Los Angeles, Calif. — A former USC water polo player is speaking out against the school after the termination of water polo coach Jovan Vavic on March 12th. Vavic was involved in a massive bribery scheme used to help potentially unqualified students gain admission to some of the nation's top universities, such as Yale, Stanford, UCLA and USC.

Annenberg Media spoke with former USC men's water polo player Matthew Burton about his experience on the team under Vavic.

Burton, who won five NCAA championships during his time at USC, was coached by Vavic from 2008 to 2012 and was also named team captain during his junior year. His accolades included a Third Team All-American selection and an NCAA All-Tournament Second Team selection in 2010.

When asked to respond to a recent Sports Illustrated article which accused his former coach of setting up USC’s program to hide fake recruits, Burton defended his former team, stating, “To say that is demeaning of all the hard work and effort that we put in as a collective group to win those national championships.”
He went on to speak about how news of the scandal has “absolutely affected” him and anyone else who played under Vavic at USC.

"We are not just going to pout, we are going to fight and kind of say, 'Hey, this shouldn't in any way diminish the work that we put into it'…because ultimately it had no effect," Burton said.

The former team captain, who graduated in 2013, continued to say that he "[knew] Vavic inside and out," and that he would never sacrifice having a competitive advantage for money.

"And I don't care, you could give him millions of dollars, he would never [sacrifice the team]," Burton continued, saying that the fake recruits "never saw playing time" and this issue was much more common in non-revenue sports than just the university.

Burton said he wished that "USC would have done [its] own internal investigation before firing a coach that had that much success, that had been that big of a part in the USC community for so long." He said he found it ridiculous that Vavic was fired so quickly, despite the lack of "any indication of Jovan purposefully or specifically doing anything" in the government report.

The crisis was the largest college admissions scandal ever uncovered. The scheme assisted students in cheating on their college entrance exams and posing as fake athletes to get recruited by Division I coaches at various colleges.

The FBI has charged over 50 people so far, including several university athletic coaches and athletic directors. Two former USC soccer coaches were indicted, as were former senior associate athletic director Donna Heinel and Vavic.

On Monday, Vavic pleaded not guilty at Boston Federal Court alongside other high-profile athletic coaches from universities such as UCLA and Georgetown.