How college sports played a key role in the admissions scandal

The role sports play in admissions

The mastermind of a college admissions scam has already pleaded guilty to federal charges that could put him in prison for up to 65 years. William Singer told investigators how he created a "side door" to top colleges.

Singer's "key method" of getting kids into elite schools, according to prosecutors, included fabricating profiles for applicants posing as student athletes. He even allegedly photoshopped faces of clients onto bodies of athletes, something he told one parent he had already done "a million times."

Sara Harberson has 20 years in college admissions, including three as associate dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania.

"The single biggest influencer in college admissions is being a recruited athlete," Harberson said.

The side door Singer found is substantially sized.

"Twenty percent, 30 percent, even 40 percent of an incoming freshman class could be recruited athletes," Harberson said.

Counselor reacts to college admissions scam: It's become a "status symbol"

Even teams like sailing and water polo that don't directly produce revenue like basketball and football can spur alumni donations, student engagement and even an uptick in applications. Ohio University's David Ridpath said it's the others that are most easily exploited.

"Tennis and swimming and others with all due respect, people aren't following as much and it's a little bit easier to hide," he said.

There will always be a push by parents. But Harberson thinks this scandal may be a turning point.

"It's a game changer because families were suspecting that this was happening. But we didn't have the evidence and now we have a federal investigation indicating that this was happening," Harberson said.

  • Jim Axelrod
    Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the chief investigative correspondent and senior national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for "CBS This Morning," the "CBS Evening News," "CBS Sunday Morning," and other CBS News broadcasts.