UT tennis coach fired in connection to college admissions scam

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Men’s tennis coach Michael Center has been fired effective immediately from the University of Texas, according to Longhorns Athletic Director Chris Del Conte.

In a statement, Del Conte said:

“After working with campus leaders to review the recent situation with Michael Center, we have decided to relieve him of his duties as our Men’s Tennis coach. It’s a very difficult decision and we are grateful for the years of service that he has provided, but winning with integrity will always be paramount at The University of Texas, and it was a decision that had to be made.”

Center was arrested Tuesday in connection to the nationwide college admissions scandal.

Center was charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. He allegedly accepted a nearly $100,000 bribe to get a student into UT through the tennis program. He had his initial appearance at the federal courthouse in Austin Tuesday afternoon, where bail was set at $50,000. He paid $5,000 in cash and was released from custody.

Center was notified of his dismissal Wednesday afternoon, according to his attorney Dan Cogdell.

“This is the sad reality of being charged with a felony. He’s despondent. He’s disappointed. He’s a great coach. He’s a great person,” Cogdell said.

Center will make his second appearance in court March 25 in Boston, Massachusetts. 

Texas Associate Head Coach Bruce Berque will continue as the Longhorns’ interim head coach.

“I’ve met with our team and assured them that we will do everything in our power to support them,” Del Conte added. “I also plan to reach out to all of our commitments, signees and their families immediately.”

UT reviewing its policies

The University of Texas at Austin is also launching its own investigation. 

President Greg Fenves said in a statement the school will not only review the alleged 2015 incident, but also see if they have adequate policies in place to prevent something like this from happening again

He said:

The integrity of UT admissions is essential to our mission as a research university and to the students and families we serve. That is why any act of wrongdoing, no matter how singular, matters so deeply.

Fenves said UT’s Vice President for Legal Affairs Jim Davis will be leading the review. 

Longhorn legend and Olympian says he “feels sick” 

“I just thought about all the missed opportunities for 17- and 18-year-olds to go to these prestigious institutions,” said Trey Hardee.

Hardee is a retired American track and field athlete. The former UT student won a silver medal in the decathlon at the 2012 London Olympics.

Hardee told KXAN Wednesday: “I got into college on a book scholarship.”

The scholarship pays for athletes’ books — the same type of scholarship was offered to the student whose father paid bribes. 

The student later gave up that scholarship and left the tennis team. 

Hardee said all of those book scholarships could’ve gone to different students who would’ve been passionate about playing tennis at UT. 

“You win championships with those athletes,” Hardee said. “I was on a book scholarship for two years and was the second best decathlete in the country. Helping to score points. And that’s how you win team titles. What this does is limit that opportunity.”

He added, “It just made me sick as a new parent thinking about my kids being denied an opportunity because of something like this happening.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the parent involved in the alleged UT incident has not been charged. It did not explain why. 

They did, however, file charges against dozens of other parents who were accused of doing something similar. 

The indictment said in some cases, someone even photoshopped a stock photo of other athletes in their applications.

Hardee said: 

“It’s just sad. It’s just sad. Not only does it affect the kids that didn’t get an opportunity, but it affects these teams. It affects these Olympic and non-revenue sports that are a man down, or man short.”

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