Two athletic department employees at the University of Southern California (USC) have been fired after being indicted for their alleged roles in a racketeering conspiracy that helped students get into colleges by falsely designating them as athletes.
The Los Angeles Times reports that senior associate athletic director Donna Heinel and men’s and women’s water polo coach Jovan Vavic have been fired. They allegedly took bribes totaling more than $1.3 million and $250,000, respectively, to help parents take advantage of the relaxed admissions standards for athletes at USC even though their children were not legitimately being recruited as athletes.
Heinel is USC athletics’ chief administrative officer and senior woman administrator. Vavic has led the Trojans’ water polo teams to a combined 16 national championships and is a 15-time national coach of the year.
Former USC women’s soccer coach Ali Khosroshahin, who was fired in 2013, and his former assistant coach, Laura Janke, who left the school in 2014, also were named in the indictment for allegedly fabricating athlete profiles for the prospective students. Khosroshahin and Janke allegedly received payments totaling nearly $350,000 sent to their private soccer club.
Federal prosecutors have charged dozens of people — including UCLA men’s soccer coach Jorge Salcedo and actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin — in connection with an elaborate scheme aimed at getting students into elite colleges.
UCLA has issued a statement that "Salcedo has been placed on leave and will have no involvement with the soccer team while this matter is under review."
The scheme centered on the owner of a for-profit Newport Beach, Calif., college admissions company that wealthy parents allegedly paid to help their children cheat on college entrance exams and falsify athletic records of students to enable them to secure admission to elite schools for which they otherwise might not qualify, according to court records.
“We are aware of the ongoing wide-ranging criminal investigation involving universities nationwide, including USC,” said a USC statement. “USC has not been accused of any wrongdoing and will continue to cooperate fully with the government’s investigation.
“We understand that the government believes that illegal activity was carried out by individuals who went to great lengths to conceal their actions from the university. USC is conducting an internal investigation and will take employment actions as appropriate.
The other athletic departments named in the alleged racketeering scheme are Yale, Georgetown, Wake Forest, Stanford, Texas and the University of San Diego.