80ºF

Former UT coach Michael Center sentenced to six months in connection with admissions scandal

The University of Texas men's tennis coach Michael Center exited the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Austin on March 12, 2019. (Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / The Texas Tribune)
The University of Texas men's tennis coach Michael Center exited the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Austin on March 12, 2019. (Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / The Texas Tribune)

Former University of Texas at Austin tennis coach Michael Center was sentenced Monday to six months in prison in a Boston federal court for his involvement in the nationwide admissions scandal that implicated more than 50 people, including celebrities Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.

Center pleaded guilty last April to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud and was released on a $5,000 bond.

Although the maximum sentence for the charges was 20 years, U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns accepted prosecutors' recommendation of six months in exchange for Center’s “substantial assistance,” according to the plea deal. Other penalties handed down include a $20,000 fine, forfeiture of the $60,000 Center pocketed and 12 months of supervised release, USA Today's Joey Garrison reported.

The sentence was even lower than the original 15 to 22 months of prison time and $250,000 fine laid out in the plea deal. Prosecutors said Center's remorse and cooperation impacted their recommendation, according to Garrison.

Investigators found that Center conspired with mastermind William “Rick” Singer in 2015 to get a prospective student admitted to the university under false pretenses. Center accepted a $100,000 bribe, $40,000 of which was donated to UT’s athletics program, in exchange for designating the student a tennis recruit.

The student, who was from California, had no background playing competitive tennis and promptly left the college team after being accepted to the university.

"Over the past year, the university has put in place controls and processes to prevent the kind of fraud Mr. Center pleaded guilty to," UT spokesperson J.B. Bird told The Texas Tribune in a statement. "We remain focused on protecting the integrity of the admissions process for student-athletes."

The harshest penalty yet was handed down earlier this month to Douglas Hodge, former CEO of global investment firm PIMCO, who was sentenced to 9 months in prison. Huffman, on the other hand, served just 11 days of a 14-day sentence.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.