One of the first things I did after the college admissions scandal broke become suppose again to any previous correspondence I had with the very best-profile member implicated from USC: guys and ladies’ water polo head train Jovan Vavic.
During my freshman 12 months, I covered the men’s water polo crew for the Daily Trojan and interviewed Vavic regularly. I concept returned to those interactions to attempt to remember if there was ever whatever suspect, whatever that might have alluded to — even inside the slightest of manners — the perception that he became secretly part of an illegal operation to confess students to USC with the aid of masquerading them as faux athletes. I could not.
Neither should everyone else — no longer his bosses, his staff or his gamers. The outcry over the country huge scandal — and USC’s position in it, mainly — is, of direction, warranted. The immediate termination of each Vavic and senior partner athletic director Donna Heinel became a welcome improvement, for his or her alleged activities no longer simplest violated the integrity of the college admissions technique, but additionally became a punch in the face to all the different USC pupil-athletes who worked tough to earn a niche on a Division I crew.
I don’t want to pile at the outcry. Last week’s Daily Trojan editorial board summed up the disappointment around campus flawlessly. But having blanketed Vavic’s several water polo triumphs attended practices and watched him masterfully dissect opposing teams at some stage in video games, it is so difficult for me to attach this guy, this water polo god, to the criminal activity he is charged with.
Make no mistake: Vavic continues to be water polo royalty. His bio on the USC Athletics website stretches sees you later with accolades that it calls for five stable scroll-downs to attain the quit: sixteen countrywide championships, a 15-time countrywide train of the 12 months, 25 years on the helm of both the men’s and girls’ programs. For USC water polo, winning country full championships is not merely the norm — it’s expected.
Observe Vavic for five minutes during a game, and it’s now not tough to determine his strengths as an instruct: harsh, loud and annoying. His practices, players say, had been grueling. His teams were so stacked and dominant that they could regularly win video games through five, 10, 15 desires. Even with an insurmountable lead past due in those games, he could scorch his players with his piercing, gruff yell, audible to all of us inside earshot of the pool: “PRESS! PRESS! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!”
Interviewing Vavic become nerve-wracking as a freshman beat author. He gave quick, terse solutions in his Slavic accessory. After a few games, he could run off, and the sports activities statistics director might come again empty-passed, forcing me to write down a recap without fees from the teaching.
But I respected him. His players did, too. He ran a good delivery. He had no time for BS. He built a dynasty from the floor up. He turned into the teaching, the kind of leader who rarely did now not get what he wanted. At a ladies’ water polo recreation final month towards Indiana in which USC gained 19-1, I watched from throughout the pool as Vavic, shades on leaned lower back in his chair and basked inside the rout that his team changed into setting on. I recalled questioning to myself, “That is a person on the top of his career.”
I ought to have in no way imagined that, weeks later, he might be booked right into jail at 7 a.M. In Hawaii, as he was getting ready to train the women’s group in an event, charged with conspiracy to devote racketeering. And the handiest query I even have is: Why?
Why did he do it? Why did Vavic, with a pedigree in water polo corresponding to that of John Wooden’s in basketball, chance all of it? Was it for the $250,000 and private-school training payments for his youngsters that he is alleged to have received, in spite of the reality that he assuredly has made sufficient to stay comfortably? Was it just due to the fact he should?
Whatever Vavic’s answer is will now not be great, because there may be no top answer to why all people in his position could dedicate such a criminal offense. If actual, his movements had been offensive and disrespectful — to loads of gamers, he coached who made the roster on their personal deserves, rude to the students denied a niche at USC due to the faux recruits he put on his crew, disrespectful to the integrity of admissions, of athletics, of … well, the entirety within the call of the primary dignity that we are hoping leaders like Vavic own. That, seemingly, became an excessive amount of to invite.
It has been challenging to contextualize the version of Vavic, the strict however colorful and legendary coach whom I respected, with what the allegations have found out approximately his real identification: a deceitful guy who took gain of his position of strength. And there is without a doubt nothing legendary or first-rate about that.