Bill Gallagher

Update, Nov. 11: After prosecutors recommended no prison time for Meredith, Judge Mark Wolf gave him five months in prison.

Former Yale women’s soccer coach Rudolph “Rudy” Meredith is going to prison after all. 

Meredith was a key figure involved in the “Varsity Blues” scandal that consumed headlines nationwide. This decision came Wednesday afternoon when Judge Mark L. Wolff overruled prosecutors’ suggestions as they advocated for Meredith to avoid prison time. Prosecutors recommended that Meredith receive a sentence of one year of supervised release, forfeit $557,774.39 — one of two lump sums to reach the total $860,000 Meredith took — and complete 50 hours of community service. 

But in court Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf gave Meredith five months in prison, a year of probation, a $19,000 fine and ordered Meredith to forfeit the $557,774.39.

“I was disappointed in the outcome as I believed that the government’s recommendation was appropriate, but I recognize that sentencing decisions are up to the Court,” Eric Rosen, a former prosecutor who led the Varsity Blues prosecution wrote to the News. 

In a sentencing memorandum filed in court last Monday, prosecutors recommended Meredith should receive that sentence because, without him, they never would have caught onto the larger corruption scandal. 

That scheme, called “Operation Varsity Blues,” took down 50 celebrity parents and coaches working the so-called “side-door” technique to get their children accepted to prestigious universities.

The operation enabled parents to pay for false credentials including fabricated athletic abilities and fake test scores. Thanks to Meredith’s cooperation early on in the investigation and the testimony he provided in one case, prosecutors were able to bring the scheme to light. Meredith was the only defendant in the college admissions cases to both proactively cooperate in the investigation and testify at trial.

“That was key,” Eric Rosen told the News ahead of the sentencing on Tuesday morning. “Without Rudy working with us …to discuss what they had done and what they were planning to do, there would have been no Operation Varsity Blues.”

Meredith coached at Yale from 1995 to 2018, claiming ​​217 victories with the women’s soccer team. During his tenure, Meredith was named Northeast Region Coach of the Year three times and won more games than any other coach in program history. 

But in 2014, Meredith learned about another way to win. The former head coach of women’s soccer at University of Southern California, Ali Khosroshahin, told Meredith he could make money by helping to get students who were working with Rick Singer into Yale. Khosroshahin put Meredith in touch with Singer and Meredith agreed to enter the scheme. 

Beginning in 2015, Meredith agreed to facilitate three “side-door” deals for students in Singer’s college counseling program. The “side-door,” a term coined by Singer to describe his admissions method, refers to the process of using university connections to admit students based on fake athletic scholarships. Before Singer, many have used the “back-door” method, in which parents make million-dollar donations to a school in the hopes the admissions department will admit their child. However, Singer’s method supposedly offered a guarantee of admission at the price of just a few hundred thousand dollars. 

However, Meredith was unsuccessful in securing the first student’s admission to Yale, despite receiving $250,000 from Singer. 

Later, Meredith received another $200,000 for a Singer student with no soccer experience. Meredith sent a letter of recommendation to the admissions office explaining that he would like to have the student on his soccer team as a student-manager. 

In 2017, Meredith received $400,000 in exchange for a letter of recommendation on behalf of another supposed recruit, who was admitted despite having no soccer qualifications or intent on joining the team. This student’s admission was rescinded following the scandal. 

The sentencing memorandum explains that Meredith personally received $860,000 from Singer, all of which was funneled through “Summertime Sports,” a private soccer camp business owned by Meredith.

While these transactions initially went unnoticed by the federal government, Meredith’s under-the-table deals were finally exposed in a 2017 FBI sting after he attempted to facilitate a deal on his own with the father of a California student. 

Meredith and the father agreed on a bribe of $450,000 in exchange for the daughter’s recruitment to Yale’s soccer team, but the deal went awry after the father learned he was being investigated for securities fraud and agreed to cooperate with the government. 

As soon as investigators showed up, Meredith admitted to his guilt and was ready to assist prosecutors, making him a key cooperator. He allowed government investigators to record one in-person meeting and numerous calls with Singer. 

Evidence that Meredith provided to investigators allowed them to obtain a search warrant for Singer’s email account and an authorization for a wiretap of Singer’s phone. Information from the wiretapping led investigators to uncover not only the wide-spread admissions scandals but also cheating on standardized tests. 

“In short, Meredith’s cooperation was extensive and significant, leading to the government’s investigation of Singer and ultimately helping to secure the conviction of more than 50 parents, coaches, and Singer associates,” prosecutors wrote in the sentencing memorandum. 

According to the memorandum, the probation office determined that Meredith should fall under a sentencing guideline number of seven, meaning that Meredith would be able to earn between zero and six months.

