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The Tip, the Yale Coach and the Wire: How the College Admissions Scam Unraveled

14 March 2019

Nothing to do with books, but while PG was light blogging, he was visiting family and following this story when offspring were otherwise engaged.

Unfortunately for the academic institutions involved, these allegations are in line with a great many rumors and suppositions about how the college admissions process really works for those with the money to game the system.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Federal authorities were pursuing a securities fraud case last spring when a person involved, a financial executive hoping for leniency, said he had information of great interest on another matter, according to people familiar with the investigation.

The executive told investigators that the head women’s soccer coach at Yale University had sought a bribe in return for getting his daughter admitted to the Ivy League school, a person familiar with the investigation said.

Authorities zeroed on the coach who began cooperating in what federal investigators said was the biggest college-admissions fraud ever prosecuted.

From 2011 to 2018, prosecutors say, parents paid a total of $25 million to William Singer, a college-admissions consultant, to bribe coaches and administrators to designate their children as top recruits in such sports as football, water polo, soccer, track and volleyball at universities including the University of Southern California, Georgetown and Wake Forest. Some parents also allegedly paid Mr. Singer as much as $75,000 for test-cheating services.

Authorities have charged 33 parents who allegedly paid for illegal services to get their children into colleges; three people who were allegedly paid to fraudulently raise scores on SAT and ACT college-entrance exams, as well as nine college coaches and five others.

. . . .

A day after charges were unveiled, the new details revealed more about the origins and breadth of an investigation that snared families at the highest economic echelons, accused of pushing their way ahead of other college applicants with lies, bribes and cheating.

The case immediately became a national conversation, touching on class, merit and a hint of comeuppance. Most of the accused parents didn’t reveal to the children the lengths they would go to land a seat at a big-name university.

. . . .

Some of the most brazen deceptions weren’t easy to hide. A school counselor, for instance, wanted to know why one student was being recruited by a college water polo team when their high school didn’t even offer the sport.

Prosecutors said the plot attracted parents from affluent communities in California: Del Mar, Newport Beach, Beverly Hills, San Francisco, Atherton, Mill Valley and Palo Alto; and in the east, Greenwich, Conn., and New York City. The families spanned Silicon Valley to Hollywood to Wall Street.

“What we do is help the wealthiest families in the U.S. get their kids into school.” Mr. Singer told parent Gordon Caplan last June in a recorded call transcribed in a government affidavit released in Boston this week. “They want guarantees. They want this thing done.”

The response from Mr. Caplan, co-chairman of New York law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher, echoed other calls with parents, according to the affidavit transcripts: “To be honest, it feels a little weird. But…What do I need to do?”

. . . .

The initial tip led investigators to Rudy Meredith, the head coach of women’s soccer at Yale. He had worked with Mr. Singer in January 2018 to get the daughter of a California family into Yale by pretending she was a soccer player, according to prosecutors. The family paid Mr. Singer $1.2 million, according to the affidavit; Mr. Meredith’s share was $400,000.

. . . .

In April, Mr. Meredith met with the tipster parent, who was wearing a wire, at a hotel room in Boston, the person familiar with the matter said. During that meeting, Mr. Meredith offered a place at Yale for the parent’s daughter in exchange for $450,000, according to the person and court documents.

. . . .

Mr. Singer allegedly offered two services: Fraudulently boost children’s entrance-exam scores, or pay to have them falsely identified as a recruited athlete, a more expensive but guaranteed path.

Defendants recorded on calls include actress Felicity Huffman, former Pacific Investment Management Co. CEO Douglas Hodge, vintner Agustin Huneeus Jr. and private-equity investor John Wilson.

. . . .

Mr. Singer had long assured worried clients that hundreds of other families had taken advantage of his clandestine services. Yet, as more families engaged Mr. Singer’s Edge College & Career Network, LLC, the secret seemed harder and harder to keep.

In late 2017, a guidance counselor at the Buckley School in Sherman Oaks, a suburb of Los Angeles, wanted to know why USC was recruiting Matteo Sloane as a water polo player. The high school didn’t even have a team.

. . . .

The boy’s father, Devin Sloane, founder and chief executive of aquaTECTURE, a Los Angeles-based company that invests in water-treatment systems, had hired Mr. Singer to bribe a USC official to identify Matteo as an athletic recruit, the affidavit said.

