Stanford says man behind admissions scandal contacted several coaches

The mastermind behind the national college admissions scandal had approached seven Stanford coaches over the last decade as he schemed to buy his clients’ kids coveted spots as bogus sports recruits at the country’s elite universities.

Only one of the coaches, the former sailing coach who pleaded guilty earlier this year, went along with the fraud, according to an investigation funded by the university and unveiled Tuesday. But Stanford did not address whether other coaches tried to raise red flags with administrators.

The revelations came this week as Stanford announced several new policies to bolster admission oversight in light of the scandal.

William “Rick” Singer, the Newport Beach college consultant who pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and other charges in March, is awaiting sentencing in the nationwide scheme of selling test cheating and fraudulent athletic recruitment to elite universities, including Stanford, USC and Georgetown.

Among those caught up in the scandal along with Hollywood actresses, Silicon Valley moguls and wealthy executives was former Stanford head sailing coach John Vandemoer. He pleaded guilty in March and was sentenced to a day served in prison, six months home confinement and probation for accepting bribes through Singer totaling $770,000 to recommend students for admission as his athletic recruits even though they weren’t competitive sailors.

Stanford said it hired an international law firm to investigate, which interviewed more than 55 people and obtained and reviewed more than 35,000 records. The university released a statement about the findings this week, but a spokesman Tuesday said Stanford had no further comment about the investigation.

Kirk O. Hanson, a senior fellow of Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics who taught business at Stanford for 23 years, said the scandal is prompting Stanford and other universities to adopt policies for reporting suspected fraud similar to those at large companies.

“I think this is a good example of how organizations don’t get their ethics procedures fully in place until they’ve had a scandal,” Hanson said. “Organizations today are expected to have reporting systems that would have brought the approaches to the other coaches to the attention of senior management.”

The review found “Singer directly or indirectly approached seven Stanford coaches about potential recruits between 2009 and 2019” but “no evidence that any employee of Stanford Athletics other than the former head sailing coach agreed to support a Singer client in exchange for a financial consideration.”

While the review found “no evidence of any other fraudulent schemes for the admission of student-athletes during this period,” it also noted “there was no systematic way for concerns about Singer to be elevated and addressed, to ensure increased attention by others he attempted to contact.”

The University of California system launched two audits, and one of them completed in June found “no widespread problems or weaknesses.” But it prompted UC to strengthen oversight including monitoring student-athletes’ participation in athletic programs. The second UC audit, which will include a closer look at application verification controls and student-athlete participation, is expected to be completed early next year.

Vandemoer was among the first besides Singer to plead guilty in the scheme, in which test proctors, coaches and dozens of wealthy parents also have been charged. Stanford fired him that day.

He steered a total of $770,000 from Singer to Stanford’s sailing program.

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