Investigators look into whether USC great Pat Haden was involved in college admissions scheme

Former USC athletic director Pat Haden is under scrutiny in an investigation into admissions fraud that has ensnared several former USC employees.
Former USC athletic director Pat Haden is under scrutiny in an investigation into admissions fraud that has ensnared several former USC employees.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Federal investigators are scrutinizing whether Pat Haden, the former USC athletic director, was involved in the college admissions bribery and cheating scheme carried out by William “Rick” Singer, according to a source with knowledge of the case.

In response to questions about his possible involvement with Singer, Haden issued a statement Wednesday through his son-in-law denying wrongdoing:

“Like many people, I was introduced to Mr. Singer several years ago by a friend. I was unaware of his illegal activities and had no ongoing relationship with him whatsoever.”


Donnie Dixon Haden said his father-in-law had not “been contacted by or spoken to federal authorities.”

Haden, 66, has not responded to several interview requests from The Times since March, when prosecutors unveiled their sweeping investigation into Singer’s admissions scam that involved allegations of wrongdoing at USC and several other universities.

Prosecutors’ interest in Haden was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

A former quarterback with USC’s vaunted football program, Haden went on to play for the Rams. After stints practicing law and pursuing business ventures, he returned to USC in 2010 to head its athletics program. He remained in the post six years before stepping down.

Shortly before his departure, Haden came under scrutiny when The Times reported he had pocketed more than $1 million in his role as chairman of a foundation that gave academic scholarships to students studying at USC and elsewhere.

Haden, his daughter and sister-in-law together collected a total of about $2.4 million from the foundation for part-time roles that involved minimal work during a period when the number of scholarships awarded by the charity fell dramatically, The Times found.

Questions about Haden’s possible involvement with Singer have swirled since prosecutors detailed in court papers the role one of his former deputies at USC, Donna Heinel, allegedly played in helping Singer sneak the children of wealthy clients into USC by falsely claiming they were recruited athletes.


Heinel has pleaded not guilty to the racketeering conspiracy charge she faces in the case. Singer, who cooperated with investigators after his illicit operation was discovered, pleaded guilty to several felonies as part of deal he struck with prosecutors in hopes of winning some leniency when he is sentenced.

Heinel is one of four former USC employees accused of conspiring with Singer. Jovan Vavic, the school’s longtime water polo coach, and Heinel were fired when the indictment was unsealed. Vavic has pleaded not guilty in the case. Laura Janke, an assistant soccer coach at USC from 2007 to 2014, has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing. And Ali Khosroshahin, the head women’s soccer coach at USC from 2007 to 2013, said Monday he would plead guilty and cooperate with investigators.

Wanda Austin, USC’s interim president, said in April that going forward, athletic recruits will be vetted by three parties before being presented to admissions committees. Team rosters will be audited at the beginning and end of every academic year, Austin added.