can’t play a lick because fans would see it and ask questions like my son didn’t get any athletic help and this kid that did can’t play a lick.
       And the primary fund raising programs at major universities live and die on those scholarships. Find a rabid Virginia Tech fan and ask him about the 85 football grants. He might tell you that four are used for the quarterback position, seven for wide receiver, and we have nine presently in the program at linebacker. That’s why. An Alabama football fan can tell you who’s three deep at defensive tackle. Far fewer people in basketball, but Buzz Williams at Tech can’t afford to waste one of his scholarships. The Hokies play in the ACC. They must have all the talent they can get.
      So yes, there was, and is, a scandal where unqualified students are being admitted to college and that is certainly a shame when you realize that every time that happens a deserving student is left out. But to say athletics is a legitimate part of the scandal is a bit of reach, or maybe we should say sports that people care enough about to pay to see. In those sports you must win because that’s where the money and the recognition flows, and if you don’t win you get fired. You can coach tennis and never have a winning season and likely coach for 10 years without ever being questioned. Maybe even longer. But that would not work in the “billboard” sports. That’s the difference, and that’s why.
The “Buzz” at A&M:
      Just a little research makes it obvious that Virginia Tech basketball coach Buzz Williams is the coach of choice at Texas A&M who has a vacancy. Williams has basically said no comment when asked about the situation and that is almost always not a good sign. Tech should likely start making a list of who it would like for its next head coach now, and likely already has.
     All one has to do is checkout stories and columns in Texas newspapers from Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and Bryan Station (home of A&M) and there is no doubt in those minds that Williams will be the new Aggie coach. The offer, if it hasn’t already been made, will likely be double what Tech pays him presently. Williams is highly thought of. He hasn’t coached at what some would term the premier programs in the country, but he was highly successful at Marquette, and he has without question grown the program at Va. Tech into a competitive aspect of the ACC. A&M is not a flagship basketball program in the SEC, but there is no question it would like to be.
      Sources inside the athletic department at Tech expect Williams to be in Bryan Station for an interview very soon after the Hokies’ final game, maybe even the very next day. It is noteworthy that Williams is a native Texan from Greeneville, a suburb of Dallas, but only about a 90 minute drive from A&M. There is no doubt Williams could stay at Tech and likely expect to finish out his career in Blacksburg, but it is also very likely that he is looking for an avenue to the top of the sport.
       It’s not certain, but it appears likely that Williams will move to Texas A&M. There are a few coaches where money wouldn’t matter. Coach “K” at Duke, Roy Williams at Carolina, and John Calipari at Kentucky being obvious examples, but most all coaches have a price. Tech will try to keep Williams and it certainly should, but there are oil wells in Texas.
By DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot