The former sailing coach at Stanford University avoided prison time for his role in the Varsity Blues scandal on Wednesday when a federal judge in Boston sentenced him to one day in prison, which he was deemed to have served.
In 2017 and again in 2018, John Vandemoer agreed to designate applicants to Stanford as recruits on his sailing team in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars funneled through a bogus charity to his athletic program.
Vandemoer was fined $10,000 and must serve two years of supervised release.
Inside a Boston federal courthouse in March, the nationally-recognized sailing coach pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy.
"I would like to note he's the only coach in the country who did not accept bribes for himself," his attorney said outside the courthouse at the time.
Still, Stanford fired Vandemoer immediately and said it's cooperating with the investigation the FBI has dubbed Operation Varsity Blues.
Three months later, Stanford and other colleges and universities are painting themselves as victims in an elaborate scheme. They are also reminding coaches about conflict of interest policies and preparing to conduct audits this fall making sure recruited student-athletes are, in fact, on the roster.
At a time when polls show many Americans are skeptical of higher education, the scandal is casting a long shadow over this country's ivy-covered campuses.
"I think that when things get very bad, that motivates people," said developmental psychologist Howard Gardner, who teaches at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. "And I think things are very, very bad for the reputation of higher education."
For years, Gardner assumed admissions officers and coaches were extra careful.
"And we've now learned the hard way that you can't rely on that unless you take absolutely unscrupulous measures to make sure that everybody who is involved in that whole process is holier than the Pope," he said.
Gardner and other faculty said the college admissions scandal proves standards have become looser and schools like Harvard, Yale and Georgetown should not consider athletic talent in deciding which students to admit.
"We may think that to have a successful college that you have to have a great athletic team, but in no other country in the world in higher education is the role of athletics even considered, so the United States is an outlier," he said.
Brian Mitchell begs to differ. Mitchell is the author of the book "How To Run A College" and former president of Bucknell University, which has one of the largest varsity programs in the country. The school fields 27 teams competing in the Division I Patriot League.
"At a place like Bucknell, which is known as a jock and fraternity school for men and women, athletics plays a singularly significant role," Mitchell said.
He pointed out there is pressure to keep athletics going.
"Presidents run up against athletics at their own peril," he said.
The reason Bucknell, located in rural Pennsylvania, gives sway to obscure, so-called country club sports like tennis and water polo is simple: money.
College administrators have said the NCAA has a role to play in reforming student athlete recruitment but, so far, the agency has not provided them with any new guidelines.
Last month, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, introduced legislation that would end tax breaks for large donations to schools by wealthy families if they're made to influence admissions decisions. College fund-raisers are strongly opposing the bill.
Mitchell said that despite Operation Varsity Blues, the system is unlikely to change.
"Colleges operate on a system whereby the rich pay for the poor," Mitchell said. "If you live in Pennsylvania, water polo is a sport that attracts kids from Florida, Texas and California. They're often full-pay. Put the two together. Why not ... if you have the pool already?"