The FBI investigation into a college admissions scandal has drawn in three Pac-12 Conference schools. KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel tells Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick it seems to be the start of the erosion of college credibility.
Coaches and athletic officials at UCLA, USC and Stanford were identified by the FBI as participating in the scandal. They and their counterparts at several other elite schools are accused of falsely representing applicants as athletic recruits — regardless of their athletic abilities — to boost their chances of admission.
The FBI claims that the faces of some students were photoshopped onto the bodies of athletes.
"One important point here is that these were not students who were pursuing athetic scholarships," Thiel said.
"They were students who were going to walk on and try to, supposedly, be part of an athletic team. So, it isn't a National Collegiate Athletic Association scandal per se but it is the fraudulent use of information of identities to gain admission by students who were otherwise unqualified."
"The biggest part of this is that it's a corruption of the mission statement of universities. They are gaming the system. They are cutting corners. They are doing all sorts of things to gain admission to universities who were supposed to have a standard.
"The schools and the admissions people and the athletic departments are claiming ignorance. Well, wait a minute. Is it better to use ignorance as an excuse for your innocence? I don't think so.
"I think this is something that goes to the heart of the corruption and the venality, I think, of big-time college athletics. It's a complete betrayal of everything I've ever seen about college sports and college in general."
Thiel talked with Mike Hopkins, the University of Washington men's basketball coach, before the team left for the Pac-12 Tournament. Hopkins spent several years at Syracuse before arriving in Seattle two years ago.
"He said, 'This was a complete and total surprise,'" Thiel said.
"He said, 'When I first looked at the story I thought this was about the college basketball recruiting scandal.' And I'm thinking to myself, 'Wow, he can't keep his scandals straight.'
"I'm not blaming Hopkins but I'm just saying a real question here is who is monitoring the colleges?
"That's the scary thing. No one is accepting responsibility. No one is in charge. And I don't think this is the highest and best use of the FBI."