AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The head coach of men’s tennis at the University of Texas is among three people in the state charged in a scheme that involved wealthy parents bribing college coaches and others to gain admissions for their children at top schools, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.
Michael Center, 54, is one of nearly 50 people charged in the scheme. He’s accused of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.
Center has a 365-137 record over 18 seasons with the men’s tennis team, considered one of the best programs in the country. He’s guided the Longhorns to appearances in the NCAA championship tennis tournament every year he’s been head coach.
He’s been placed on administrative leave as the university gathers more information on the allegations, according to a UT statement.
“We are cooperating fully with the investigation,” university spokesman J.B. Bird said. “Integrity in admissions is vital to the academic and ethical standards of our university.”
A phone listing for Center could not be found.
Two others facing charges are Martin Fox, 62, and Niki Williams, 44, both of Houston. Fox is the president of a private tennis academy and Williams is a college test administrator. Both are charged with racketeering conspiracy.
A phone listing for Fox was disconnected and a listing for Williams did not accept messages.
Federal authorities on Tuesday called the scheme the biggest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department, with the parents accused of paying an estimated $25 million in bribes.
Center is one of at least nine athletic coaches and 33 parents, many of them prominent in law, finance or business, who were charged.
In addition to UT, the coaches worked at Yale, Stanford, Georgetown and other schools. A former Yale soccer coach pleaded guilty and helped build the case against others.