Three other coaches involved in the scheme have already been sentenced, including Khosroshahin and Laura Janke from the University of Southern California. as well as Michael Center, who was the tennis coach for the University of Texas. Like Meredith, Khosroshahin and Janke cooperated after their arrests and testified in other trials. The two were both sentenced to time served with Khosroshahin getting six months of home detention in his supervised release and Janke with 50 hours of community service during her supervised release. 

Prosecutors argued that given this precedent, a time served sentence with mandated community service would be fair for Meredith. 

The memorandum dove into the nuances comparing the three cases, balancing out how valuable the testimony and evidence provided was versus the level of power abuse. 

“In sum, while one could debate their relative culpability, the conduct of these three defendants was roughly equivalent, and Meredith cooperated proactively while Khosroshahin and Janke did not,” the prosecutors concluded. 

Former federal prosecutor Eric Rosen, who led the prosecution in the Operation Varsity Blues cases, told the News he thought the prosecution’s assessment in the memorandum was fair. 

“I think fundamentally, Rudy is a good person who obviously made mistakes,” he said Tuesday morning. “I think you have to measure not only the crime involved in taking the money, but also how it’s affected Rudy in his life and his career which has been effectively destroyed as a soccer coach.”  

Before the sentencing hearing, Rosen noted that the judge still had complete discretion with a statutory maximum of twenty years under such charges. He said he hoped the judge would seriously consider recommendations from both Meredith’s defense and the prosecutors. 

“I hope the judge evaluates all those factors rather than just looking at what Rudy did wrong,” he said. “With our criminal justice system, the best part I’m working on now as a defense lawyer is the redemption aspects where people are given a second chance to prove themselves after committing crimes.” 

In terms of redemption, Rosen said he thought Meredith might have a good shot to start down a new career path, although likely not coaching Division I soccer. 

“The shelf life of scandals is very short now,” Rosen said. “People just don’t remember. Within a day, things have gone through the news and a new scandal has erupted.”

According to several reports from the Boston U.S. District courthouse in Wednesday’s hearing, Judge Wolf maintained that the scheme and Meredith’s activity as part of the scheme were not victimless crimes. Wolf spoke about members of the women’s soccer team who had earned their places on the team and were cheated out of better teammates. He also mentioned the applicants and players who would have won spots on the team and at Yale that too were cheated out of opportunities all at the expense of Meredith’s greed. 

“You committed a very serious crime and you didn’t have to do it,” Wolf reportedly said.

Echoing the remorse prosecutors had mentioned Meredith expressed, in court Meredith apologized for his role in the scheme, explaining he had wanted to provide for his family. 

“It’s all my fault and I am going to pay for this for the rest of my life,” Meredith told the Judge. 

University spokesperson Karen Peart declined to comment regarding the sentencing memorandum. All other inquiries to Yale Athletics administrators, coaches or players were referred to Peart. 

Meredith’s involvement in the scandal was covered in a 2021 Netflix documentary titled “Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal.”

Tristan Hernandez ’26, who remembers learning about Meredith’s case while watching the documentary, was disappointed to hear about the proposed sentencing.

 “I understand that he cooperated and was important to the investigation as a whole, but he still took part in an unfair manipulation of the American higher education system, and for him to serve no prison time would be a bit ridiculous in my opinion,” Hernandez told the News. 

When the scandal broke in 2019, Yale President Peter Salovey called Meredith’s actions “an affront to our community’s deeply held values of fairness, inclusion and honesty.” Salovey also outlined a change in the athletic recruiting process. 

Since the change, athletic director Vicky Chun has had the additional responsibility of reviewing coaches’ proposed recruits before they are proposed to the admissions office. Additionally, a new code of conduct for athletic recruitment was co-written by Chun and Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan.  

In an email Thursday night, University spokesperson Karen Peart reviewed those immediate steps Yale took when the scandal first erupted including closer coordination between the admission’s office and Yale’s 35 varsity sports teams. The University also pushed for closer scrutiny of situations in which recruited athletes do not join or withdraw from the teams for which they were recruited, according to Peart. 

“These procedures and policies help maintain and protect an admissions process dedicated to enriching the undergraduate educational environment and bringing to campus students with a wide range of backgrounds, viewpoints, interests, and talents,” she wrote. 

With increased online footprints showing game wins and statistics from high school now, there is more room for transparency and accountability in the process. Given these changes to school athletic admissions policies and widespread attention in the Operation Varsity Blues cases, Rosen said Tuesday it would be difficult for him to foresee a similar corruption scandal occurring again. 

Rick Singer is scheduled for a sentencing hearing before Judge Rya W. Zobel at 2:30 p.m. on January 4.

SOPHIE SONNENFELD
Sophie Sonnenfeld covers cops and courts. She is a sophomore in Branford College majoring in Political Science and Anthropology.
BEN RAAB