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I always wanted you to admire my backhand

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We are your overlords:

The records reviewed by the AP reveal a pattern of DeJoy’s family winning coveted opportunities after making generous contributions.

In one instance, DeJoy’s son, Andrew, secured a slot on Duke University’s tennis team in 2014 while his parents wrote a series of large checks to the school’s athletic department.

The team was ranked 14th in the nation by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association and drew a host of top national and international prospects. But Andrew DeJoy was not one of them when he joined as a walk-on freshman months after the season started.

“It was a dream of mine since I was very little, but I wasn’t expecting to play,” Andrew DeJoy said in an interview published by the school’s athletic department in 2015. “I just emailed the coach and said I was willing to work hard over the summer if there was spot. Luckily … In the fall, things just worked out.”

In the years before Andrew DeJoy enrolled, the family’s foundation donated several thousand dollars a year to Duke. But in 2014 they escalated their giving with a $737,000 contribution, according to tax records. The money helped finance the Blue Devil Tower, a massive glass-encased addition to the school’s football stadium, which includes the DeJoy Family Club, a “first-class” banquet hall overlooking the field with space for 600 people.

During Andrew DeJoy’s second year on the team, his family gave another $462,000 to Duke. The donations continued during the rest of his tenure at the school, totaling at least $2.2 million.

Duke athletic department spokesman Art Chase declined to comment.

Here’s a little something from a book I’m writing on sports in America:

But of course not everybody is good at sports, even fake rich white kid sports like sailing, polo, and fencing, that exist at prep schools and elite colleges primarily to give those kids yet another leg up in the struggle to remain near the top of the “meritocracy,” or at least not slide too precipitously downward.

Singer’s workaround for this was a masterpiece of simple mendacity: he realized that, in regard to college sports nobody in the broader public cares about, you can just invent fake athletes, and no one outside those directly involved in the scheme is ever likely to notice.  Thus the coach of the Yale women’s soccer team accepted a $400,000 bribe to falsely identify an applicant as a recruit, while USC’s associate athletic director and water polo coach received $1.2 million and $250,000 to participate in a similar fraud. Stanford’s sailing coach (good grief) took a $270,000 bribe to lie about the purported sailing prowess of two applicants.  And so on.  (Singer would even photo shop the faces of applicants onto the bodies of actual athletes participating in the relevant — or more accurately irrelevant — sports).

My favorite twist on the Varsity Blues scandal took place, naturally, at Harvard, where a plutocrat bought the fencing coach’s house for twice its assessed value.  The details of this story included that the plutocrat’s son had excellent credentials – top grades at St. Grottlesex and stratospheric test scores, plus the kid actually did fence – but hey, you can never be sure these days, so Daddy bribed the coach anyway.  The scam would have gone undetected, if not for the fact that a couple of house flippers noticed the otherwise inexplicable sales history of the property, when the plutocrat turned around to sell it seventeen months later.  They Googled the previous owner, and joked to themselves that someone’s kid must want to get on the Harvard fencing team.  A couple of weeks later the Varsity Blues scandal hit the media, and they decided to call the Boston Globe. (This raises the question of how much of this kind of thing goes on without anybody ever noticing. My guess would be: a lot.)

The Harvard administration was outraged to learn that Daddy was bribing a mere fencing coach, instead doing things the right way, by donating a new building, or endowing an academic center. (Here’s an actual quote from the US Attorney, at the press conference at which the government revealed the Varsity Blues sting operation: “We’re not talking about donating a building . . . we’re talking about fraud.”).  The school’s reaction was reminiscent of nothing so much as the scene in Martin Scorsese’s film Casino, when the mob bosses discover that the guys in the count room have been skimming the skim.  “We go through all this trouble and somebody’s robbing us?” one of them complains bitterly.

So while it is undeniably true that college football and men’s basketball corrupt academic standards at many institutions, those standards are being corrupted in countless other ways all the time, and for the same reason: the endless, insatiable need for ever-larger amounts of revenue that fuels every aspect of the decision-making process at these schools.

Thus academic standards have to be slashed – grade inflation now ensures that the traditional gentleman’s C is now a B+ — and not just for star football players, but for countless children of the professional classes, who aren’t particularly academically talented, or even interested in going to college beyond enjoying its social aspects, but who nevertheless “have” to go anyway, both because college is a social sorting mechanism in this country, and because the structure of higher education in America  would collapse instantly if the only people who went to college were people who were genuinely interested in learning things. 

The most notorious participants in Singer’s scam were actress Lori Loughlin and her daughter Olivia Jade Giannulli, a 19-year-old “social influencer” – that is, someone who is paid by companies to hawk their products on the Internet.  Olivia Jade had at the time close to two million YouTube followers, and more than one million Instagram fans.  She had already received a certain amount of criticism, before the scandal broke, for posting a video in which she made it clear she had no real interest in actually going to school at the elite college to which she had just been admitted.  Olivia Jade revealed in the video that she was only going to college for “game days” and “partying.”  “I don’t really care about school, as you guys all know,” she pointed out. She did, however, provide a video tour of her dorm room, and promised to her millions of followers that she would make more videos about life at USC (the 22nd-highest ranked institution of higher learning in America, per the ubiquitous US News rankings): “I do have the opportunity to, since I’m in college now.”

The combination of rage and schadenfreude that the Varsity Blues scandal elicited across the nation was understandable, given the increasingly severe bottleneck problem — the fact that there are vastly fewer places available at elite universities than there are children who want desperately (or perhaps more accurately, whose parents desperately want them) to attend such institutions. 

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