I’m not about to join the $500 billion lawsuit filed by a parent who felt her child was denied access to college as a result of the admittance of fake athletes scandal uncovered last week by the FBI. This included several high-profile universities, among them and the closest to us, University of Southern California.
But I’m personally affected by this one and I don’t care if it was the daughter of Aunt Becky from "Full House," Tony from "Who’s the Boss" or Mr. Belvedere himself; someone owes me and some student-athletes I worked with at the very least an apology.
Essentially, if you were rich enough, you hired this consultant who would do everything from having someone take your child’s SATs, or correct the answers before submitting them, to creating fake athlete-profiles and then paying off administrators and coaches to get them slotted as “recruits.” This put them into another category and then into school through this “side door” we keep hearing about.
While I don’t intend to collect on anything, I’ll tell you this: USC was in the same water polo conference as Cal State Bakersfield during the program’s final years playing the sport. I say final years because after taking relentless beatings from the likes of USC, UCLA, Stanford and Cal, CSUB ultimately canceled the program in 2017. We never won a conference game, but that didn’t make it any easier telling a group of young ladies that their sport was no longer. Now they know they played against cheaters, which in some way contributed to their demise. Fight On? It’d be nice if USC tried to Fight Fair for once.
Jovan Vavic was the head coach of USC women’s water polo, before he was fired last week for allegedly taking $250,000 payments and admitting fake athletes. Some of that money was personal, some came to his program in the way of donations. CSUB was just trying to literally stay afloat in the water polo world, and this man was thriving, and no doubt his program benefited. I crossed his path once at a conference tournament we hosted. Water polo enthusiasts acted like he walked on water; come to find out he's accused of being a crook. Glad I wasn’t impressed then because now I’d feel let down.
I am disappointed in USC athletic director Lynn Swann. I interviewed him once when he was running for Congress in 2008. He made sure he mentioned that he was a four-time Superbowl Champion and NFL Hall of Famer. That’s nice, because he sure is a lousy athletic director, now sifting through his second FBI-led scandal for the Trojans. They should build a holding cell at Heritage Hall, or at least a satellite office so the FBI field agents don’t have to commute in LA traffic.
Swann oversaw an athletics department that employed Donna Heinel, a senior associate athletic director who allegedly accepted $1.3 million in bribes. She was also the one alleged to have presented the “recruits” in front of regents and pushing them through admittance. To make matters worse, Heinel ran a company that charged recruits for help with the rules and regulations of the NCAA recruiting process. This is work that should be done for free. I’m a part of an organization that provides those services as a nonprofit; our only payment is the satisfaction that we’re helping young people achieve their college and professional dreams. I guess that’s not enough for some people and that’s a shame.
While this bothers me for a variety of personal reasons, I’m not the victim. It’s the real athletes who spent the time, did the work and made the effort who were cheated. It’s the normal students as well, who for some their academic merit wasn’t enough to get them into “prestigious” universities because a 1990s sitcom star beat them to the bank, and ultimately to admissions.
Then again, those students probably went to other schools and will do amazing things, accomplishments far too valuable for institutions like USC, Yale, Stanford and Georgetown. The institution’s name on a degree is only as valuable as the integrity behind it.
Despite all their resources, that is something these institutions apparently can’t afford.
Corey Costelloe has covered NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides in Tehachapi. He can be reached at email@example.com. The opinions expressed are his own.