Two months ago, Austin FC superfan Brad Tillery embarked on a near-impossible quest for the elusive Verde keeper kit, a swirling, bright green jersey worn by standout goalie Brad Stuver.
"It immediately grabbed my attention," Tillery told Austonia. "I just posted, 'Where is this. I've got to get this.'"
Tillery posted a few pleas for the kit, including a haiku, before his wife, Kerry Tillery, joined in on the fun. Kerry, who had a following on Vine before its collapse, said she was eager to join in on the creative process.
"I've always been big into like sketch comedy," Tillery said. "It's just been a lot of fun, and it's something collaborative that we can do (since) we don't do too much together creatively."
Kerry Tillery was one of the first to receive the keeper kit after creating videos for its release. (Kerry Tillery)
On Day 19 of the noble mission, the Tillerys' work finally got recognition after a clip made by the pair, inspired by the popular "JG Wentworth commercials," went viral in the Austin FC Twitterverse. The other Brad, goalkeeper Brad Stuver, saw the post and agreed to send Tillery a keeper kit if he donated to Stuver's charity. A deal had been made, but the keeper kit wouldn't reach the Tillery's mailbox for over a month.
Are you an @AustinFC fan and need a VERDE KEEPER KIT now?
Call FC Wentworth.
— Brad (@au_trout) April 13, 2021
After 53 days of serenading the kit, editing the jersey into Star Wars scenes and the Kentucky Derby and (jokingly) putting the kit's release above their own marriage, it was finally released.
Club Owner Anthony Precourt announced that the kit would be sold at the Verde Store, followed by a video featuring Stuver at the store itself. Members of fan clubs Los Verdes and Austin Anthem quickly scrambled to the store to purchase the long-awaited kit, and the Austin FC account had to warn that supplies were already limited.
Tillery said he actually received word on the kit's release at the Colorado Rapids game by Stuver himself.
"I haven't actually ever spoken to him, except for a 10-second conversation," Tillery said. "After the game in Denver, we were yelling back and forth, so I had an inkling that it was going to happen."
A month of silence followed, and Stuver shipped him the official kit two days before its announcement. When the kit finally arrived Saturday, Tillery said he felt "like a kid in a candy store."
Here's @au_trout on Saturday coming back from the mailbox and opening the package from @brad_stuver. Notice his death grip on the box. pic.twitter.com/zaTe1cvn34
— Kerry (@Kerry_Pro) May 17, 2021
It may seem like just another piece of Verde merch, but the Verde kit campaign has turned into a rallying cry. The Tillerys have been supported by Los Verdes, Austin Anthem, La Murga and Oak Army New Braunfels as the quest continued to gain traction.
Most importantly, however, the keeper kit has helped raise money for Brad Stuver's charity, The Laundry Project. Stuver and his wife, Ashley, brought their former charity to Austin with a goal of helping Austinites pay for laundromat fees, and Tillery made sure to shout out the charity that started it all in his final video on Monday.
"I thought it was important to do something for the community," Tillery said. "We're seeing people actually already donate today, and that's going to go to help people in our community who have to go to laundromats... just a small expense for it to be taken care of."
With a final, Breakfast Club-esque clip, Tillery raised his fist triumphantly in the keeper kit itself, his campaign finally a success.
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A $500 million mixed-use development spanning 1,400 acres is coming to Southeast Austin, near Tesla’s headquarters at Giga Texas.
Plans for the development by Houston-based real estate firm Hines include 2,500 houses along with multi-family and townhomes, and commercial land. Hines is partnering with Trez Capital, Sumitomo Forestry and Texas-based Caravel Ventures.
The development, which is known as Mirador, will be located off the 130 Toll and Highway 71, which the developers say provides easy access to the Circuit of the Americas Formula 1 racetrack and other Austin attractions like restaurants, parks and live music venues.
Hines also boasts amenities like a 60-acre lake, over 600 acres of greenbelt, community parks, trails and a swimming pool.
“As Austin continues to grow into the tech epicenter of Texas, coupled with a supply-constrained market, the demand for new housing is at its highest,” Dustin Davidson, managing director at Hines, said. “Mirador will be critical in providing more options for Austin’s growing population and we are excited to work alongside our partners given they each provide a unique and valued perspective in single-family development.”
The local housing market has been hot in recent years, with home sales accelerating earlier in the pandemic. In July 2021, the Austin metro area hit its pricing peak at $478,000. As Austonia previously reported, the area has been expected to see the Tesla effect, with the new workforce driving up demand for housing and other services.
The single-family houses are expected to be developed over the course of six years, in phases. Construction on the homes is expected to start this year and home sales will begin in 2023.
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Editor's note: This story summarizes Sports Illustrated's story detailing Michael Center's involvement in the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal, based on interviews with SI's Jon Wertheim. Additionally, Austonia received comments from Michael Center, included in this story.
