AUSTIN, Texas — One day after Michael Center was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, Center was dismissed as the University of Texas tennis head coach.
“After working with campus leaders to review the recent situation with Michael Center, we have decided to relieve him of his duties as our men’s tennis coach,” said Texas athletics director Chris Del Conte.
“It’s a very difficult decision, and we are grateful for the years of service that he has provided, but winning with integrity will always be paramount at the University of Texas, and it was a decision that had to be made.”
Famous actors, college coaches and more have been charged in a sweeping college admissions bribery scandal, including the former UT tennis coach.
UT associate head tennis coach Bruce Berque will continue as the Longhorns’ interim head coach. All other members of the UT men’s tennis staff will remain in place as well, according to a release from the UT Athletics Department.
“I’ve met with our team and assured them that we will do everything in our power to support them,” Del Conte added. “I also plan to reach out to all of our commitments, signees and their families immediately. I’m grateful for Coach Berque’s leadership during this challenging time. Our team is in the middle of a tremendous season, and I applaud them for how they’ve handled this situation, especially the way they responded in their match on Tuesday [vs. Rice].”
Center was released from federal custody on Tuesday on a $50,000 bond.
He didn't have much to say when he left the courthouse on Tuesday.
"Maybe you guys can go cover the team, they're a lot more fun to cover than I am," Center said.
According to court documents, a witness told investigators that in 2015 Center agreed to accept approximately $100,000 from the witness as a bribe, in exchange for Center to designate a student as a UT tennis team recruit, thereby facilitating his admission to UT.
The documents said the student was a California resident who did not play competitive tennis.
Center was hired by the University of Texas on July 25, 2000 and has been a coach at the university for the past 18 seasons.
On Wednesday UT President Gregory Fenves issued a statement:
"As many of you know, criminal charges were filed yesterday against a number of staff members and coaches at eight universities for alleged bribery and admissions fraud. One University of Texas employee — Men’s Tennis Coach Michael Center — was charged as part of an extensive federal investigation.
We take the criminal allegations against Michael Center very seriously and, as of today, he has been terminated as a UT employee. I have asked Vice President for Legal Affairs Jim Davis to conduct a thorough review of the alleged 2015 fraud that Mr. Center has been charged with, and to determine whether the university has the necessary rules and procedures in place to prevent violations in the future.
The integrity of UT admissions is essential to our mission as a research university and to the students and families we serve. That is why any act of wrongdoing, no matter how singular, matters so deeply.
At UT, tens of thousands of students, faculty and staff members, coaches and admissions officers conduct themselves with honor and distinction every day. Any ethical breach overshadows their accomplishments and violates our culture of service and distinction. Moving forward, we must continue to strive for the highest ethical standards at The University of Texas."