This is the dumbest scandal ever

Today is St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday where the luck of the Irish is heavily emphasized and how just about everybody manages to find a trace of Irish blood in them so they can be a part of this special day.

However, the Irish luck doesn’t come anywhere near the luck of the rich, and despite our best efforts, not all of us can find the finances to be part of that much more exclusive club.

In case you weren’t aware, an academic admissions scandal during the past week was revealed by the FBI, and as of now 50 people have been charged for participating in a massive plan to get wealthy kids admitted into prominent universities.

Some of these kids were even admitted on athletic scholarships despite never having played the sport before. That might be the dumbest part of this scandal and there’s a lot of stupidity in this mess.

Hollywood television actresses Felicity Huffman of “Desperate Housewives” fame and Lori Loughlin, who played Aunt Becky on “Full House” and has starred in many Hallmark Channel Christmas movies of dubious quality, are the headliners, but they weren’t the only prominent players in this affair.

On a side note, there’s an episode of “Full House” where Loughlin’s character criticizes her husband, played by John Stamos, for lying to get their twin boys into a distinguished preschool. Loughlin’s character may have taken the high road on the small screen, but in real life, she’s got mud all over her.

The other big players are in the athletic world, but I’m sorry to say, there’s no nationally well-known coaches or administrators. Somehow, former Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino is also not involved, so kudos to him, I guess.

The operation that caught Loughlin, Huffman and the various college coaches was called Operation Varsity Blues, which is hilarious if you’ve ever seen the film “Varsity Blues.”

The movie basically involves Texas teens who are pressured into playing football by their obsessive parents and their lunatic coach and eventually stand up against authority with James Van Der Beek’s character exclaiming at one point, “I don’t want your life.”

My guess is that a lot of these people’s kids involved in this scandal didn’t want what their parents were doing, either, which is obvious if you listen to Loughlin’s children.

According to Deadspin, parents would launder money through a fake nonprofit organization called Key Worldwide Foundation and coaches would be bribed to pretend these students were recruits. The fake student-athlete profiles were sometimes created involving staged photographs and some parents even went as far as photoshopping their kids’ faces on the bodies of actual athletes.

Yale, Stanford, Texas, Georgetown and Wake Forest are some of the schools named by the FBI, but one stands above the rest — USC. If you look at the Trojans’ role, they come off as ridiculously corrupt, stupid or both.

This is also where Photoshop really started to play a role in this scandal. One father tried to get his son into both USC and Stanford as a football player, even though he’d never played the sport. It was suggested that he pretend his kid was a kicker or punter and that he used Photoshop to place his face onto a real kicker’s body.

Former USC assistant women’s soccer coach Laura Janke is said to have helped gather various fake profiles. Some were pretty bad Photoshop attempts, including putting the face of one kid on a pole vaulter and listing a falsified profile of a basketball recruit as 6-foot-1 when he was actually 5-5.

The Trojans’ recently-fired water polo coach Jovan Vavic was accused of accepting more than $250,000 in bribes to help deem one daughter eligible with fake images of her playing and fake test scores. He also presented a male applicant as one of his “top walk-ons.”

Finally, there’s now-fired senior associate athletic director Donna Heinel. She is accused of accepting bribes to help the above fake kicker-punter, a fake water polo recruit, a fake long-snapper for the football team and a fake basketball recruit.

She was also the person bribed to say that Loughlin’s kids were crew recruits despite not ever being on a team. Loughlin and her husband are said to have had both her daughters pose as coxswains and took a few pics on rowing machines to help seal the deal, along with the money, of course.

Now that this insane scandal has been exposed, the question is if the NCAA can go after any of these schools. I’m sure the morally questionable organization wants to get involved, since it does involve academic and fake athletic profiles.

However, I question how much it can do considering it completely botched the North Carolina academic fraud scandal of the last few years. Seriously, that pitch was right in their wheelhouse, a type of scandal the NCAA specializes in, and it whiffed badly.

However, let’s say the NCAA decides it can and will get involved. The penalties at some of the schools like Texas, Yale and Stanford might be almost forgettable considering they involve smaller, non-prominent athletic programs like sailing, tennis and soccer.

I can see hefty fines and possible postseason bans for all three schools. Georgetown could be hit the same way, although it also could be less penalized, considering the coach involved is no longer with the Hoyas.

USC is the school that should be quaking right now. The Trojans are trying to fix things — they’ve canned Heinel and Vavic and recently said that all applicants tied to the scandal will be denied admission.

That’s a nice public relations move by the school, but USC has had quite a few violations over the years, including the gifts and benefits given to former football player Reggie Bush and basketball player O.J. Mayo.

As the Los Angeles Times suggested, the Trojans also need to dump athletic director Lynn Swann, the famous former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver. As the Times points out, there have been two FBI probes in the last few months that involve college sports and the only school on both lists is USC.

The fact that somehow Swann was unaware of what was going on is naive, and if he was somehow unaware, then he’s a remarkably clueless man. However, he’s just one person at a huge, popular university that looks like it’s made up of morons rather than academic experts.

This might be the dumbest college scandal ever and it’s all due to greed. It’s revealed to us how the wealthy manipulate the system to make sure that their kids get into schools they don’t belong at and push out others who deserve it.

It’s also shown us one universal truth and that is although it’s nice to be lucky, it’s even luckier to be loaded with cash.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.

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