In the aftermath of the national college cheating scandal, programs across the country find themselves under greater scrutiny for all their recruits. Now it appears that at least one member of UCLA’s famed gymnastics program may have earned entrance based on who her uncle knew, not which vault routine she knew.
A Los Angeles Times investigation discovered that Maria Caire, who has spent the past two seasons working as a team manager, was admitted to the school as a scholar athlete. UCLA claims she was recruited for her potential in the vault. Caire, meanwhile, never competed for the club her biography says she was a member of — Club Champion Gymastics. If she was, that’s apparently news to other elite gymnastics who were allegedly training at and around Club Champion.
Yet none of that matters much, because Caire had a virtual can’t miss connection with legendary, recently-retired UCLA coach Valerie Kondos-Field; Caire’s uncle was reportedly one of Kondos-Fields’ closest friends. In fact, they were so close they previously split the cost of a condo together.
That connection may have paved Caire’s path to UCLA, but all school officials now insist that she was admitted based on her potential.
For now, there’s nothing proving that Caire’s admission to UCLA was anything more than a decision to bet on her potential. Now, UCLA has to justify Caire’s role on the team, despite injuries that have kept her on the sidelines through her first two seasons.