Former UT tennis coach Michael Center released after serving federal bribery sentence for college admissions scandal
Former University of Texas men's tennis coach Michael Center was released from a Texas halfway house on Friday, where he finished a six-month federal prison sentence for falsely designating a wealthy West Coast student as a Longhorns recruit.
He was among dozens accused of bribery deals cut between officials at prestigious universities around the country and the rich and famous who wanted their children to attend them—all revealed in a stunning nationwide college admissions scandal in 2019 that netted coaches and movie stars alike.
Center, 56, began his sentence in April in a South Texas prison facility, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. His release date was listed as Oct. 2, according to the bureau, but it was unclear whether he returned to his Austin home before that under a monitored release, for which he was eligible in mid-September.
Mr. Center was unable to be reached for comment by Austonia on Sunday.
The bureau website shows that Center spent the last portion of his sentence in custody at the Residential Reentry Management center in San Antonio, which oversees several facilities in Texas. It was unclear from online information where in Texas his specific facility was located. Calls to the bureau by Austonia were not returned.
RRMs offer employment counseling, job placement services, financial management assistance, other services and some freedoms, according to the bureau.
It is not clear when Center left the Federal Corrections Facility Three Rivers, a medium-to minimum-security men's facility, where he served the first portion of his sentence.
The nationwide college admissions scandal involved more than 50 people, including actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, along with coaches from universities such as Yale, Georgetown, several California schools and UT-El Paso.
Center admitted to accepting $100,000 in 2015 in exchange for helping the son of a Silicon Valley venture capitalist gain admission to UT-Austin as a recruit for the Texas Longhorns tennis team, which he was not.
He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and was ordered to serve a year's probation and pay back $60,000 he had pocketed in the deal. The other $40,000 went to the tennis team.
In February, Center was visibly upset at the sentencing, which his attorney called "harsh," and which started right as the nation was in the early stages of the pandemic shutdowns.
By comparison, a Stanford sailing coach was sentenced to one day in prison and six months house arrest, along with probation and a fine.
Huffman was released after two weeks and Loughlin, who told reporters she was "terrified" of going to prison during the pandemic, will start a two-month prison sentence in November. Both were also fined and given community service hours for their role in schemes to bribe college officials to get their kids into certain schools.
Center was a celebrated and popular coach who spent 18 seasons at UT-Austin and was awarded the 2007 U.S. Professional Tennis Association's National College Coach of the Year. Each season under his leadership, Longhorns made appearances in the NCAA Championship, including three trips to the Final Four. Then in 2019, his team won the national championship.
Want to read more stories like this one? Start every day with a quick look at what's happening in Austin. Sign up for Austonia.com's free daily morning email.
- scandal - austonia ›
- Brené Brown and the effing pandemic - austonia ›
- Former UT tennis coach Michael Center in halfway house after ... ›
In what was called the "Dodge Bowl" among fans and the media, Coach Todd Dodge adds to the Chaparrals' trophy case by bringing home the State Championship for Westlake High School a second time. Westlake was able to hold off the Southlake Carroll Dragons, winning 52-34 and becoming back-to-back State Champions for the first time in school history.
Increased police, an adjourned Legislature and boarded-up storefronts: Austin preps for Inauguration Day protests
After supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol in a deadly riot last week, the FBI circulated an internal bulletin warning of armed protests being held at all 50 state capitols at least until Inauguration Day.
Here in Austin, local and state law enforcement officials have ramped up security around the Texas Capitol, the Texas Legislature has adjourned until Jan. 26 and downtown businesses have boarded up their storefronts—again.
- Texas Capitol amps up security after pro-Trump protest - austonia ›
- Gov. Abbott dispatches National Guard to Austin amid election ... ›
- Austin police prepare for election-week protests - austonia ›
- Downtown Austin boards up in anticipation of protests, again ... ›
- Black Pumas bring Austin music to the VP inaugural fundraising ... ›