SEABROOK – Gordon Ernst, a Chevy Chase resident who was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering and accepting bribes as part of a nationwide college admissions scandal, has resigned from his post as head coach at the University of Rhode Island.
The school’s athletic department issued a press release on March 23 after Ernst, who led the women’s tennis team, was put on administrative leave after being indicted by the FBI for taking more than $2.7 million in bribes during his time as head coach at Georgetown University.
He notified officials in the late afternoon that he would step down from his role. Rhode Island had a 5-5 record before Ernst was removed from his role.
Ernst pleaded not guilty in federal court in Greenbelt on March 12 and paid a $200,000 bond before appearing in court in Boston on March 21 and 25. He was charged helping to admit 12 students as members of the Hoyas tennis team between 2012 and 2018.
While he has surrendered his passport, Ernst asked the judge for permission to travel to find work in California and to take care of his mother and mother-in-law, who both live in Florida.
Currently, Ernst may only travel to Maryland and Massachusetts for court appearances.
According to court documents, the bribes were paid by wealthy parents to William Singer, owner of the for-profit college counseling company Edge College & Career Network and CEO of the nonprofit Key Worldwide Foundation. Singer established relationships with athletic directors and coaches, like Ernst, to set up the admission of students.
The investigation revealed that in one case, Ernst falsified a student’s application and their tennis abilities when the student had never played the sport competitively. He coached the Hoyas for 12 years before being let go in the summer of 2018.
On March 15, Georgetown President John J. DeGioia addressed the campus community in a letter, confirming that the school saw that Ernst had violated University protocol concerning admissions and it had led to his departure. School officials confirmed that he was under internal investigation in 2017 after the admissions office found inconsistencies in the credentials of students being recruited to play tennis.
However, DeGioia said the school did not know about any bribes or fraud that the former tennis coach was doing before the Justice Department investigation was announced.
“We were not aware at the time of any criminal activity and only learned of his alleged fraud from the Department of Justice after Mr. Ernst had left the University,” DeGioia said. “Now that the government’s investigation has detailed the extent of the alleged fraud, we are reviewing the indictment and will take appropriate action. We have no indication that any other Georgetown employees were involved.
FBI officials have charged 50 people in “Operation Varsity Blues” including actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman who were also found paying money to ensure their children were admitted into universities.
The admissions scandal has had a ripple effect in the education world with online outlet Politico reporting that the Department of Education is planning to open its own investigation on the eight universities named in the case. According to the report, the Department could assess penalties as high as limiting access to Pell Grants and federal student loans if federal regulations were violated.
“This case is about the widening corruption of elite college admissions through the steady application of wealth combined with fraud,” U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Andrew Lelling said.
If convicted, Ernst will have to surrender his membership to the Chevy Chase Club, his investment accounts, a house he owns in Cape Cod, Massachusetts and more than $2.7 million gained through the fraud.