USC Fires Water Polo Coach Vavic, Administrator Heinel After Indictment

The University of Southern California has fired 15-time national water polo coach of the year Jovan Vavic and senior associate athletic director Donna Heinel after the two were indicted in federal court today for their roles in a scheme prosecutors say helped students cheat college entrance exams and admissions processes.

We covered the whole scandal in more depth earlier today, and you can read that story here. Essentially, a college counseling service connected to a non-profit foundation would take large payments from wealthy parents, using them to bribe various officials to get the parents children into prestigious colleges, prosecutors say. The foundation is accused of arranging for stand-ins to take the ACT or SAT exams for students, and also of getting students falsely classified as recruited athletes in order to benefit from lowered academic standards for admission.

The federal complaint says that Vavic would take payouts from the foundation in exchange for listing students as recruited athletes for the USC water polo team. The students wouldn’t ever actually join the water polo team (some may not have even played the sport at all), but would be subjected to less-strict academic admissions standards when applying to the school. The indictment says that the founder of the foundation paid Vavic at least $250,000 through various channels, and paid for Vavic’s children to attend private school, disguising the payments as a scholarship.

Heinel is accused of helping that process, receiving payments to help students get admitted to the university even if their athletic credentials were falsified. The legal complaint includes transcripts of conversations suggesting that the scam would photoshop false photos of the students playing the sports they didn’t play, to help sell the falsified athletic resumes better.

The OC Register reports that USC has fired both Vavic and Heinel today after the indictment.

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OMG… photoshopped pics of non-water-polo-players playing water polo?? In matches??!! Show us these pics!!


Disgusting. USC needs to do a thorough investigation and expel these kids who got in through fraud.


Unless the kids were involved, I don’t think that would be ok… it’s the university’s failure I mean this is an egregious level of incompetence from several levels of the university, and that’s generous. The university shouldn’t be able to expel the kids and just wipe their hands.


Perhaps. Only after investigation certainly. But I find it hard to believe you would find these young adult’s hands to be clean in this. No doubt, if not, the result of a fine upbringing from parents who certainly not.

Steve Nolan

The kids posed for photos pretending to play water polo. I posted this on the other story but it’s so funny:

Ctrl + F “Amazon” to find it.


In one part of the indictment CW-1 tells the parent to take a water polo pose picture again because no one would believe the fake player could get that high out of the water. Yeah right this kid didn’t know what was going on


Any kid that isn’t aware of their own test grades (submitting a higher score than they know they’ve achieved) deserves to be kicked out.
I find it hard to believe kids would be completely ignorant of what’s going on in their application process. And if they are maybe they learn the lesson of being involved in their own lives instead of letting others run it for them.


I can see what you’re saying and I don’t necessarily disagree, but the tone and general direction of anger is what concerns me. I don’t know how we discipline things like this, but the university needs to take the vast majority of the blame. Maybe the kids deserve some too, but they’re kids. My anger is directed at the institutions that encouraged this type of behavior. I won’t complain if the kids have their admissions revoked, but I will complain if the universities are able to wash their hands of this with a few expulsions. This is a systemic failure and the buck does not stop with the kids.

Bearly Breathing

>but they’re kids

I believe the vast majority if not all of these kids were 18 at the time they started at USC. At what point are they considered adult enough to shoulder responsibility for their academic career?


18 year olds can vote sign legally biding contracts. They can apply for transfer and / or admission to many other institutions on the same terms as any other young adult


Did you read the rest of what I said?


The kids 100 percent knew what was going down. My kids worked their butts off to go to a division 1 school on a full swim scholarship from the age of 6 years. Never would they had gone for anything like this.


As I said above, I don’t necessarily disagree, but the majority of anger and punishment should be directed at the institution. It’s almost like you cherry picked the specific parts of my post that would make you angry without reading the rest…


Yes. I’m unsure of how situations like this should be disciplined, and I won’t complain about admissions being revoked. But negligent (generous characterization) institutions need to be the focus of our ire.


Don’t blame the university, blame the parents and the coaches/administrator crooks that did this. Universities have the right to assume that the people they hire are going to do the right thing and not be unlawful crooks!


if you cheat to get in you should be expelled. Period.


Agreed. They 100 percent knew what was up.

2 Cents

I agree with you. As someone who was once their age, I would have done anything just to shut my parents up. If they said pose for this photo so you can go to the school I want you to go to, then I would have just said okay, whatever. I would have had other things on my mind than a college application to a school I didn’t care that much about. Think of it this way, take the kid out and replace him/her with another kid… would/could the same thing still happen? Then think about if the parents were replaced and it was the same kid, would/could the same thing still happen? It was clearly driven by the parents,… Read more »

2 Cents

As I read the details on that deadspin article, it is clear that the kids knew NOTHING, and the parents did this all behind their backs and without their consent.

Also, the KIDS didn’t necessarily pose for photos as much as the parents took “action” photos of them so that they could be photo shopped onto a stock photo.

This just reinforces my opinion that the KIDS should not be punished or kicked out for this, but the parents should pay the price (not fines but with time…behind bars… sorry Aunt Becky!!)


Read the actual indictment. While some parents kept their kids in the dark, other kids knew what was happening. Most of the parents live in California and most of the offenses involved USC! No surprise. From my experience with these types of people who feel entitled, they will go to great lengths to elevate their own (families, friends) at the expense of others.

2 Cents

So if some didn’t know, like you acknowledge, then why expel all of them? How can you tell one from the other as far as who knew and who didn’t. Even if some of the kids knew what was going on, they were following their parent’s and other adults actions, thus giving them the impression that it was at the very least, somewhat okay to do. If the kids find out and feel compelled to pull out of the school, more power to them. If they are doing fine in the school and fit in and handling their work and decide to stay even after finding out they got in because of some shady illegal stuff their parents did, I… Read more »


I understand where EAGLESWIM is coming from. Unfortunately, I had first hand experience in dealing with unethical, cut-throat, entitled adults. The not-for profit team my child was on consistently cheated. The board members from Palos Verdes,CA and Rolling Hills, CA were by far the most corrupt. Rolling Hills is a gated city on the Palos Verdes Peninsula where home values are a couple million dollars to 40 million (house just sold). The Rolling Hills resident phoned me stating I caused problems for the team because I asked a meet official at a meet to clarify the rules. The Rolling Hills resident and the coach offered to cheat for my child as well, I declined the offer. At the board meeting,… Read more »

Ol' Longhorn

And — of course — the senior associate AD was a swimmer back in the day (all-american) at Springfield College. Kudos (if that’s possible) for USC firing them the same day.


Typical USC. See Reggie bush matt leinart et al
Rinse repeat

They cheat as a way of life

Ol' Longhorn

And then there’s….O.J.


Is it typical Georgetown, Stanford, UCLA, Wake Forest and Yale like it was reported earlier?


We’ll see. It sure as hell is for U$C


Stanford Sailing coach got fired this afternoon as well. Widespread. No excuse for SC but hardly the only one involved.


So far 4 Trojans busted. The leaders in corruption. Year in/year out

2 Cents

They are neck and neck with unc. At least unc is smart enough to just make fake classes for real athletes, and not take fake athletes and put them in real classes.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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