The University of Michigan, founding member of the Big Ten, is widely regarded as a sporting powerhouse. Brown University is not. The Wolverines are a household name and regularly attract a national television audience for football and basketball. Brown bears are not and not.

The federal data, however, show that the Ivy League school in one respect is equivalent to Michigan: they had in 2017 each 910 university athletes.

As Brown is smaller and more exclusive, each year a much larger portion of its coveted regulatory offerings – almost 9 percent – is spent on recruiting athletes from baseball to water polo. The athletic share of visitors to Michigan's public flagship is 2 percent.

These are two examples among many – from interviews, documents and a Washington Post poll – that shed light on the strong and ubiquitous role of sport in gaining admission to the country's most prestigious private colleges and universities.

The bribery scandal since March has brought the links between sports coaches and college gatekeepers in the limelight. Some schools recognize that having a trainer or sports officer plug can be a strong "tip" for applicants whose academic achievements may not be enough to ensure admission. In the most selective schools, where excellent scores and test scores are given, the thumb on the scale can be crucial, as athletic talent helps applicants to stand out.

In the scandal, affluent parents – including actress Lori Loughlin – are accused of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to help their children use false sports credentials to gain access to prominent universities through what an adviser called "the side door" ,

On Wednesday, a former Stanford University sailing trainer, John Vandemoer, was convicted in Boston of conspiracy to a day in jail. But the federal judge in the case has served the term already, so he will avoid time behind bars. The investigation of Operation Varsity Blues also led to charges against football, tennis, water polo and volleyball coaches at various universities.

Colleges say athletic fraud is rare in recordings. The varsity blues survey, however, highlights a broader problem: the wide range of legitimate athletes recruited into highly selective schools and the questions of how fair and academic they are.

"America is so fascinated by celebrity involvement in the scandal and wealth that is being thrown around here," said Gerald S. Gurney, an Assistant Education Professor at the University of Oklahoma who was a longtime college sports lecturer. "What you should talk about, in my opinion, is why higher education gives authority to a sports department? Why are you doing that? This contradicts the mission of the university. "

The pipeline benefits applicants whose parents can afford to support their children's athletic development. This could mean that activities for the poor are less accessible: join football or lacrosse clubs that travel long distances for games, participate in niche sports such as rowing and fencing, participate in sports camps organized by college coaches, or themselves Simply sign up for an expensive private high school with a constellation of sports and groomed fields.

Many recruited athletes compete through early decision programs, which require them to enroll when they are admitted. That, too, benefits the rich. Those who are less wealthy and do not receive sports scholarships often need to apply later and compare grant offers.

The annual approval craze increases the importance of the pipeline. With admissions rates below 30 percent, 20 percent or even 10 percent at high-level colleges, students know that a clear A and high SAT or ACT scores are not necessarily enough to make their first choice. Often a decisive and perhaps decisive word comes from a trainer.

Harvard University, one of the world's most selective schools, allows less than 5 percent of applicants. However, court documents in a lawsuit over Harvard's approval show that the admission rate for appointing a candidate as a sports recruiter in the last six years was 86 percent.

At the University of Southern California, shaken by the varsity blues scandal, a group of hundreds of professors in May asked for a "broad-based discussion led by faculty on the role of athletics at one of the largest universities and colleges the core task of the USC to strive for truth and knowledge. Only then can we set appropriate standards for the admission of student athletes. "

Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, face two conspiracy announcements after allegedly paying $ 500,000 to their two daughters to join the USC as rowing recruits. She did not plead guilty.

One of the signatories to the faculty letter, USC law professor Ariela Gross, said she was surprised to hear the importance of athletics for admission after one of her daughters in ninth grade joined a lacrosse team. The players were mainly beginners. But in the second year, the coaches told them the athletic approvals, Gross said, "because lacrosse is such a great option for top schools. It was a revelation. "

Her daughter did not pursue this path to college.

In 2011, Brown's then president, Ruth J. Simmons, was so concerned about the athletic factor that she reduced recruiting-reserved admissions periods by 9 percent. The cut to $ 205 a year should "balance the academic goals and sporting interests in the Brown context," Simmons wrote.

Simmons' statement provided a rare glimpse into the connection between admission and athletics in a high-performance school. Varsity Blues researchers found out more: Georgetown University provided 158 admissions places per year for enrolled athletes; Wake Forest University, 128. Last year's civil lawsuit, unrelated to the Varsity Blues case, revealed that Harvard recently offered approval to an estimated 180 recruited athletes per year. The total sums at these three schools account for 9 to 11 percent of the incoming classes at each school.

"They count them"

Selected universities often state that they look beyond test scores and grades to build a class of students with different skills and interests. A flutist may draw an eye or an accomplished rapper, a child prodigy of chess, a stage actress or a scholar who also looks after young siblings or elderly relatives.

However, athletics is characterized as a marketing and recruitment force. Passionate alumni follow their old teams. Donors support schools with competitive programs. Many prospective students look for schools with a sporty ambience, whether they are football or basketball powerhouses or just a wide range of sporting activities. Many want to play more than just club or intramural levels.

For all these reasons, filling the cadre of football, rowing and other varsity sports teams is a bigger and more systematic task within the typical admissions business than filling the campus orchestra. This applies regardless of whether a team competes in NCAA Division I with frequently available sports scholarships or in Division III without scholarships.

