Harvard fires fencing coach Peter Brand over role in alleged admissions scam

Harvard University fired its fencing coach Peter Brand after an independent investigation found evidence of his participation in an admissions scheme involving a would-be recruit.

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Brand sold his home in Needham, Massachusetts to Maryland businessman Jie Zhao for nearly $1 million in 2016, or roughly double its assessed value. Shortly after, Zhao’s son gained admission to Harvard with a spot on its fencing team.

“In April, Harvard was made aware of allegations involving Peter Brand, head coach of fencing,” Harvard Athletic Director Bob Scalise said in a statement. “An independent investigation of the matter is now complete, and Mr. Brand has been dismissed from his position for violating Harvard’s conflict of interest policy.”

Zhao later sold Brand’s home at a loss of more than $300,000 without ever having lived in it, according to the Boston Globe, which first reported the coach’s firing. The businessman denied that the purchase was a transaction tied to his son’s admission, arguing that it was meant to be an investment and favor to Brand, who had complained about a long commute.

"Harvard Athletics is committed to upholding the integrity of our athletics program, and it is our expectation that every coach and staff member adhere unambiguously to our policies," Scalise added.

An attorney for Brand called Harvard’s decision “unfair, unwarranted and an egregious disservice to a loyal employee.” Brand is said to be considering legal options.


Brand’s firing came months after a federal probe into a college admissions cheating scandal resulted in the arrests of nearly 50 individuals on various counts of bribery, fraud and conspiracy. The defendants, which included actress Lori Loughlin, were accused of bribing college coaches and administrators to gain entry to top colleges, including Yale and Georgetown. Several of the defendants have plead guilty.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.