The Washington Post
Ex-georgetown tennis coach to plead guilty following admissions scandal
The former Georgetown University head tennis coach accused of accepting and soliciting bribes from prospective students in a years-long college admissions scandal will plead guilty, according to court documents filed Wednesday.
Gordon Ernst, 54, was accused of taking more than $2.7 million in bribes for coveted spots on Georgetown’s tennis teams between 2012 and 2018, court documents show. The former coach also failed to report a significant chunk of that money on federal income taxes, according to prosecutors.
Ernst faces between one and four years in prison, two years of supervised release, and forfeiture of $3.4 million, according to court documents. A plea hearing has not yet been scheduled.
Tracy Miner, Ernst’s attorney, declined a request for comment Wednesday.
Ernst was named by prosecutors as one of several individuals involved in a wide-reaching admissions scandal in 2019. The scheme was orchestrated by California-based consultant William “Rick” Singer, who offered wealthy families what he called a “side door” into elite U.S. colleges — special test-taking arrangements that provided a cover for cheating and favors in admissions offices.
Singer pleaded guilty in 2019 to racketeering, money laundering and other charges.
Prosecutors said Ernst, in exchange for bribes from Singer, named at least 12 Georgetown applicants as tennis recruits, including some who did not play the sport competitively, making their entry onto the Northwest Washington campus easier.
Ernst arrived at Georgetown to coach the men’s and women’s tennis teams in 2006. He was a high-profile coach at the time, giving lessons to the Obamas and securing a spot in the New England Tennis Hall of Fame in 2015.
That same year, Ernst allegedly received an email from a Georgetown applicant that contained false tennis accomplishments. Prosecutors said Ernst shared the email with the school’s admissions office, then followed up days later to check on his “three spots.” Each of those spots went to Singer’s clients, court documents show, and Ernst received checks totaling $700,000 between September and August 2016.
Georgetown started noticing problems in late 2017 when officials discovered what they described as “irregularities in the athletic and other credentials” of two of Ernst’s recruits. The university put Ernst on leave in December of that year and launched an investigation that ultimately found the coach broke school rules. But the probe did not find evidence of criminal activity or bribes, officials said.
The university asked Ernst to resign, and he left Georgetown in June 2018. He found a new job coaching at the University of Rhode Island; officials there said they were unaware of the rule violations at Georgetown.
Less than a year later, Ernst would be charged along with more than 50 people — among them former coaches from Yale and Stanford universities and famous parents, including actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman. About four dozen people have pleaded guilty.
Douglas Hodge, former chief executive of Pacific Investment Management Co., has served the longest sentence so far at nine months. Hodge paid $850,000 in bribes over a decade to help his children, who applied to college as fake athletic recruits, get into the University of Southern California and Georgetown.