The colleges insist that the admissions officers are responsible, not the coaches. Christopher Gruber, dean of licensing and financial support at Davidson College, North Carolina, said coaches regularly consult with him about whether athletes are eligible for junior high school performance. The registration shop responds with a red light – no – or a green light, long before the applicant submits an application. "Green comes with a restriction that their grades will not decline," said Gruber.

To learn more about the athletic factor, The Post surveyed the 50 best universities and 25 best humanities colleges available from U.S. News & World Report were rated. Most refused to disclose the number of athletes recruited, and some refused to have slots for athlete registration.

"We have not reserved seats for athletes," said the University of Florida.

"For athletics, no admission periods are provided," said Emory University.

However, insiders say that selective colleges often use slots – or numerical caps or targets – to track the number of admissions quotes associated with sports coach recommendations. "They count them," said a former college president who spoke about the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the problem. "List them. Otherwise it will get completely out of control if you do not list them. "

At some art schools the numbers are high. At Williams, Bowdoin and Amherst colleges, at least 30 percent of the students are Division III athletes, according to the federal government. This proportion is much higher than the proportion of total admissions offered to recruited athletes for two reasons. First, athletes sign up more often than others have admitted. Second, some join teams without being recruited.

An Amherst report from 2017 showed that the college allows 67 recruits a year, whose athletic abilities played a prominent role in the approval decision. The college also allows for another 60 to 90 applicants per year, who recommend coaches for the Amherst Mammoths as excellent athletes. Taken together, these two groups account for at least 10 percent of the annual admissions offers and up to one third of a typical incoming class.

According to the report, there are about 20 non-recruited "walk-in" athletes per class, but they usually do not have much playing time and often quit the sport after the first year.

The report also revealed a sharp demographic gap: Athletes were far less likely than their low-income classmates to be the first in their family to attend college or to be students of color. To address these issues, Amherst President Biddy Martin wrote in a statement of January 2017 that when the report was released, the college needed "recruitment strategies that are more focused and creative."

Prosperity and privilege

At Claremont McKenna College in Southern California, officials say a coach's approval provides an influential "tip" for about 50 to 60 student athletes a year. Others are admitted with academic credentials in the high range of applicant pool and attorney by a trainer. The college has about 1,300 students.

Claremont McKenna's president, Hiram E. Chodosh, said the Department III college was striving to "become the college for the athlete who serves as scientific director."

But Chodosh worries about the money that wealthy parents put into sports trainers, travel clubs, sports camps, and other activities – separate from high school sports teams – that give their kids a head start on recruitment.

Too often, he said, wealth and privilege determine "who becomes a competitive athlete in a world where we have structured and extreme sports." These differences, he said, present a challenge to the country and to the universities that want to catch up the playing field. "We still have a lot to do there."

For large public universities, recruiting athletes is a smaller percentage of the class. Full or partial scholarships for athletes are available to many of their sports students.

Michigan announced that in 2018 it allowed 312 recruits for athletes, which is one of 50 offers for the 2022 class. The University of Virginia told the Post that this year about 180 seats were reserved for athletes, also about 2 percent of their offers.

"A sporty league"

Most Ivy schools declined to disclose details about the athletic approvals. According to Yale University, about 200 students a year or 13 percent of an incoming class matriculate with the support of athletics.

Brian E. Clark, spokesman for Brown, said the number of Simmons-reduced sports entry slots has risen to 225 per class. Clark said the growth coincided with increasing enrollment. The slots help staff rosters for 38 men's and women's teams.

"Brown's experience with a sports student means he's at the highest level, and has excellent academic performance across classrooms and laboratories across the campus," Clark wrote in an e-mail.

Of 35,438 applicants for the fall of 2018, Brown admitted 2,566 or 7 percent. According to Clark, 219 of the admitted students were athletes. All but three of the 219 enrolled.

Brown's program is typical of the league. According to federal data, 14 percent of Brown's students in 2017 were university athletes, compared to 15 percent in Yale, 16 percent at Harvard, 19 percent at Princeton University and 21 percent at Dartmouth College.

The Ivy League schools provide on-demand financial support, but no sports scholarships. The eight league members compete in a number of Division I sports, some of which are rarely on the state's flagship flagship. Consider the indoor racket sports squash. Federal data shows that in 2017, two dozen colleges nationwide had at least 25 varsity squash players. All Ivy were among them. None of the Big Ten teams was.

According to federal data, at Cornell University (1,116) in 2017 and Harvard (1,115) there were more university athletes than at the much larger Ohio State University (1,065) and the University of Michigan (910). Outside the Ivy League, Stanford University had 840 members, including 22 sailors, and the Duke University 659th According to Duke go about 5 percent of the admission offer to sports recruited.

Mostly, colleges do not leave the formation of teams to chance. When they compete, they want to win. This affects the recording.

"We're a sporting league," said Simmons, Brown's former president, as part of the Harvard admissions process last fall, the student paper Harvard Crimson said. "How will we set up teams to play against each other if we do not allow athletes for these teams? Many people outside the Ivy League believe that we are not serious about athletics, but that's because they've never had a table sat with presidents of the Ivy League who argued about athletics. "