Georgetown University said it’s “deeply disappointed” to learn former tennis coach Gordon Ernst, a Cranston, R.I., native, allegedly vouched for at least a dozen sham recruits at the school as part of a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal that exploded into the headlines Tuesday.
And the University of Rhode Island, which hired Ernst as head tennis coach in August 2018, said Tuesday he’d been placed on administrative leave and said he has “not been involved in the recruitment of any current players nor in the signing of any new recruits.”
But it’s his alleged practices at Georgetown, where he coached men’s and women’s tennis for more than a decade, that now have him in the crosshairs of federal prosecutors in Massachusetts, where he’s charged with racketeering conspiracy.
Ernst, 52, of Chevy Chase, Md., is slated to make his initial appearance in US District Court in Boston on March 25. He’s currently free on $200,000 bond.
Authorities allege that Ernst, over several years at Georgetown, collected bribes totaling $2.7 million, in exchange for designating “at least 12 applicants as recruits for the Georgetown tennis team, including some who did not play tennis competitively, thereby facilitating their admission to Georgetown.”
In a statement Tuesday, Georgetown said it has cooperated with investigators.
“Georgetown University is deeply disappointed to learn that former Tennis Coach Gordon Ernst is alleged to have committed criminal acts against the University that constitute an unprecedented breach of trust,” the statement said. “Ernst has not coached our tennis team since December 2017, following an internal investigation that found he had violated University rules concerning admissions. Georgetown cooperated fully with the government’s investigation. We are reviewing the details of the indictment and will take appropriate action.”
Ernst hails from Rhode Island, according to a 2006 press release from Georgetown announcing his appointment as coach.
“He was the only athlete to win four straight Rhode Island High School State Tennis Championships in both singles and doubles and in 1985 the Cranston, Rhode Island native was the team captain of the United States Junior Davis Cup Team Camp,” the release said. “In 2000, Ernst was inducted into the Cranston, Rhode Island Athletic Hall of Fame and in 2003 he was inducted into the Rhode Island Interscholastic League Hall of Fame.”
The 2006 release also noted that Ernst had served since 2002 as executive director of Vineyard Youth Tennis on Martha’s Vineyard.
“I’m thrilled to be coming to an institution like Georgetown,” Ernst said in the school’s 2006 statement. “I’m really excited to get back to coaching at the collegiate level and I can’t think of a better school, in a better city and in a better conference than at Georgetown, in Washington, D.C. and in the BIG EAST.”
Court filings in the racketeering case show that if he’s convicted, prosecutors will seek an order compelling him to forfeit a Falmouth condo, as well as membership in a Chevy Chase country club and $2,719,963.78.
A Georgetown athletics website repeatedly quoted Ernst lavishing praise on his players during his tenure there.
A January 2016 story on guhoyas.com quoted a fired-up Ernst talking about the opening of the men’s spring schedule.
“The guys are pumped to have this incredible opportunity to play North Carolina,” Ernst told the site. “They are No. 9 in the country right now and have five guys in the national rankings. On Sunday we play VCU, another team ranked in the top 50 loaded with talent. We are jumping right into the fire to start the season.”
In September 2013, Ernst told the site that the women’s team was “raring to go” and “excited to start the season at home at our tournament.”