Harvard's fencing coach sold his house at almost twice its assessed value to a man whose son then got into Harvard and joined the fencing team.
Harvard fencing coach Peter Brand's Needham, Mass. home was assessed for $549,300, but then sold to wealthy Maryland businessman Jie Zhao in May 2016 for almost a million dollars, reports the Boston Globe's Joshua Miller. The town's assessor wrote that the assessment "makes no sense" in his notes. Zhao's younger son, who was a junior at the time, was looking to apply to Harvard, was then accepted and joined the fencing team.
Harvard was not implicated in the recent nationwide college admissions, cheating and recruitment bribery scheme. However, the university is retaining outside counsel to do an independent investigation after learning of the transaction from the Globe this week.
"We are committed to ensuring the integrity of our recruitment practices,” Harvard spokeswoman Rachael Dane told the Globe.
Zhao sold the home 17 months after buying it without ever living in it, and the businessman lost $324,500 on the sale. He told the Globe he wanted to help Brand, who had become his friend, because he felt sorry he had to travel to get to fencing practice. According to the Globe, the coach would have had an estimated 12-mile commute, which could take an hour with traffic.
"If I know the policies that the coach cannot sell to students or parents of student, I would not do it. I have no idea, right? I don’t think there’s any violation or anything," Zhao told the Globe when explaining he saw no conflict of interest.
Brand did not respond to the Globe's request for comment.
Fifty people were charged in the college admissions scandal, including two SAT/ACT exam administrators, one exam proctor, nine collegiate coaches, one college athletics administrator and 33 parents.