The admissions scandal that recently hit some of the nation’s most prestigious colleges and universities has resulted in the largest prosecution of an alleged scheme to influence higher education admission decisions made at top tier institutions.
Approximately 50 people have been caught up in the investigation, including the organizer of the alleged scheme, coaches and testing administrators who were purportedly bribed, and wealthy parents of admission seeking students.
The ongoing investigation is named “Operation Varsity Blues,” a title that was also used for a 1999 cult movie starring James Van Der Beek, Jon Voight, Paul Walker, Ron Lester, and Scott Caan. The film’s plot features a small town football team in a sports crazed Texas community, where players deal with teenage angst while coping with an obsessive coach played by Voight.
Van Der Beek portrays a backup quarterback who gains the starting position when the first string QB is injured. Much to the chagrin of Van Der Beek’s character’s father, he wants to attend an Ivy League school.
“Varsity Blues” is best known for a scene in which the quarterback son shouts to his football obsessed father the following words: “I don’t want your life!”
The actor recently referenced the famous film quote in a Twitter post about the breaking news of the college admissions scandal.
“If only there was a succinct turn of phrase these kids could have used to inform their parents they were not desirous of their life path,” Van Der Beek posted.
When prosecutors and investigators used the title of a movie as a name for their investigation, they may not have fully realized the bizarre “life imitates art” connections, which the facts presented with respect to the two most famous defendants involved in the case, actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Laughlin.
The allegations in the indictment against Huffman are remarkably similar to a plot line in an episode of the television show in which Huffman starred, “Desperate Housewives.” In the fifth episode of the first season of the ABC television series, Huffman’s character and her fictitious husband contribute money to an elite private school in order to gain admission for their children.
“A generous donation will ensure our kids beat ’em out,” Huffman’s character explains to her spouse.
When the husband asks about the requisite amount, Huffman’s character replies, “$15,000.”
Ironically, the amount of $15,000 is the exact sum that Huffman is alleged to have paid in the form of a charitable donation to facilitate a higher score on her real life daughter’s standardized test. The scheme involved an alleged bribe to a proctor at a testing center who would then modify the daughter’s answers in order to raise her final score.
Meanwhile Loughlin, who starred in the television series “Full House,” appeared in one episode that had a plot line, which would end up foreshadowing future trouble with legal authorities. In episode fifteen of season six, which incidentally also aired on ABC, Loughlin’s character’s husband Jesse, played by John Stamos, attempts to prevaricate in order to obtain admission to a prestigious pre-school for their fictitious twin sons. In a conversation with Joey, portrayed by David Coulier. Jesse reveals his plans to lie in order to gain access to the school for his boys.
“I’m their father,” Jesse says. “If I don’t lie for them, who will?”
Jesse plots to misrepresent his profession as that of a diplomat and to boast of his toddler sons’ abilities to speak foreign languages and play various musical instruments.
Loughlin’s character puts a stop to Jesse’s plans and helps guide the family to the realization that an elite pre-school may not be the best thing for their children.
Loughlin’s character says to Jesse, “I know you want what’s best for them, but maybe the fast track isn’t it,” adding that the two boys are “normal, healthy kids and whatever track they’re on, they seem to be doing OK.”
Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli, Loughlin’s real life fashion designer husband and creator of the Mossimo clothing line, were accused in the indictment of paying $500,000 disguised as a charitable donation, so that a university admissions committee would be led to believe that their two daughters would be joining the women’s rowing team at the school, when in reality neither had ever received training or participated in the sport.