USC Fires Top Athletics Administrators Over Scandal

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Three of the most senior officials in the University of Southern California athletic department, including CFO and COO Steve Lopes, were fired Tuesday in part for their roles in the "Varsity Blues" admissions scandal, sources told the Los Angeles Times.

Ron Orr, a senior associate athletic director who led the Trojan Athletic Fund, is also out, along with associate athletic director Scott Jacobson, who worked with Orr in development and fundraising.

As reported by the Times, this week's personnel shakeup is just the latest fallout stemming from the admissions bribery scandal that captured the nation's attention last year. Donna Heinel, a top athletic department administrator, and legendary water polo coach Jovan Vavic were charged in the case and quickly fired by USC. Both have pleaded not guilty. Two former USC soccer coaches — Ali Khosroshahin and Laura Janke — also were charged. They pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with authorities but haven’t been sentenced.

A shake-up of the department’s senior leadership had been anticipated since Mike Bohn’s hiring as athletic director in November. He replaced Lynn Swann, the USC football star who abruptly resigned the AD post in September after a tumultuous three-year tenure that included the school being linked to the federal investigation into college basketball corruption, as well as to “Varsity Blues.”

Having spent 35 years in USC athletics, Lopes was considered the number-two administrator, with tremendous influence over the direction of the department. Orr, a former All-American swimmer at USC, had been with the department just as long, rising to senior associate athletic director in 2010, with the task of overseeing the Trojan Athletic Fund.

Lopes, Orr and Jacobson haven’t been charged or mentioned publicly by authorities in connection with the “Varsity Blues” investigation, according to the Times. But they were referenced in a slew of internal USC emails filed in U.S. District Court in Boston by attorneys for Robert Zangrillo, one of the defendants, as part of a months-long effort to subpoena documents from the school.

In one email string in early 2014, Heinel told Orr and other school officials about a student admitted as a walk-on water polo player.

“Please give me ideas on what kind of development opportunities we can explore with the family?” Orr wrote.

The response from another official: “1-5M potential.”

When the family appeared to not have followed through with a donation, Heinel suggested she could have “Admissions pull the approval.” Orr wrote back: “Really sucks dont pull we will guilt them.”

The Times further reported that court filings included spreadsheets tracking about 200 “special interest” applicants between 2012 and 2015. The sheets included which athletic department official recommended them, the students’ grade-point average and a column where a potential donation by their family was often listed.

New USC President Carol Folt introduced Bohn at his initial news conference as someone who “demands at all times the highest level of integrity, not only of himself, but of everyone that works for him.”

“My intent is to listen, to learn and to lead, in that order,” Bohn said then. “Ultimately, my goal is to deliver a bold, creative, innovative vision for our program that will position USC at the forefront of the intercollegiate athletics landscape for the present and future.”

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