Former Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer was sentenced in mid-June to one day in prison (time served), six months of electronically monitored home confinement and a $10,000 fine. Vandemoer was one of 50 parents, coaches and others charged March 12 in a nationwide admissions fraud scheme masterminded by California college counselor William “Rick” Singer. Stanford fired him that same day.

Vandemoer immediately pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and was the first defendant to be sentenced. In handing down Vandemoer’s sentence, U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel described him as “the least culpable” of the defendants. Vandemoer did not personally profit from his crime but accepted donations on behalf of the sailing program.

Prosecutors had asked for a 13-month sentence, arguing that Vandemoer’s actions “deceived and defrauded” Stanford and “validated a national cynicism over college admissions by helping wealthy and unscrupulous applicants enjoy an unjust advantage.” Stanford filed a victim-impact statement in the case but did not take a position on sentencing.

Singer directed three donations totaling $770,000 to the sailing program. The university is in discussions with the office of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, ’80, JD ’84, to figure out how those funds can be redirected to another entity and used for public good. A student associated with one of the donations but not with the sailing team has been expelled.

In addition to the increased safeguards on admission of student-athletes announced in March, the university will modify its gift acceptance process.

Stanford commissioned international law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett to conduct an external review “to determine whether there were any improper actions that have not yet been identified, to examine what allowed someone to abuse the system at Stanford, and to make recommendations for processes and internal controls to prevent something like this from ever happening again,” the university wrote on its website in June. The review is expected to be completed this fall.

In addition to the increased safeguards on admission of student-athletes announced in March, the university will modify its gift acceptance process by:

  • increasing the regular education of development officers about the need to know prospective donors as well as their intermediaries, and the reason for a prospective gift or pledge;
  • producing more written materials for development officers on what to look for when gifts or pledges are offered;
  • forming a more systematic vetting process to validate the facts of a prospective gift or pledge before the gift is brought forward for acceptance; and
  • forming a gift acceptance committee to handle unusual situations and to make suggestions for improvements.

Additional background information and university statements are available here


Kathy Zonana, ’93, JD ’96, is the editor of Stanford.