Former University of Texas tennis coach Michael Center, who spent six months in prison in connection with the ‘Operation Varsity Blues’ college admissions scandal, said on Thursday he was under anti-watch. – suicide while he was locked up.
Center spoke to CMG Thursday about the scandal, in which he ended up pleading guilty to accepting more than $100,000 in bribes. He was among several sports coaches at universities, including Yale and Georgetown, who federal prosecutors say were paid to nominate students as athletes under a $25 million program.
“There were mistakes I made, I own up to my mistakes. I’m not saying I was perfect, but I never imagined I was committing a crime, going to jail, going to jail. would carry a felony,’ Center said.
Center pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and honest services fraud in February 2020 relating to $100,000 in bribes prosecutors said he took to help the son of the Silicon Valley venture capitalist Christopher Schaepe to enter the school.
University of California admissions consultant William ‘Rick’ Singer pleaded guilty in March 2020 to helping parents facilitate cheating on college entrance exams and bribing college coaches to present mistaking their children as athletic recruits.
Michael Center, former men’s tennis coach at the University of Texas at Austin
The center pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and honest services fraud related to $100,000 in bribes prosecutors said they took to help the son of the Silicon Valley venture capitalist Christopher Schaepe (pictured) to enter the school
Prosecutors said the Center agreed to take kickbacks from Singer in 2015 in exchange for naming Schaepe’s son as a tennis rookie, even though he had limited tennis experience.
Center – who said he was at one time placed on suicide watch because a guard told him he ‘didn’t want another Jeffrey Epstein’ – said he was never made aware of such an arrangement between him and a rookie.
“There is a very thorough vetting process that takes place and if at any point the university thought it was inappropriate to sign a letter of intent, they had every right to ask me,” a- he declared. “But no one at any time, no one came to my office, texted me, called me, let me know.”
The university said it found no other improperly admitted student-athletes.
The singer flew to Austin in June 2015 and gave the center a bag with $60,000 in cash, prosecutors say. They said an additional $40,000 went to the University of Texas tennis program in donations.
Full House’s Lori Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, (seen behind her outside the John Joseph Moakley US Courthouse in Boston on August 27) have pleaded not guilty
Felicity Huffman leaves federal court in Boston with her brother Moore Huffman Jr., background left, after being convicted in the nationwide college admissions bribery scandal
The children of Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli are said to have won their place following bribes from their wealthy parents
He claims the only reason he took the money was pressure to help fund his program to build more tennis courts.
“It started because I wanted tennis courts,” Center said. “I wanted a facility, I wanted to be able to attract athletes and train them, and I wanted to have a team that performed well.”
“I felt a lot of pressure to raise a lot of money and there were a lot of people asking me and others to raise money and when that money came they were happy. No one complained,” he continued.
He said that despite everything he went through, he chose to move on and move on with his life.
“If I let this beat me, I’m not the person I want to be,” Center said. “I’m not the person I want to be for my kids. I have to show them that when you get knocked down, you get up.
Center told Sports Illustrated in January that his prison sentence was not a picnic, that he contracted COVID-19 in prison and that his transfer request to serve his sentence at home was denied because a judge had misread the application, believing him to be a college tennis player in his twenties. .
However, claiming not to want to uproot his wife and teenage sons from Texas, Center has been unable to find work since his release from prison.
After leaving court following his sentencing, Center fled from reporters gathered outside who questioned him in Boston
Center says he only did what he did because he felt pressure from the University of Texas to raise money
At sentencing, Center slumped in his chair and sobbed with his face in his hands after the judge said he would spend time behind bars for actions that undermined public confidence in the trial process. university admission.
“I believe you’re a good man, but it’s one of those things that just can’t be overlooked,” U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns told him.
Center cried as he apologized to family and friends and begged the judge not to send him to jail.
“I just want you to know how sorry and ashamed I am to have participated in this,” he told the judge. He was released in October 2020.
A total of 20 people have agreed to plead guilty since prosecutors unsealed the case on March 12, 2020, including “Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman, who is due to plead guilty on May 21, 2020.
Three other former coaches have agreed to plead guilty. On Tuesday, a former assistant women’s soccer coach at the University of Southern California agreed to plead guilty to her role in the scheme.
Thirty-three parents were among those charged, including “Full House” star Lori Loughlin, who has pleaded not guilty to paying bribes to get her two daughters admitted to USC.
Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli paid $500,000 to get their daughters into USC as rowing recruits, despite the fact that neither daughter participated in the sport.
Huffman paid $15,000 to have a proctor secretly change the answers on his daughter’s SAT answers to help her pass the college entrance exam.
The damning call that caught the center: How prosecutors got the shamed tennis coach to confess to taking bribes over the phone
CW-1 . . . . I was calling you – I’m in Boston right now.
CW-1 But I called you, because I have a child for potentially next year. It’s a 2-3 star so obviously it’s not up to par with you guys.
CENTER Yeah. CW-1 And I was hoping we could kind of do what we did last time. I don’t know exactly what we did, but whatever it is, if we could do something like that, it would be fabulous. Do you remember what we did?
CENTER Yeah, I mean I signed it for “books”.
CW-1 Yeah. Okay.
CENTER And I had him in school, you know, and then he — then he got off the team. I mean, does this kid want to be on the team or does this kid just want to go to school?
CW-1 …I think it could probably go either way.
CW-1 …he doesn’t have to be on the team to be honest.
CW-1 But he can be, and he doesn’t need the purse, so he can take out the purse, right? You know, when school starts if you want that. *
CW-1 So, yeah, I mean, just think about what we’ve done financially [for Applicant 1].
CW-1 Because I want to make sure it works for you too.
CENTER Yeah. Okay.
CW-1 I remember we met and, you know, some — some of the money was going towards your — was that your son’s bar mitzvah?
CENTER Well no. Well, we — I invested money in this facility, to be honest with you.
CW-1 Okay. Okay.
CENTER You sent me some checks which I gave to the establishment.
CW-1 To the right. Great.
CENTER And then I — and then — and then you came to Austin that time.
CW-1 To the right.
CENTER So I think — I think the total amount was, you know, in the 90s zone, if I remember correctly. Yeah.
CW-1 Understood. Well, you–you let me know what that number is.
CENTER Okay. CW-1 And think about it, and–
CENTER Okay. Let me see what I can do. It’s a little – I have to – it’s a little tight because – you know, even these scholarships are … you know what I have to do, it’s just, if you could start with . .. maybe just send me an e-mail or send me the child’s name, and…
CW-1 Info and all that.
CENTER Or maybe — yeah, yeah. CW-1 Leave it to me. I will do that.