LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – I once heard a guy say, "I understand why the poor steal. But what about the rich people. Why do they steal?"
I’ve thought about that a lot since the news broke about what is being described as the “worst cheating and bribery scandal in the history of American colleges.”
It seems a bunch of rich people, including two Hollywood actresses, discovered they had children who either couldn’t or wouldn’t do the work necessary to get into prestigious universities such as Stanford, Yale, and Southern Cal.
So they found this greaser who had figured out a loophole. He bribed coaches of non-revenue sports such as tennis and rowing to recruit them as athletes, even though some had never played the sport in which they were supposed to be proficient.
Apparently, the admissions people at these hallowed universities took the coach’s word that he need the little rats for his or her team. Many gained admittance on that basis, taking partial scholarships that should have gone to student-athletes who had earned them.
Although it’s hardly a secret that money has infected college sports in many ways, this was a new one for me. And it disgusts me to the core. It disgusts me more than Strippergate or the Adidas scandal at the University of Louisville.
That’s because it hurts kids who have tried to do things the right way, only to have his or her opportunity snatched away by some rich brat who’s not bright enough or talented enough to earn it on his or her own merit.
A few years ago, I taught some classes at UofL, and I was struck by how hard college was for some students. Some had children at home. Others had to work an extra job or two to make ends meet. But they were determined to get their degree because they knew it could be the ticket to a better life.
It was that experience that convinced me that scholarship football and men’s basketball players should not be paid, no matter how much money their teams rake in. My heavens, they already get so much more than the average student that it would be obscene to give them more.
Cheating such as we see in the Adidas scandal has been going on forever. The folklore of every big-time athletics department includes stories about how this star got a car or that one was provided with some other kind of extra benefit.
All that needs to finally be cleaned up, too, and it wouldn’t be hard to do. Just suspend a cheating coach for five years or so, or take the team off TV for a couple of years. But the university presidents, who ostensibly run the NCAA, refuse to take such measures because they’re spineless.
The Adidas scandal may force them to finally do something. I’ll believe it when I see it.
But this latest scandal really isn’t even about winning. It’s completely about parents with far too much money bribing coaches and cheating the system just because, well, they can.
I have no idea why rich people steal. But I do know a lot of them do. Maybe they just feel entitled. Their message is, “My kid is better than yours because he or she is mine.”
Of course, the great thing about intelligence and talent is that they can come from anywhere. They are not limited only to people of a certain socio-economic status. It’s the American way, right? Everybody can’t be born rich, but everybody can be given an equal opportunity to succeed.
We saw a lot of this during the Vietnam War. If a rich man wanted badly enough to keep his son out of the military draft, he always could find a crooked doctor to take care of it.
Wealth has its privileges, but cheating young people out of their opportunities and dreams is not one of them. Competition is the essence of our society, as long as it’s conducted on a level playing field. If anybody needs a break, it’s not the rich kid whose parents want him or her to get into Yale just because of the prestige of it.
I am not opposed to rich people. Some of my best friends are rich. But I am totally opposed to those who feel that their wealth gives them the right to cheat those not so materially blessed.
Why do rich people steal? Let me know when you figure it out.