Coach Peter Brand sold his Needham, Massachusetts home in 2016 for almost twice what a tax document said it was worth. The buyer, Jie Zhao, had a son looking to apply to Harvard, according to a source with knowledge of a separate federal investigation into the matter.
Harvard Athletic Director Bob Scalise said the coach was fired for violating the university’s conflict of interest policy following an independent investigation by the school.
“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 said in a statement to CNN.
He also said the school was made aware of allegations involving Brand in April.
Brand’s lawyer, Douglas S. Brooks, said his client didn’t violate the policy and denies “any wrongdoing in connection with his duties over the past 20 years” as head coach.
“Harvard’s termination of him is unfair, unwarranted, and an egregious disservice to a loyal employee. Harvard itself acknowledges that Coach Brand committed no recruiting irregularities,” Brooks said.
Brooks also noted the university had failed to advise employees of the conflict of interest policy and only discussed it with head coaches for the first time in April.
Harvard spokeswoman Rachael Dane said Tuesday that all Harvard athletics staff members receive the conflict of interest policy annually and are required to attest that they have read and understand it.
Last month, a federal grand jury was investigating Brand for the sale of the home, according to a source with knowledge of that investigation. The status of the federal investigation was not immediately clear Tuesday.
Assistant US Attorney Eric S. Rosen, who is leading the nationwide college admissions scandal investigation, sent a subpoena to the Needham Board of Assessors in April, asking the town for years of documents and records related to the Needham property, the source confirmed.
Jie Zhao bought Brand’s home for $989,500, according to the deed. A municipal lien certificate indicates the home was worth just under $550,000. Zhao sold the property about 17 months later at a loss of over $300,000.
At the time, Zhao had a son on the Harvard fencing team and one in high school, the Boston Globe reported.
Zhao’s lawyer, William D. Weinreb, told the Globe in June, that they’re “not aware of any criminal investigation.”
At the time, Brand’s lawyer, Douglas S. Brooks, told CNN, “We have not received any inquiry from the US Attorney’s Office or any other law enforcement agency, and we are unaware of any such investigation. To be clear, Coach Brand unequivocally denies any wrongdoing.”
Brand was appointed as Harvard’s head fencing coach in 1999, moving from a role at Brown University. He emigrated from Israel to the United States as a teenager and has coached the Harvard team to unprecedented success, according to Harvard’s website.
Correction: A previous version of this article had the incorrect title for Assistant US Attorney Eric. S. Rosen