Austin announces student athlete admissions reform

Interim President Wanda Austin announced several changes to the athletic admissions process for next year. (Josh Dunst/Daily Trojan)

Interim President Wanda Austin announced several changes to the athletic admissions process after the Justice Department launched an investigation into the University last month, according to a memo sent to the USC community Wednesday.

The Department of Justice investigation followed an FBI investigation that revealed a college bribery scheme in which 33 wealthy parents paid to have their children admitted to universities like USC, UCLA, Yale and Stanford under false pretenses.

“While we continue to cooperate with the government’s investigation, and while our own investigation led by the Office of Professionalism and Ethics remains ongoing, USC has greatly strengthened its process for reviewing applications of prospective student-athletes, effective this month,” Austin wrote.

The changes include more oversight in the student-athlete admissions process that the University will implement for student athletes considered for admission for the 2019-20 academic year, Austin wrote.

Student athlete applications will now be reviewed by a head coach, senior sports administrator overseeing the team and the Office of Athletics Compliance before they are sent to the admissions staff, the memo said.

According to the FBI investigation, former senior associate athletic director Donna Heinel, former water polo coach Jovan Vavic and former soccer coaches Ali Khosroshahin and Laura Janke helped create fake athletic profiles for the children of wealthy parents to ensure admission to USC. The students, who were admitted as athletic recruits, never played the sports for which they were accepted.

Each team’s head coach will then confirm in writing that each student has been recruited for their athletic ability, the memo said. At the beginning and end of each academic year, each team’s athletic roster will be audited and checked with admissions lists,  the memo read.

“Ensuring the integrity of our admissions process remains a top priority of University leadership,” Austin wrote. “I appreciate the patience of our community as we continue to work toward making our University stronger.”

The memo also provided an update on the students currently enrolled in the University who are tied to the bribery scheme. According to the memo, students have been notified of a review of their admissions status through Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards and most have completed their initial interviews.

“The possible outcomes range from no finding of violation to revocation of admission and will depend on the facts of each case,” Austin wrote.    

The memo said though the University is being investigated by the Department of Justice for its student-athlete admissions process, USC’s internal investigation will “examine the wider scope of how students gain admittance to the University.”