Former University of Texas tennis coach sentenced in admissions scam

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(CNN) — A former tennis coach at the University of Texas at Austin who accepted $100,000 in bribes in the college admissions scam was sentenced to six months in prison Monday, prosecutors said.

Michael Center, 55, last year pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud.

In exchange for the bribes, Center agreed with the mastermind of the admissions scheme, Rick Singer, and Martin Fox, a tennis academy executive in Houston, to designate an applicant to the college as a tennis player, even though the applicant didn’t play tennis competitively, US Attorney Andrew Lelling said in a news release Monday.

The student was even granted a scholarship to pay for his books, according to a criminal affidavit. He withdrew from the tennis team and renounced his books scholarship after he was admitted in 2015.

Center also was ordered to pay $60,000 and will have a year of supervision after his release from prison, according to the news release.

Center is the latest to be sentenced in the vast scheme that resulted in 50 defendants — including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. Earlier this month, Douglas Hodge, the former CEO of one of the world’s largest investment management companies, was sentenced to nine months in prison for using fraud and bribes to try to get five of his children into exclusive colleges as fake athletic recruits.

The UT student’s father, who was not named, donated more than $600,000 in stock to Singer’s fake charity, Key Worldwide Foundation, the US Attorney’s Office said, adding Singer gave $60,000 to Center and $40,000 to the university’s tennis program.

Singer has pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice.

Fox pleaded guilty in November 2019. He’s scheduled to be sentenced May 14, the news release said.

Center is at least the fourth college coach to plead guilty in the sprawling federal criminal case. Yale women’s soccer coach Rudolph Meredith, Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer and University of Southern California assistant women’s soccer coach Laura Janke have also pleaded guilty.

Center was fired as UT’s men’s tennis coach after he was charged in the case.

Prosecutors had agreed to recommend a sentence on the low end of the federal sentencing guidelines in exchange for Center’s guilty plea, according to court documents.

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