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University of Texas Legal Chief Takes On Review of Admissions Cheating Scandal

Michael Center, former coach at the University of Texas.

The University of Texas at Austin has asked Jim Davis, its vice president for legal affairs, to conduct a review of how its fired men’s tennis coach became embroiled in the nationwide college admissions scandal and to recommend what can be done to prevent future misconduct.

In a letter to the campus community Wednesday, university President Gregory Fenves said, “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.”

Fenves said the university had fired tennis coach Michael Center, one of at least 50 people charged across the country in the scandal that gave preferential college admissions to children of wealthy parents who paid bribes. Nine coaches at eight colleges have been charged.

Fenves said he asked Davis, who could not be reached for comment, to conduct a thorough review and “to determine whether the university has the necessary rules and procedures in place to prevent violations in the future.”

Center is charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Center, who could not be reached, is represented by Houston criminal defense attorney Dan Cogdell.

Cogdell said Center will plead not guilty when he appears in U.S. District Court in Boston on March 25.

“He is one of the foremost tennis coaches in the country, and a wonderful man,” Cogdell said. “He has been terminated, hit in the face by a tidal wave. He is just devastated by this accusation.”

According to the criminal complaint and other indictments in the case, Center was brought into the alleged conspiracy by Martin Fox, a resident of Houston and president of a private tennis academy and camp there. Fox has been charged with racketeering conspiracy. He allegedly received $100,000 for his role in bringing Center into the conspiracy, according to court documents.

The documents say around 2015 Fox introduced Center to William “Rick” Singer, the alleged mastermind of the admissions scheme. Singer founded the Edge College & Career Network, a for-profit college preparation company in California, as well as the Key Worldwide Foundation, a nonprofit charity.

The government said Singer used the business and the foundation to funnel bribes from the parents to nine coaches, including Center. Singer pleaded guilty Tuesday to all counts, including racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

Singer also appears to be “cooperating witness 1” in the complaint, who wore a wire and recorded the conversation for prosecutors when he allegedly flew to Austin in June 2015 and paid Center about $60,000 in a hotel parking lot.

In exchange, Center allegedly awarded the son of Singer’s client with a tennis scholarship and an admissions spot, even though the student had not played tennis since he was a freshman in high school. Once admitted at the university, the student dropped off the tennis team shortly after school began and renounced his scholarship. The school has not identified him.

In a recorded conversation, Center told Singer he had used part of the bribe money, which eventually reached nearly $100,000, for the universities’ new tennis facility.