Confined to his couch, former Longhorns tennis coach Michael Center praised his players via FaceTime after the program he built produced the Longhorns’ first national championship in 2019—a bittersweet moment as Center faced federal charges as part of the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal.
His name dragged through the mud, Center was fired, arrested by the FBI and sentenced to six months in a Central Texas federal prison after pleading guilty to two charges related to mail fraud. And over a year after his release, Center told Sports Illustrated he doubts he was the only one in burnt orange involved.
When the Varsity Blues scandal broke out to the public in 2019, the investigation was a perfect storm for nationwide attention: Hollywood glamour, blue blood conspiracy and faith in the tried-and-true American education system came to a head as 33 movie stars and other elites were found guilty of paying more than $25 million to pave their children’s way into eight colleges, including the University of Texas.
UT was one of eight schools caught in the college admissions scandal. (Laura Figi/Austonia)
The figure behind Varsity Blues, “college consultant” Rick Singer, would plead guilty to four felony counts for faking SAT scores and bribing coaches at prominent universities for his elite clients—but not before throwing Center under the bus.
Singer's client, private equity executive Chris Schaepe, was looking for a way to bend UT's tight admissions policies for his son, who was seeking a position oddly as a manager on UT’s basketball team. Through a middleman, Singer contacted Center, who eventually agreed.
Schaepe's son hadn't played tennis since his freshman year of high school. It was a detail that Center says passed through plenty of hands before he was admitted, including "academic support staff, the compliance office, the sports supervisor and, ultimately, the athletic director," SI's Jon Wertheim writes.
No one in the entire athletic department, including seven "risk management and compliant services department" employees, was named, implicated or punished. After an internal investigation, Center was the only one named in the Varsity Blues "subterfuge" in a September 2019 UT news release signed by the university president.
He told Austonia he was never contacted by the university during the investigation, and when the NCAA interviewed him for its investigation, he says it cleared him of any violations.
“I almost fell out of my chair,” Center said. “I literally couldn’t breathe. There’s no college coach in America—much less at a state school, much less a coach of a nonrevenue sport—who can admit an athlete without consulting other people in the athletic department. What they were asking people to believe, it’s just impossible.” SI said Center's assertion was backed by multiple UT coaches and administrators at other schools.But why would the Forty Acres be complicit?
Center said UT’s then newly named athletic director Steve Patterson made clear that Center suddenly was responsible for more than building a successful tennis program. He was to be a "fundraiser first and coach second" and he would need to find donors to fund a new tennis facility. Patterson admitted to SI that he wanted his coaches to find donors and said the department was "$15 million in the red" when he started in 2013, though he denies any knowledge of the false tennis recruitment.
Center said he knew he would be "considered a team player" if he let in the son of a Silicon Valley magnate. And sure enough, Schaepe immediately began pulling out his wallet, donating $100,000 to UT tennis and a six-figure check to the school's communication program.
"I never entered this as a way to profit. This was a fundraising mission where I made a terrible mistake at the end,"
Months after Schaepe's son was admitted, Center agreed to meet Singer at the Austin airport and found himself accepting a backpack filled with $60,000 in cash meant for him, personally. He said he immediately knew he had made a mistake. He told SI “I put the money in my basement and gave most of it away.”
“Why did I do it?” Center told Sports Illustrated. "I go to bed and wake up each day asking myself the same question. I had to convince myself that I somehow deserved the money."
Once in court, Center showed texts with UT's compliance official and mentioned Chris Plonsky, a department executive involved in "overseeing men’s tennis, compliance, academic support (which generates letters of intent) and the Longhorn Foundation," according to SI.
“I knew I had to answer for my guilt,” Center said. “But I was like, 'Man, schools are going to get hammered.'"'
INMATE 77806-112 but out on Sunday: Actor Felicity Huffman in prison uniform outside low-security Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin to visit actor husband William H. Macy & their daughter. Huffman admitted to paying $15K to have fixer boost daughter’s SAT score. 📸: @TMZ pic.twitter.com/9jALmqnA0U
— Henry K. Lee (@henrykleeKTVU) October 21, 2019
But Center was the only Longhorn to go down for the crimes. “I was no rogue actor,” Center said. “And this wasn’t my word against their word. There were signatures that went along with it. That’s the system... There wasn’t one point in the process where I thought people wanted to learn the whole truth.”
Back at home in Austin, Center watched as actress Felicity Huffman served just eleven days for her part in the scandal. Some served up to five months; others simply paid a fine, and others, like Singer, await sentencing.
And because the prosecution chose to blame individual coaches, framing schools as victims in the case, universities like UT have received less than a slap on the wrist for their possible involvement.
“I was always taught that actions have consequences,” Center said. “What I’ve come to realize is that, yes, for some people actions absolutely do have consequences. Serious, heavy ones. For others, actions can have no consequences at all.”
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