Ex-coach charged in admissions scandal accuses UCLA of admitting unqualified athletes

Former UCLA soccer coach Jorge Salcedo departs federal court in Boston, where he was charged with participating in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal, on March 25, 2019.
Former UCLA soccer coach Jorge Salcedo departs federal court in Boston, where he was charged with participating in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal, on March 25, 2019.
(Steven Senne / Associated Press)

Jorge Salcedo, the former UCLA men’s soccer coach charged in the college admissions scandal, accused the school of using athlete admissions “as a vehicle to raise funds” in a motion filed by his attorneys in U.S. District Court in Boston.

The motion filed late Thursday seeks authorization to subpoena a wide variety of documents from UCLA and the University of California.

“UCLA’s own internal documents reveal that, for many years, its Athletic Department has facilitated the admission of unqualified applicants — students who do not meet UCLA’s rigorous academic or athletics standards — through the student-athlete admissions process in exchange for huge ‘donations’ by the students’ wealthy parents,” the motion said.

“These documents, which UCLA did not disclose to the government before this prosecution, tell a compelling behind-the-scenes story, one that undermines the Superseding Indictment’s narrative by definitely proving that UCLA is not a victim of a fraud scheme,” it said.

The motion alleged, as well, that UCLA has admitted non-athletes as sports recruits to help boost team grade-point averages. No names or other specifics were provided.


Salcedo resigned in March after being arrested by FBI agents as part of the nationwide investigation into fraudulent college admissions dubbed “Varsity Blues.” Prosecutors alleged the longtime coach accepted $200,000 in bribes from Rick Singer, the scheme’s admitted mastermind, to facilitate the admission of two students to UCLA as soccer recruits though they didn’t play the sport.

Salcedo, the only UCLA coach linked to the investigation, faces five charges, including conspiracy to commit racketeering. He has pleaded not guilty.

A UCLA spokesman didn’t immediately comment on the motion.

The filing by Salcedo’s Boston-based attorneys, Thomas Frongillo and Christina Lindberg, revolves around a confidential investigation UCLA conducted in 2014 into the admissions of two students as athletes. The Times first reported in April details of the probe, which had not been previously disclosed.

The report from the UCLA investigation found that one student was admitted as a recruited track and field athlete, despite having personal-best times that weren’t competitive at the college level, as “quid pro quo” for her parents giving $100,000 to the athletics program. Singer tried to get another student admitted as a water polo player, the report said, though she didn’t play the sport. The college admissions consultant also advised at least two students recruited for the UCLA men’s tennis team, according to the report, despite the school categorizing their athletic ability as “limited.”

The report said the admission of the would-be water polo player was rejected after her lack of experience in the sport was discovered. The motion, however, alleged that UCLA “reinstated its prior decision” to admit the student and that she graduated from UCLA.

Rick Singer’s pitch: For a fee he could help get children of affluent parents onto USC, UCLA teams, even if they didn’t play the sport. Most didn’t.

The school responded to the report’s findings by disciplining a handful of coaches and banning donations from families of athletic recruits until they enrolled.

“Well before the events regarding Mr. Salcedo are alleged to have occurred, there is compelling and persuasive proof that UCLA -— not Mr. Salcedo — had originated and executed ‘The Student-Athlete Recruitment Scam,’” the motion said. “Immediately following news of the indictment, UCLA feigned shock and outrage about the allegations concerning Mr. Salcedo and defended its student-athlete admissions process as one of the toughest in the country.”

The motion added: “This information was a veritable road map to what the government now calls the ‘Student-Athlete Recruitment Scam.’”

In mid-April, UCLA said in a statement that it had voluntarily shared information about the report with authorities. Two weeks later, Eric Rosen, an assistant U.S. attorney in Boston, wrote in an email to Salcedo’s attorneys, which was attached to the motion: “I don’t have the compliance review from UCLA — you’ll have to seek from UCLA.”

A UCLA spokesman said the school provided a copy of the report to authorities in August.

Frongillo, part of Salcedo’s legal team, declined to comment on the motion.

The potential subpoena to UCLA seeks material across 48 categories, including an unredacted copy of the 2014 report, communication from top athletic department officials such as athletic director Dan Guerrero and senior associate athletic director Josh Rebholz, pledge agreements, investigative records and wide-ranging documents about any dealings between Singer and the school.

The Times obtained a document that provides a rare look into the unfiltered thoughts of college leaders on key issues facing the organization.

It also asks for documents connected to the admission of children or relatives of UCLA staffers as recruited athletes. The Times reported in July that a student with no competitive record in gymnastics joined UCLA’s powerhouse team as a recruited athlete in 2016, one of at least 18 students admitted as recruits in recent years who were children of coaches or administrators at the school or had close ties with them.

The second potential subpoena — directed to the University of California — requests five categories of material. They include all communications regarding the 2014 report.

The motion accused UCLA of “stonewalling” efforts by defense attorneys to obtain some of the material through California Public Records Act requests made in April and May by “only producing minimal documents and imposing a litany of objections.”

“It has even tried to hide behind the government’s ‘ongoing criminal investigation’ as an excuse for nonproduction,” the motion said. “Mr. Salcedo’s liberty is at stake. UCLA’s apparent public relations concerns provide no basis for withholding evidence.”