Does the judge who jailed Toby MacFarlane for attempting to bribe his kids’ way into college have any idea how higher education has worked for decades? Displacing better qualified students happens literally thousands of times a year. Athletes, legacy offspring and affirmative-action students benefit from double-standards.

U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton sentenced MacFarlane to six months in prison for paying $450,000 to get his daughter and son admitted to the University of Southern California falsely as athletic recruits, taking seats away from two deserving students. Judge Gorton called MacFarlane “a thief.”

The judge said, “Higher education in this country aspires to be a meritocracy.” But this is often not true for athletes, legacy students, and affirmative-action exceptions. The judge added that MacFarlane tried to work his “way around the rules that apply to everyone else.” But these rules do not apply to everyone else. There are thousands of exceptions annually.

In athletics the double-standards are scandalous and I say this as a former athlete at the University of Michigan. I turn to my own alma mater to explain how admission often works. In March 2008, the Ann Arbor News ran a four-part series entitled, “Image and Reality of University of Michigan Athletics and Academics.”