Gary Jacobs and his wife Jerri-Anne announced they were giving UCSD a million dollars for its baseball program.
A searing review by California State Auditor Elaine Howle has blasted admission practices at the University of California's top campuses, including UCSD, saying they "unfairly admitted 64 applicants based on their personal or family connections to donors and university staff."
A link from UCSD's website to the page of the athletic board is no longer working.
"Campuses admitted 22 of these students through their student-athlete admissions processes, even though the students did not have the athletic qualifications to compete at the university," the September 22 report says of three of the four schools it reviewed, including UCSD, UC Santa Barbara, and UCLA.
"UC Berkeley admitted the remaining 42 students, most of whom were referred to the admissions office because of their families' histories as donors or because they were related or connected to university staff, even though their records did not demonstrate competitive qualifications for admission.
"By admitting 64 noncompetitive applicants, the university undermined the fairness and integrity of its admissions process and deprived more qualified students of the opportunity for admission," a cover letter by Howle adds.
"Athletics staff at UC San Diego stated that they do not plan to verify scholarship athletes' talent...."
"Applicants' chances of admission were also unfairly affected by UC Berkeley's, UCLA's, and UC San Diego's failures to properly train and monitor the staff who review and rate applications.
"We found that staff were sometimes overly strict or overly lenient in their review of applications, thereby making the applicants' chances of admission unduly dependent on the individual staff who rated them rather than on the students' qualifications."
The audit uncovered multiple cases of abuse of the athletic recruitment process, including calling out an especially egregious violation at UCSD, involving improper influence wielded by a member of the school's athletic board.
"The coach of one team (Coach 1) asked the coach of another team (Coach 2) to facilitate the admission of an applicant who was the friend of a UC San Diego athletic board member.
"In an email to the athletics director, Coach 2 stated that Coach 1 shared with him that the board member "had helped out with scholarships, etc. in the past, and if we could help [the board member], it may help the department."
"Although Coach 2 noted that the applicant was not a normal recruit and 'did not have the grades to get in on [their] own,' he facilitated the admission of the applicant.
"Coach 2 said he did so because he wanted to help the board member and the applicant 'looked like an ok recruit.' Auditors subsequently discovered that "the applicant never participated on the team."
"Coach 2 further stated in the email to the athletics director that he was 'not happy to be used in that manner,' explaining that the 'board member used me to get his family friend's kid in UCSD,' and noting that, "[the applicant] wasn't going to get in otherwise.
"Finally, the coach wrote that he "would handle this differently if it wasn't for [the applicant's] relationship to [UC San Diego's] board member."
A link from UCSD's website to the page of the athletic board is no longer working. "The purpose of the UC San Diego Athletic Board is to provide and assist in soliciting major capital gifts for athletics while evaluating the strategic planning of the Athletic Department in relevant areas," according to another reference on the university's site.
Members of the board include Gary Jacobs, son of La Jolla billionaire and UCSD benefactor Irwin Jacobs, says an online profile posted by the school. "Gary also champions UC San Diego student-athletes and serves on the Triton Athletics Board as a voice for alumni and the sports industry."
Jacobs is a minority owner with his brothers of the Sacramento Kings professional basketball team, owns the Lake Elsinore Storm minor league baseball team, and is the father of Democratic congressional candidate Sara Jacobs.
In January of this year, Jacobs and his wife Jerri-Anne announced they were giving UCSD a million dollars for its baseball program.
Despite the adverse findings, the audit says UCSD staffers said they were not planning to change their policies to correct the problem.
"Athletics staff at UC San Diego stated that they do not plan to verify scholarship athletes' talent because they believe that the additional level of effort would not significantly reduce the risk of inappropriate admissions activity.
"In contrast, the director of athletic compliance at UC Berkeley explained that not verifying the talent of all prospective student-athletes likely presents a risk, but that performing those verifications would strain the athletics department's resources.
Some campuses have done better than others, the document says.
"UC Santa Barbara has updated its policies to require that a committee composed of faculty and admissions staff review talent documentation for all prospective student athletes, increasing the independence of the talent verification process.
"In contrast, UCLA, and UC San Diego have established policies for verifying athletic talent that delegate that responsibility to their athletic departments. As a result, the staff performing the reviews may be subject to internal pressure to inappropriately approve a prospective student athlete's qualifications."
"Finally, none of the campuses have implemented complete reviews of applicants admitted through the athletics admissions process to determine whether donations—both preceding an admissions decision and also received in the year following the admission—inappropriately factored into their admission."
The report gives UCSD a bit more credit than the other UC schools for the integrity of its non-athletic admissions, though with reservations. "The admissions data we reviewed shows that UC San Diego generally admitted applicants to its arts majors who had received its highest reader ratings while rejecting other applicants to those programs.
"However, UC San Diego's admissions methodology lacks a clear set of criteria to guide its decisions when it must choose from among similarly rated applicants, limiting transparency in its admissions decisions."
State auditor Howle lays much of the blame for the system-wide problems on university leadership.
"The Office of the President has allowed the weaknesses in these practices to persist because it has not conducted adequate oversight of campuses' admissions processes.
"Although it conducted an internal review of admissions processes after the recent nationwide college admissions scandal, the Office of the President relied heavily on campuses to review themselves and did not attempt to identify inappropriate admissions activity.
"Stronger standards and oversight are necessary to improve the university's ability to guarantee a fair and merit-based admissions process and to detect and prevent inappropriate admissions decisions."