Bribery Scandal Points To the Athletic Factor: A Major Force In College Admissions

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The University of Michigan, a charter member of the Big Ten, is widely regarded as an athletic powerhouse. Brown University is not. The Wolverines are a household name and routinely draw national television audiences for football and basketball. Brown’s Bears are not and do not.

But federal data show the Ivy League school equals Michigan on one measure: They each had 910 varsity athletes in 2017.

Because Brown is smaller and more exclusive, that means a far larger share of its coveted admission offers every year — nearly 9 percent — are set aside for recruiting in sports from baseball to water polo. The athletic portion of admissions for Michigan’s public flagship is 2 percent.

These are two examples among many — drawn from interviews, documents and a Washington Post survey — that illuminate the powerful and pervasive role sports play in admissions to the nation’s most prestigious private colleges and universities.

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