Wang’s Word: UCLA Athletics damages its reputation by recruiting fake athletes
UCLA Athletics has provided minimal clarification to the nationwide athletics admission scandal. One coach and two athletes have been connected to UCLA as of Wednesday. (Daily Bruin file photo)
By Hanson Wang
March 13, 2019 11:21 p.m.
Forget for a brief moment the celebrities who were indicted for buying their kids’ admissions to some of the top colleges in the country.
And forget about the numerous qualified high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds who overcame the obstacles in their lives, only to be denied admission in favor of the human equivalent of fool’s gold.
Let’s talk about UCLA’s role in this scandal.
You’re telling me the No. 1 public school in the U.S. and one of the world’s leading research institutions couldn’t run a simple Google search to double check the background of a prospective student-athlete?
This is the same school that opened a $65 million football facility and $25 million basketball facility within the last two years, and is currently aiming to secure $20 million from donors to construct an academic center for student-athletes.
Yet UCLA has failed to dedicate the resources to make sure the athletes that are recruited are in fact Division I athletes.
The extent to which the athletic department was aware of men’s soccer coach Jorge Salcedo’s alleged crimes and how complicit the student-athlete admissions committee has been is currently unknown.
According to Transparent California, Salcedo’s total pay and benefits in 2017 was $272,077. The United States Department of Justice purported that Salcedo earned $350,000 for clearing the way for two illegitimate student-athletes to get admitted to UCLA.
That’s a lot of money for a coach with a tenuous track record of success.
In Salcedo’s 15-year head coaching stint, UCLA men’s soccer has signed the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class seven times and churned out 19 MLS first-round picks. But the Bruins have only advanced past the NCAA tournament quarterfinals three times under Salcedo.
On the other hand, Stanford men’s soccer head coach Jeremy Gunn’s six-year tenure has produced four first-rounders and three NCAA championships.
It’s a bad look when the coach lines his own pockets while the team struggles to win.
You would think that a coach that has accomplished so little with a mother lode of talent would be on the proverbial hot seat with his every move scrutinized.
It’s also hard to believe that no one in UCLA Athletics keeps track of their recruits, and no one notices that two or three student-athletes on multiple teams have no business training alongside the Olympic-caliber athletes that call Westwood home.
As a change, the athletic department could start challenging the merit of any potential walk-on’s athletic background to make sure they can potentially compete at the Division I level.
But as of now, there’s no doubt that there is evidence within the J. D. Morgan Center that demonstrates, at best, incompetence – and at worst, blatantly criminal behavior.
Take, for example, the former women’s soccer student-athlete who Salcedo succeeded in gaining admission to UCLA. She was described as having no competitive soccer experience, so a quick Google search would have revealed the fake athlete profile that was created for her.
No one in the admissions process was responsible enough to check.
Ultimately, the responsibility to recruit and fill out a roster belongs to coach Amanda Cromwell.
It’s time for the Morgan Center to be transparent with its knowledge and handling of recruits.
There is an abject systemic failure that must be exposed and excised if UCLA Athletics ever wants to retain its reputation.
At the very least, tell us if there are any more fake athletes.