College admissions scam: USC announces changes to student-athlete admissions process

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The University of Southern California announced a revamped admissions process for prospective student-athletes in the wake of the national college admissions scam.

The new procedures include a three-tiered review from the head coach, the senior sports administrator overseeing the team and the USC Office of Athletics Compliance before being sent to the admissions staff, USC announced Friday. The head coach will then certify in writing that the student is in fact being recruited for his or her athletic abilities. Athletic rosters will also be audited at the beginning and end of each academic year and cross checked with admissions lists.

"We are determined to take all necessary steps to safeguard the integrity of our admissions process and to ensure we conduct ourselves in a manner that is consistent with our values," the university said in a statement.

The changes went into effective this month, according to USC, and will be enforced for any student-athlete considered for admission during the 2019-20 academic year.

In a far-reaching investigation dubbed "Operation Varsity Blues," federal prosecutors last month charged 50 people in the scandal which involved bribes to gain admission for students applying to top universities around the country, including USC. Those charged include coaches and parents, including CEOs and Hollywood actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. It's the largest college cheating scam ever prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice, according to officials.

Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, are accused of spending $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters admitted to USC as crew recruits, even though neither is a rower.

Both parents reportedly said they didn't realize their actions were illegal.

"When they fight this, they're going to give a lot more nuance and mitigating circumstances that will help put their alleged actions into context," the source told People Magazine. "The bottom line is that they just didn't realize that what they were doing was illegal."

The source said that the couple thought they were hiring a consultant to do what was needed and that it was similar to other parents "calling in favors, donating money to the alumni association, hiring consultants."

"When it all fell apart, nobody was as surprised as they were that they were in trouble," the source said.

If convicted, Loughlin and Giannulli could face up to 20 years in prison per charge.

USC students expressed frustration earlier this month over the plea deals being made in the scam.

The U.S. Attorney's Office cut plea bargains with 13 parents accused of getting their kids into prestigious colleges through bribes. One of the university coaches charged in the scam also cut a deal.
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