UT men's head tennis coach on administrative leave after bribery allegations


By Carlos Anchondo

The University of Texas has placed Michael Center, its head coach for men’s tennis, on administrative leave after FBI documents revealed that he allegedly took a $100,000 bribe in 2015 to help a student gain admission to UT by adding him as a recruit to the tennis team.

The documents said the student did not play competitive tennis.

“Federal authorities notified us this morning that we were victims of an organized criminal effort involving admissions,” UT spokesman J.B. Bird said in a written statement Tuesday. “We have just become aware of charges against our Men’s Tennis Coach Michael Center and he will be placed on administrative leave until further notice while we gather information.”

Bird said the university is cooperating fully with the investigation and that “integrity in admissions is vital to the academic and ethical standards of our university.” 

Center, who was hired in July 2000 and is only the fourth men's tennis coach at UT, is one of dozens of people named in a growing national college bribery scandal. An indictment unsealed Tuesday in Boston named more than 50 people — including actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin — who are accused of paying bribes to ensure their children got into prestigious universities including UT, Stanford, Georgetown, Yale, Wake Forest, and the University of Southern California, among others.

In addition to bribes taken by athletic coaches and other university administrators, the scheme involved parents paying a college prep organization to take the ACT or SAT college admission tests on behalf of their children or to correct their answers after the test, according to the indictment.

The indictment says a Houston high school teacher who was also a standardized test administrator took bribes as part of the scheme. In July 2018, the teacher received a $5,000 check from William Singer, the founder of The Edge College & Career Network, LLC., documents show.

Collectively, parents paid Singer roughly $25 million between 2011 and February 2019 to bribe coaches and university administrators, designating their children as recruited athletes or other “favored admission categories,” according to the documents.

At a press conference Tuesday, FBI officials said Singer helped or advised parents to stage photos of their children engaged in sports. In some cases, stock photos were used.

The indictment also lists Martin Fox, the president of a private tennis academy and camp in Houston, as a key player. Fox allegedly introduced Singer and Center, for which he was paid $100,000 by Singer for “assisting with the bribe transaction,” and he was also paid to help facilitate bribes for a varsity sports coach at the University of San Diego, the indictment states.

This article originally appeared at The Texas Tribune. 
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