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Press Release

Former University Tennis Coach Sentenced in College Admissions Case

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts

BOSTON – The former head coach of the men’s tennis team at the University of Texas at Austin (U-Texas) was sentenced today in federal court in Boston in connection with accepting a $100,000 bribe to secure the admission of a purported student-athlete to the university.

Michael Center, 55, of Austin, Texas, was sentenced to six months in prison, one year of supervised release and ordered to forfeit $60,000.

The government recommended a sentence a six months in prison, one year of supervised release, payment of a $20,000 fine and forfeiture in the amount of $60,000. In April 2019, Center pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

Beginning in 2014, Center agreed with William “Rick” Singer and Martin Fox, the former president of a private tennis academy in Texas, to accept a $100,000 bribe in exchange for designating the child of one of Singer’s clients as a recruited student athlete at U-Texas. On Nov. 23, 2014, Singer emailed the student’s high school transcript and application essays to Fox, who forwarded them to Center. Center emailed the materials to the administrator in the U-Texas athletics department so that the student, who did not actually play tennis competitively, would be coded as a student-athlete. In March 2015, Center informed the student’s father that U-Texas would be sending the student a letter of intent for a “books” scholarship, which provides funding for a student’s textbooks, as part of the athletic recruitment process. In April 2015, the student returned a signed “letter of intent” to play tennis for U-Texas, and, at Center’s instruction, was added to the team roster and then admitted to U-Texas. The student’s father made three separate donations of stock totaling $631,564 to Singer’s sham charitable organization, the Key Worldwide Foundation (KWF). Singer paid Center $60,000 in cash and $40,000 to the U-Texas tennis program.

In November 2019, Fox pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced on May 14, 2020.

Case information, including the status of each defendant, charging documents and plea agreements are available here:

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; and Kristina O’Connell, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations in Boston, made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric S. Rosen, Justin D. O’Connell, Leslie A. Wright, and Kristen A. Kearney of Lelling’s Securities and Financial Fraud Unit are prosecuting the case.

The details contained in the court documents are allegations and the remaining defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Updated February 24, 2020