Six months after a cheating scandal embroiled eight elite U.S. colleges, including the University of Texas at Austin, the damage is still being assessed. On September 9, UT president Gregory Fenves released the findings of an internal investigation to determine if any additional student-athletes were involved in the dirty dealings.
But first, a review of the past events. On March 12, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts indicted 50 people in a college admission cheating scandal that spread from coast to coast and involved bribing SAT and ACT administrators and college coaches by wealthy parents. Among those infamously indicted, and later sued, were Full House star Lori Loughlin and Desperate Housewives' Felicity Huffman.
Also indicted was UT men's tennis coach Michael Center, who was promptly placed on administrative leave and then fired by the university. According to the March indictment, Center allegedly took $100,000 between fall 2014 and summer 2015 to recruit a student onto the men's tennis team.
In the March complaint, FBI Special Agent Laura Smith writes, "Documents I have reviewed indicate that Applicant 1 [the UT student] was not a competitive tennis player. Applicant l's application for admission to U-Texas listed him as a manager of his high school basketball and football teams. The only tennis referenced in his application was one year of tennis as a high school freshman."
(It's worth mentioning that despite the turmoil, this year's team went on to win the 2019 NCAA championship in May. A storybook ending for what was surely an unsettling season.)
Back at UT, the school's internal investigation examined 827 Longhorns enrolled between 2012-17, as well as every tennis player who played during Center's 18-year tenure.
In an executive summary, the university says it found no other student-athletes violated UT admissions policies. The full review, which was conducted by VP for legal affairs James E. Davis, was not released by the university, who cited the information as confidential under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
According to the summary, the coach went undetected because "Center's conduct was unthinkable in athletics, [therefore] the controls in place did not catch his subterfuge." In a letter expounding on the report, Fenves says the school is adding additional measures to deter something similar from happening again.
"To prevent any recurrence, we will be implementing recommendations designed to close the identified vulnerabilities in the student-athlete admissions process," says Fenves. "This will require us to set clearer standards for measuring athletic legitimacy, while improving procedures throughout Texas Athletics."
Those recommendations, outlined in the executive summary of the report, include:
- Setting clear standards for recommending admissions of student-athletes.
- Improvement of the management of the athletics department culture and employee performance.
- Written assessment of prospective student-athletes by coaching staff and athletic department leadership, which will then be reviewed by college admission staff.