Former UT tennis coach Michael Center sentenced to six months in admissions scandal

Lauren Grobe

Michael Center, former UT men’s tennis coach, was sentenced to six months in prison Monday afternoon at a Boston federal court for accepting a $100,000 bribe to fraudulently admit a student to the University in April 2015. 

U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns sentenced Center to six months in prison and one year of supervised release. According to Center’s plea deal, the prosecutors originally recommended 15 to 22 months in prison and a $250,000 fine, the “low end” of the punishment range. 

Last March, the U.S. Department of Justice accused employees at high-profile universities, including UT, of accepting bribes to admit students as part of a nationwide investigation. Center plead guilty last April to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice, the student’s father made three donations of stock totaling $631,564 to the Key Worldwide Foundation, a sham organization run by William “Rick” Singer. The organization was used to funnel money to coaches and administrators to fraudulently admit students. Singer paid Center $60,000 and donated $40,000 to UT’s tennis program.

University spokesperson JB Bird said UT has worked on preventing fraudulent admissions in the future.

“We remain focused on protecting the integrity of the admissions process for student-athletes,” Bird said in a statement. 

UT President Gregory Fenves announced in September that the University completed an internal legal review of the athletics admissions process and found no other students had been fraudulently admitted. 

“The scandal undermined the public’s trust and provoked outrage,” Fenves said in a campuswide email. “At UT, we are holding ourselves accountable and improving protocols across Texas Athletics.”