Former UT tennis coach pleads guilty in college admissions case

Hayden Baggett

Former University of Texas men’s tennis coach Michael Center plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud Wednesday afternoon in federal court.

The U.S. Department of Justice previously accused Center of accepting $100,000 from William “Rick” Singer as a bribe to facilitate a student’s admission into UT by falsely designating the student as a tennis recruit. UT fired Center from his coaching position March 13 after the DOJ filed the charges against him.

Center became the third college coach to admit guilt in court for participating in a nationwide scheme to admit wealthy students into universities. Center is among 50 people facing charges of fraud and other forms of bribery in the scandal.


The Associated Press reported Wednesday that U.S. Attorney Eric Rosen said Singer gave Center $40,000 in donations to UT Athletics and $60,000 directly in cash. The student withdrew from the tennis team shortly after he began classes, Rosen said.

Center had reached a guilty plea deal with federal prosecutors early April, in which they agreed to recommend a shorter prison sentence for the coach in exchange for his cooperation in the investigation, The Daily Texan reported.

The maximum sentence for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud is 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gain from the fraud.

As part of the plea deal, the Texan reported the U.S. Attorney recommended Center’s sentence include “incarceration at the low end” of the sentencing range, a financial penalty, a year of supervised release, a mandatory special assessment of $100 and forfeiture of $60,000 — the amount Center personally received from the fraud.

U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns accepted the plea deal, and Center’s sentence hearing will take place Oct. 30.