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UT Austin Tennis Coach Accepted $100,000 In College Admission Scheme, Authorities Say

He was allegedly paid $100,000 in 2015 to recruit a California student who didn’t play tennis, securing his admission to UT.

UT Austin tennis coach Michael Center allegedly was paid to recruit a student who didn’t play tennis in order to get him admitted to the school.

UT Austin men’s tennis coach Michael Center has been charged with mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud in a wide-ranging, multimillion-dollar college admissions scandal.

Center was paid $100,000 in 2015 to recruit a California student who didn’t play tennis, securing his admission to UT, according to a criminal complaint.

Federal authorities say William Singer, who runs a California-based admissions consulting firm, is at the center of the $25-million scheme in which wealthy clients paid him to either rig standardized test scores or recruit students with falsified athletic records. Andrew Lelling, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, said at a press conference today that Singer ensured admission for students to Yale, Georgetown, Stanford, the University of Southern California, UCLA, Wake Forest and UT Austin “not on their merits, but through fraud.”

According to the complaint, Michael Fox, a Houston man who was also indicted for conspiracy to commit racketeering, emailed Center in November 2014 to shore up the possibility of falsely recruiting the student. Center responded, “I read his application and researched his high school … [l]ooks like he goes to very high end school.”

The complaint alleges Center was paid in installments arranged by Fox. Singer, who pleaded guilty today to a handful of felonies and is cooperating with the FBI’s investigation, allegedly met with Center in 2015 and gave him $60,000 in cash in a parking lot.

UT Austin said in a statement that authorities notified the school this morning “that we were victims of an organized criminal effort involving admissions.”

“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,” UT said. “We are cooperating fully with the investigation. Integrity in admissions is vital to the academic and ethical standards of our university.”

Center has coached UT Tennis for 18 seasons and has led the Longhorns to as many NCAA Championship appearances, including three in the Final Four. In 2007, he was named College Coach of the Year by the U.S. Professional Tennis Association. 

Houston test administrator also involved in admissions scandal

Niki Williams, an assistant teacher at a Houston high school and a test administrator for the College Board and ACT, has been charged with racketeering conspiracy in the wide-sweeping college admissions scandal.

According to a release from the Department of Justice, Singer helped his clients cheat on the SAT and ACT exams at two test centers, including a public high school in Houston and a private college prep school in West Hollywood, California:

“At those test centers, Singer had established relationships with test administrators Niki Williams and Igor Dvorskiy, respectively, who accepted bribes of as much as $10,000 per test in order to facilitate the cheating scheme. Specifically, Williams and Dvorskiy allowed a third individual, typically [Mark] Riddell, to take the exams in place of the students, to give the students the correct answers during the exams, or to correct the students’ answers after they completed the exams.”

Read the complaint against Center, below:

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This is a developing story. It was originally published on https://www.kut.org/ with additional reporting by Houston Public Media’s digital team. 

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