Students walk past a sign for undergraduate admissions in Hanover, New Hampshire, U.S. (Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg)

Ex-Yale Soccer Coach to Plead Guilty in Admissions Scandal Case

(Bloomberg) -- Former Yale University women’s soccer coach Rudy Meredith pleaded guilty in the U.S. college admissions scandal, becoming the second coach to acknowledge taking bribes from parents to ensure their children’s admission as athletic recruits, whatever their talents.

Meredith entered his plea Thursday afternoon before U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf in federal court in Boston, where the ex-coach is accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars funneled through college admissions counselor William Rick Singer to award coveted recruitment slots on his team to two California students.

Meredith, the coach with the most wins in Yale history, has helped the Justice Department in its investigation of the scam and struck a plea deal this month that could send him to prison for 33 to 41 months. He was charged with wire fraud and conspiracy and pleaded guilty to both counts.

Paul Thomas, one of his lawyers, told the court Meredith wasn’t aware of other coaches in the plot.

“His conspiracy was much narrower,” Thomas said. “He did not know much about what was going on beyond his field. He was aware of the possibility, but he wasn’t a participant beyond what he did.”

$1.2 Million for Yale

According to prosecutors, Meredith took a $400,000 payoff from Singer in 2017 to recruit the first student, who didn’t play competitive soccer, prosecutors said. Her parents eventually paid $1.2 million to get her into Yale, the government alleges.

Then, last April, he met with the father of the second applicant in a Boston hotel room and sought a $450,000 payoff to designate her as a recruit, according to court papers. What he didn’t know was that her father was cooperating with the U.S. and that agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation were listening in, prosecutors said. That student wasn’t admitted, according to the school.

His plea comes as the prosecution of the scheme, which the Justice Department has called the biggest college admissions racket it has ever pursued, appears to be gathering steam.

John Vandemoer, the former head coach of Stanford University’s sailing team, pleaded guilty on March 12, as did Singer himself. On Wednesday, Gregory and Amy Colburn became the second and third parents to be indicted, signaling that prosecutors are taking a hard line with at least some of the parents by formally charging them with felonies that carry significant prison time. All but one of the other parents so far remain charged in a criminal complaint.

Coach of the Year

Meredith had a great run during his quarter century coaching Yale women’s soccer from 1995 to 2018, leading the Elis to their first unshared Ivy League title in 2005. While a spate of injuries recently plagued the team, its talented core of younger athletes has promised success for years to come. In November 2017, the New England Soccer Journal named Meredith the region’s coach of the year.

Earlier this week, six coaches swept up in the scandal appeared in court on Monday to plead not guilty, along with an athletic director, the head of a tennis academy, two test administrators and two employees of Singer’s college consultancy. The dozen were indicted on a racketeering conspiracy charge.

The U.S. says the parents -- many of them wealthy, and among them a top mergers attorney, a venture-capital CEO and a handful of celebrities -- paid Singer to get their kids into elite schools including Yale, Georgetown, Stanford, Wake Forest, the University of Southern California and the University of California at Los Angeles. He used the funds they gave him, through a charity he had set up, to pay off test administrators and a surrogate test taker and to bribe college coaches to designate applicants as athletic recruits, according to the charges.

Among the schools to which falsified entrance exam scores were sent are Northeastern, the University of California at Berkeley, Boston University and Boston College.

None of the schools or students in the case have been charged.

The Singer Connection

In court Thursday, Wolf asked how the government came upon the plot. Prosecutor Eric Rosen said a Los Angeles-based white-collar defendant in another case had led them to Meredith, who in turn led them to Singer. He also said the second Yale applicant was the child of a person in Los Angeles charged in a securities fraud who told the feds about the college scheme during lengthy sessions.

Once Meredith agreed to cooperate, the government turned its attention to Singer.
“Within a week, a week later, he was charged and agreed to cooperate,” Rosen said of Singer.

Singer secretly recorded conversations with parents -- and then, sabotaging his own deal with prosecutors, warned a few that he was wearing a wire.

Yale said this week that it had rescinded the admission of a student as a result of the charges. President Peter Salovey said in a letter that besides the single student, “we have determined that all enrolled Yale students who were admitted with an athletic endorsement played at least one season on their varsity sports team” and that “going forward the Athletics Department will review and confirm the athletic credentials” of all prospective recruits.

Salovey also said Yale had received a letter from the U.S. Department of Education saying it is looking into whether the school and seven others have “complied with regulations and requirements pertaining to the federal student aid program.”

Meredith appeared earlier Thursday before Magistrate Judge M. Page Kelley, who set his bond at $100,000 and warned him to stay away from co-defendants in the case. She said she is discouraging the defendants from traveling abroad. A lawyer for Meredith told the judge his client would surrender his passport.

“You can travel all around the United States,” the judge told Meredith.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.