Former Georgetown tennis coach Gordon Ernst pleaded not guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge in a Boston federal court Monday, following his March 22 resignation from the University of Rhode Island.
Ernst’s plea comes after the U.S. Department of Justice brought charges against 50 defendants, including other coaches as well as parents, for college admissions fraud March 12. Eleven other defendants were arraigned with Ernst on Monday, all of whom pleaded not guilty.
The indictment alleges that Ernst accepted more than $2.7 million in bribes to falsely designate 12 applicants as athletes recruited to the tennis team to guarantee their admission to Georgetown. Ernst was released on a $200,000 bond March 12 after the indictment charges.
Ernst allegedly channeled the bribes through a charity intended to help underserved youth and used the money to purchase a house in Cape Cod, according to federal prosecutors. Prosecutors are pursuing the forfeiture of the Cape Cod estate as well as Ernst’s Chevy Chase Club membership, among other assets.
The federal judge of the arraignment also approved expanded conditions of release after Ernst filed a petition Friday to travel within the continental United States to visit his mother and look for jobs as a tennis professional.
The college admissions scheme was led by William “Rick” Singer, who pleaded guilty to four charges including racketeering conspiracy March 12. Singer owned the college consulting company that facilitated the bribes by collecting payments from parents and distributing them to coaches.
The Department of Education sent a letter to Georgetown and seven other universities Monday to alert the institutions that the Ed Department is opening its own investigation into the bribery scheme. Universities have an obligation to notify the Ed Department of any credible information that an employee may have engaged in fraud regarding federal student aid programs.
Georgetown conducted an internal investigation into Ernst’s conduct in 2017 and asked him to resign after the investigation found that Ernst had violated admissions policies, according to the university’s website.
“While evaluating applications of students who were being recruited by Mr. Ernst to play tennis, our Admissions Office discovered irregularities in the representation of their athletic abilities and other credentials,” the website said.
Following his resignation from Georgetown, Ernst began working as a tennis coach for the University of Rhode Island. URI announced that Ernst resigned at 3:47 p.m. on Friday, March 22. URI had placed Ernst on administrative leave March 12.
URI hired Ernst after Georgetown athletic director Lee Reed gave Ernst a positive recommendation, according to a URI statement.
Georgetown removed a June 2018 press release from its website thanking Ernst, referred to as “Gordie,” for his service to the tennis team, according to an op-ed written by URI President David Dooley and URI athletic director Thorr Bjorn in the Providence Journal on March 22.
“The University wishes Gordie all the best,” the Georgetown release said.
Georgetown University Alumni Admissions Program interviewer Mickey Lee (COL ’05) emailed to the university Monday a petition with 18,000 signatures urging the university to rescind degrees and admission to those implicated in the admissions bribery scheme. Lee also blamed Georgetown Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Charles Deacon (CAS ’64, GRD ’69) for the scandal and requested his resignation.
“Georgetown must lead the way and by example through this bribery scandal by doing what it can in its power to deter future attempts to bastardize the meritocracy that is supposed to be education,” Lee wrote in an email to the university president’s office. “In this case, it all starts with rescinding admissions and degrees conferred to these cheating frauds as well as having the Dean of Admissions accept responsibility by resigning from his post.”
The university has not yet issued a public response to Lee’s email.
Yale confirmed Monday that it rescinded an admissions offer for a student linked to the college admissions cheating and bribery scandal, according to the university’s website. The University of Southern California rescinded the admissions of six students implicated in the scandal March 14, according to The Washington Post.
This article was updated March 27 to correct Lee’s role as a Georgetown University Alumni Admissions Program interviewer.