The University of Southern California’s campus was unusually quiet this week. As undergraduates took off for spring break, a group of high schoolers hoping to one day replace them toured the Gothic-inspired red-brick quadrants and manicured lawns near downtown Los Angeles.
But behind the scenes, USC was in the midst of a frantic damage-control exercise.
The school is at the centre of a $25m bribery scandal alleged by federal prosecutors on Tuesday in a criminal complaint that documents, in agonising detail, how dozens of wealthy US families bought places for their children in top universities with the help of a crooked admissions consultant, William “Rick” Singer.
USC admitted more of Mr Singer’s clients — many of them falsely depicted as student-athletes — than any other school mentioned in the complaint. This week, it fired a senior associate athletic director, Donna Heinel who, authorities allege, was on Mr Singer’s payroll at $20,000 a month, and its acclaimed water polo coach, Jovan Vavic. Two former USC coaches have also been charged by authorities.
USC on Thursday said it would toss out any current applicants tied to Mr Singer while beginning the messy business of determining what to do with those previously admitted.