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Admissions scandal ringleader approached 7 Stanford coaches, external review finds

No additional fraud found beyond schemes involving former sailing coach

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An external review of Stanford athletic admissions found that while William Rick Singer — ringleader of the college admissions scandal — “approached seven Stanford coaches about potential recruits” from 2009 to 2019, there was no evidence of additional fraud beyond the scheme involving former head sailing coach John Vandemoer.

The $770,000 in funds funneled to Stanford through the scheme, which the University previously said will be directed to a “public good,” will be redistributed to “entities supporting financially challenged high school students” seeking support in their preparation for college admissions.

While the review clears the athletics department of involvement in any additional fraud, the review found “no systematic way for concerns about Singer to be elevated and addressed, to insure increased attention by others he attempted to contact.”

The University did not directly respond to questions on whether the coaches that Singer approached brought suspicions about Singer to the attention of the athletics department prior to the breakdown of the national bribery scandal.

Stanford announced the review in June following the unveiling of the multi-million dollar admissions bribery scandal. Its accompanying federal investigation, Operation Varsity Blues, ensnared high-profile Stanford affiliates and several sets of Bay Area parents, along with students at top-tier universities. Law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, hired to conduct the review, interviewed more than 55 people and examined more than 35,000 records.

Stanford announced on April 2 that it had expelled a sophomore undergraduate after discovering that her application contained falsified sailing credentials. Vandemoer pleaded guilty to charges that he accepted more than $100,000 in contributions to the sailing team in exchange for recruiting two other students — who ultimately did not enroll at Stanford — to the sailing team, despite neither one of them being a competitive sailor. Vandemoer was sentenced to one day in prison, in addition to a $10,000 fine, two years of supervised release and six months of home confinement.

The review also found flaws in the donation and athletics fundraising policies and made recommendations to improve them — all of which the University says they will be accepting. 

The University will codify a written policy to clarify that fundraising results are not considered when evaluating coach performance. Any “significant donations” to the Athletic Department will be independently verified for source and purpose by officers from the Office of Development, and coaches will be asked to flag to Admissions and the development office any recruits they discovered through a third party. 

This is in addition to a policy change in March that will subject all varsity athletic recruits to a background check to verify their athletic credentials. Previously, only the recruiting coach was responsible for reviewing those credentials before passing their recommendations to the admissions office. 

Contact Elena Shao at eshao98 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Elena Shao '21 is from Suwanee, Georgia. At The Daily, she is a Managing Editor for News. Outside, she's studying political science. She also enjoys learning foreign languages and is hoping to pursue a career as an investigative and data journalist. Contact her at eshao98 'at' stanford.edu.