Brief Filed in Jovan Vavic Trial Reveals USC’s Interest in Wealthy Applicants

Water Polo Team

In an illuminating brief filed on March 7, the Larson team defending former University of Southern California (USC) water polo coach Jovan Vavic pointed to more than a dozen emails from USC employees evaluating student applicants based on their families’ wealth, several media outlets reported.

Partners Stephen G. Larson and Kori Bell requested USC officials be called as witnesses for the defense Mr. Vavic, who is on trial before a federal jury in Boston for his alleged role in the “Varsity Blues” college admissions case. He is accused of “accepting . . . bribes from William ‘Rick’ Singer, a California college admissions consultant who masterminded the sprawling bribery scheme,” to secure more funding for the USC water polo team, The Boston Globe summarized in its article on March 10.

In its article on March 9, Los Angeles Times reported on Stephen and Kori’s argument that “USC effectively required coaches to raise funds for their programs,” and referenced a previous statement from Stephen saying that Mr. Vavic’s charges “ignores the reality that at USC, a parent’s ability and willingness to contribute to the university, including to athletics, influenced admissions decisions.”

The Larson defense team seeks “to call three current and former USC officials to testify about the school’s fundraising practices. The emails . . . filed in court show that [the three officials] discussed giving ‘preferential admissions treatment for children of prospective donors, including with Coach Vavic,’” Stephen told the Los Angeles Times.

“In the emails,” Wall Street Journal noted in its article on March 9, “athletic-department administrators and staffers who raise money for USC speak openly about prime donor prospects and how to close deals . . . A staffer added dollar signs in reference to a family in one email, and noted in another that a family needed to ‘pay up’ before further favors would be granted.”

Wall Street Journal reported, “The correspondence includes former athletic director Pat Haden, former senior associate athletic director Donna Heinel, and USC fundraisers Scott Wandzilak and Alexandra Reisman, who at the time had the last name Bitterlin. Ms. Heinel has pleaded guilty for her role in the scandal; the others haven’t been accused of any wrongdoing.”

Mr. Vavic is the only coach who has not pled guilty in the “Varsity Blues” case, which includes 57 parents, coaches, and university officials charged.

Read the full article by Jennifer Levitz and Melissa Korn of Wall Street Journal here, the full article by Gregory Yee and Matthew Ormseth of Los Angeles Times here, and the full article by Shelley Murphy of The Boston Globe here (subscriptions required).


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