Eastern athletic department, admissions discuss college admissions scandal

Tom O'Connor, Sports Reporter

Eastern Athletic Director Tom Michael does not know if other student athletes, during his time as a collegiate basketball player at the University of Illinois, tendered bribes to coaches or cheated on their standardized tests.

It would not change how much he values his two diplomas from the university, nor would it make him feel any less proud of what he accomplished.

“I did my work,” Michael said. “If somebody else was there, some other way, that’s for somebody else to worry about.”

Now, in his position as athletic director, Michael contends that the falsification of student athlete information, uncovered in the college admissions scandal, will not be of issue at Eastern.

“The last thing we want to do is bring someone in who cannot be successful,” said Michael.

He does not believe the checks and balances of the admissions process is at risk of potential abuse.

As it currently stands, the athletic department does not anticipate adjustments in the impending future, but it is open, upon further review, to anything that might reinforce its recruiting process.

“I hope that our coaches understand what that means in terms of the admissions piece and how important it is to respect the integrity of that,” Michael said. “So it’s something that we talk about, but it’s also a situation that you have to constantly be aware of. So that the people that our coaches are bringing forward, through our compliance and academic services, we are asking the questions that are necessary to- hopefully we can avoid those situations.”

The Athletic Department receives the transcripts of prospective high school athletes, sending them to Eastern admissions, where the staff will determine the student’s performance as it pertains to the university’s standards.

Then, after an analysis from the admissions department, the coaches are informed of any potential deficiencies, be it test scores, grade point average or some other factor.

“With athletes, they go through the exact same admission process that everybody else does,” said Kelly Miller, the director of admissions.

Any incoming student who does not meet the standard admissions criteria may be eligible for the Gateway program, an initiative that accommodates these students with individualized support their freshman year.

Mona Davenport, the executive director of the Office of Inclusion and Academic Engagement, looks at factors outside of test scores and grades, including attendance and potential.

She will ascertain whether there is an upward trajectory in their grades, absolving students who struggled academically as a freshman but improved their grades by their senior year.

Miller said there is little university admissions offices can do as far as preventing forged testing scores, explaining that testing agencies are charged with the validation of achievement assessments.

Miller’s trust in organizations like the college board, however, has not been shaken by the scandal, differentiating Eastern from the schools embroiled in it.

“These are families that are millionaires who are willing to do and say anything to get their kids into these prestigious schools, and that is just not us,” Miller said.

Of all the pieces to the college admissions scandal, and the fallout that ensued, what has troubled Michael most were the payouts to college counselors, who, in exchange, promised to inflate student test scores.

While Michael does not have any concerns about Eastern stumbling into controversy, he feels less confident over how other schools handle compromised test scores.

“I think part of that comes through the processes we have with the admissions office,” Michael said.

“Like I said, they are telling us whether someone is admissible or not. We can tell them that, ‘Hey they are a student athlete,’ but if they are not admissible, it does not matter if they are a student athlete or not.”

Tom O’Connor can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].