One of the campus officials accused of working with Mr. Singer, Donna Heinel, then the senior associate athletic director at USC, sent an email to the university’s admissions director to explain the discrepancy, according to the affidavit. “He plays at LA Water Polo Club during the year and travels international during the summer with the youth junior team in Italy,” she wrote on April 11. “I don’t know if the people at [his high school] are unaware.”

She added, “He is small but he has a long torso but short strong legs plus he is fast which helps him win the draws to start play after goals are scored.”

. . . .

Thomas Kimmel, the son of defendant Elisabeth Kimmel, expressed confusion when he was asked about being a track athlete. Mr. Kimmel allegedly didn’t know it, according to the affidavit, but he had been admitted to USC last year after his mother, who owns a media company, used Mr. Singer to bribe Ms. Heinel. Thomas, according to his paperwork, was a pole vaulter.

Mr. Singer and his associates had crafted a profile of the boy as an elite athlete that included a photo of an actual vaulter. The boy’s high school, the Bishop’s School in La Jolla, Calif., had no record of his track-and-field feats, prosecutors said.

. . . .

In a conversation recorded by authorities, Mr. McGlashan was quoted a fee of $250,000 by Mr. Singer, who started his company, Edge College & Career Network.

“I would do that in a heartbeat,” said Mr. McGlashan, of Mill Valley, Calif., the managing partner of private-equity firm TPG Growth. He had already paid Mr. Singer $50,000 for an expert to surreptitiously correct his son’s college-entrance exam, according to government allegations. He would pay even more to have his son photoshopped into a star kicker for the USC football team.

Late last summer, Mr. McGlashan sent Mr. Singer sports photos of his son for an admissions package, intended to cast the teen as a recruit to the football team.The boy’s school, Marin Academy in Northern California, had no football team. But, Mr. McGlashan said, “He does have really strong legs…Pretty funny. The way the world works these days is unbelievable.”

. . . .

Mr. Huneeus allegedly paid Mr. Singer $50,000 to have someone sit with his daughter and correct answers while she took the SAT at a Los Angeles-area test center in March.

. . . .

Ms. Huffman, the actress, had allegedly paid $15,000 for Mr. Singer’s services to help her older daughter score well on a college entrance exam and was in talks with him for help with her second daughter. In a call recorded in December, her husband—actor William H. Macy, who hasn’t been charged—said the girl was interested in Georgetown, among other colleges.

In February while making arrangements for Ms. Huffman’s daughter to take the test in March, Mr. Singer said for the girl to get into Georgetown, she would have to score in the 1400-plus range.

Ms. Huffman told Mr. Singer that her daughter had scored around a 1200 in a practice SAT test with a tutor.

“I just didn’t know if it’d be odd for [the tutor] if we go, ‘Oh, she did this in— in March 9th, but she did so much better in May,’” Ms. Huffman said.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

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16 Comments to “The Tip, the Yale Coach and the Wire: How the College Admissions Scam Unraveled”

  1. When I saw that mentioned on the PBS Newshour, I just laughed and laughed.

    How a bombshell bribery scandal illuminates the ‘corruption’ of college admissions

    I will be in conversation with somebody, telling me how their kid is going to this or the other expensive University, and I always show sympathy and concern when I point out. “Oh, that’s too bad, not everyone can go to UNM.”

    Or they are saying where they went to University and I will say, “Oh, don’t apologize. Not everyone can go to UNM.”


  2. This one will have legs.

    Class action suits are already filed, more are coming.
    And the politicians are already conflating it with racial bias and affirmative action and the orange dude.

    Plenty of splatter to come.

  3. This is what happens when you pay the football coach millions and the soccer coach a pittance.

    • Can’t speak for every university, but the University of Michigan and the University of Alabama do not pay their football coaches. Their football programs make a profit and give money to the other sports. I can think of more than a dozen schools where this is the case.

      IME, at small colleges, the pay of football (round ball) coaches was comparable to the pay of football (oblate spheroid) coaches. Overall, the football (round ball) program took less money, but that was concomitant with all the gear that the football (oblate spheroid) players needed. And more players to be outfitted. And many more referees to be paid. And more coaches to be paid.


  4. This has blown up so spectacularly that people will be talking about for years. The fallout has been swift and brutal. Lori Laughlin has been mercilessly trolled on Twitter and Crown Media/Hallmark Channel has severed all ties with, including her Christmas movies and her two television series.

    Yale University, which already has egg on their face from other lawsuits about their admission practices, is completely apoplectic over this one.

  5. I guess this avenue was for those who couldn’t afford to donate a new wing to the Humanities building.

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