The world of college academics and athletics was rocked on Tuesday by a bombshell investigation that led to federal charges being filed against 50 individuals alleging fraud across many levels to get kids into schools by cheating on exams and faking athletic profiles as recruits.
There were fake USC football recruits, $1.6 million going to Yale’s soccer coach to push through art students as soccer players, and Lori Loughlin of Full House fame paying $500,000 to get her two kids into USC by pretending they were going to join the crew team. The whole thing is stunning, but arguably the best part of it is that the Justice Department named the sting, OPERATION VARSITY BLUES, which is just a spectacular name.
Of course, that name stems from the delightful 1999 film Varsity Blues, in which Jon Voight is an overly demanding and sometimes abusive football coach, Paul Walker is the starting quarterback who gets injured, and James Van Der Beek is his backup who turns the season around in a shocking development. Van Der Beek got word of the name of the investigation and had the perfect response to finding out kids were being secretly pushed to big schools by their parents seeking to pay for them to get into places they otherwise couldn’t.
He is referring to John Moxon’s famous line to his dad pushing him to go to one school, saying, “I don’t want your life!”
Now, I’m not saying Van Der Beek reads my tweets, but, well…
Anyway, while it’s objectively funny the operation was named for Varsity Blues, the whole situation is a bit more complicated. Rich folks paying hundreds of thousands and sometimes millions of dollars to get their underperforming kids into prestigious schools by pretending they were punters is indeed funny, but also has a negative effect on deserving students who may have missed out on a spot because the school gave it to athletics for a fake recruit. It’s another representation of how the idea of the meritocracy in circles of the wealthiest in America is a facade that masks a world of bribery and paying for their children to be sheltered from true disappointment and the realities of the world, simply to ensure the status quo remains and the classes remain separate.