Parents Ponying Up to Pad Kids' College Resumes Is a Gala Thing

(Bloomberg) -- It would have been a tempting possibility on any night for this crowd, who were gathered to support Randall’s Island Park Alliance, the nonprofit that helps maintain the soccer and ball fields their children and so many of New York City’s adult leagues play on.

But a day after a college admissions scandal came to light, exposing how some parents arranged to pass off their kids as athletes to help them get into college -- well, let’s just say the auctioneer recognized an opportunity to let some high-achieving soccer moms and dads blow off steam.

Parents Ponying Up to Pad Kids' College Resumes Is a Gala Thing

The auctioneer was Sunil Gulati, former president of the U.S. Soccer Federation and lecturer on economics at Columbia University, and his offer was a training session for 18 players led by U.S. women’s soccer team member Carli Lloyd and a couple of coaches.

“Think about this: On that college application, ‘Trained with Carli Lloyd,’” Gulati said. Bidding quickly jumped to $16,000 from $10,000.

“Do your love your daughter or what? And her friends!” he added. “Eighteen college applications of kids that can say they trained with Carli Lloyd. Open market value, $3.4 million.”

The package went for $20,000, after Gulati tried to throw in a deal-sweetener:

Parents Ponying Up to Pad Kids' College Resumes Is a Gala Thing

“Carli’s going to pay for you to go the World Cup,” he said.

“I don’t get paid enough!” Lloyd said, referring to the suit that she and 27 other members of the world champion U.S. women’s soccer team filed against U.S. Soccer last week for gender discrimination.

Over cocktails and dinner at Ziegfeld Ballroom, parents were processing the college scandal. Lorri Ahl, a financial adviser sitting with a group of moms she’s known since their kids were in nursery school, was upset at the unethical behavior described, but said it wasn’t representative. “We are still Americans, and we still have ethics. We who live that and believe that, will hopefully come through in the end.”

Parents Ponying Up to Pad Kids' College Resumes Is a Gala Thing

Jerry Goldman, a retired partner at Ernst & Young, described his experience as a volunteer developing programs on Randall’s Island (he’s served on the board for almost two decades) and coaching baseball at the Laboratory School of Finance & Technology in the Bronx.

“I see all these people working their asses off to improve their lives, and other people’s lives, day in day out,” he said. “This country has to be exposed to these kinds of people, so we can push for better behavior."

Courtney Hall, co-founder of Hillcrest Venture Partners and a former offensive lineman for the San Diego Chargers, focused his anger on the scheme to buy more time for standardized test-taking by claiming learning disabilities.

“It’s disgusting, knowing the effort it takes to get kids to a level where they feel comfortable,” he said.

Parents Ponying Up to Pad Kids' College Resumes Is a Gala Thing

As for the athletics component, Hall was proof that actually playing the sport you say you do can pay off. He went to Rice University when he was just 16 years old, and after his NFL career received a joint MBA and law degree from the University of Chicago. As a venture capitalist, he led an early investment in NS8, a cyber-security firm.

The athlete of the night, though, was two-time Olympic gold medalist Lloyd, who accepted an honor from the alliance and said one day she’ll come to play on a Randall’s Island field.

The Governors Ball Music Festival was also honored, so of course there was music. The L Train Brass Band marched past Christine and Richard Mack, Kate and Brad Peck and about 650 other guests on their way to the stage, while the Staten Island band Bueno did a few songs over dessert. On the way out, volunteers passed out freshly made Doughnuttery donuts.

Parents Ponying Up to Pad Kids' College Resumes Is a Gala Thing
Parents Ponying Up to Pad Kids' College Resumes Is a Gala Thing

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