Gordon Ernst ’89, a Division I tennis coach recently indicted in the national college admissions scandal, was offered the head coaching position for Brown’s men’s tennis team in 2016 while federal authorities allege he was accepting millions of dollars in bribes as a coach at Georgetown University.
Athletic Director Jack Hayes offered Ernst the job in 2016 despite strong opposition from team members and individuals with ties to Brown tennis, according to former co-captains Lucas Da Silveira ’17 and Gregory Garcia ’17. Ernst was also considered for the position in a search two years before the 2016 offer, according to one member of the 2014 search committee and another individual familiar with Brown tennis. Both sources requested anonymity for fear of personal and professional repercussions.
It is unclear why Ernst never became coach after he was offered the position that year. Hayes instead hired Tim Gray in September 2016, who still serves as the head coach.
Hayes did not respond to The Herald’s request for comment. Director of Athletic Communications Christopher Humm responded on behalf of Hayes, declining to comment on the search process and saying that the hiring process for any coach is confidential.
On March 12, Ernst was indicted alongside other elite college coaches for conspiracy to commit racketeering, raking in $2.7 million dollars over the course of six years, according to court documents. Ernst allegedly accepted bribes between 2012 and 2018, largely during his time as head men’s and women’s tennis coach at Georgetown University. At the time of his arrest last week, Ernst was the head coach of the women’s tennis team at the University of Rhode Island, where he earned approximately $40,000 a year. He has been on paid leave since the scandal broke.
According to court documents, William Singer, head of a college consulting company, used a non-profit to pay Ernst for “consulting” fees; in exchange for the fees, “Ernst designated at least 12 applicants as recruits for the Georgetown tennis team, including some who did not play tennis competitively.”
Ernst could not be reached for comment by press time.
While at Georgetown, Ernst applied to be Brown’s head tennis coach twice — in 2014 and 2016. In a statement, Georgetown said it was unaware of any improprieties involving Ernst during that time period. At the end of 2017, Georgetown placed Ernst on administrative leave, citing an internal investigation that found “he had violated University rules concerning admissions,” according to the statement from Georgetown.
During both University searches for a head tennis coach, community members involved with the search expressed concern with hiring Ernst, who was a varsity hockey and tennis player while attending the University.
In 2016, Da Silveira and Garcia were involved with interviewing candidates for the head coaching position, including Ernst. Following the interview process, the captains emailed Hayes, writing that “members on our team have explicitly mentioned they would quit the team if (Ernst) was hired because they do not believe in how he runs his program,” according to the email obtained by The Herald. In the email, the captains referenced Ernst’s poor winning percentage at Georgetown and concerns they had from conversations with students who had played under Ernst. The captains also wrote “we need a coach that will be well respected by his players. … Our program cannot have a coach that looks at the head coaching position as a convenient paycheck.”
A member of the 2014 search committee said they told Hayes about their concerns regarding Ernst’s character and coaching ability during that search.
Former women’s tennis Head Coach Norma Taylor, who was not a member of the 2014 search committee, also expressed apprehension toward Ernst and wrote an email to Hayes stating her concerns during the 2014 search. Taylor said she did not think that Ernst would be “appropriate for the position.”
While Ernst had critics involved with the search, some University alums favored his hiring, according to an individual familiar with Brown tennis. The individual preferred Bryan Koniecko over Ernst, who was ultimately hired in 2014. Koniecko coached at the University for two years but left to become the women’s tennis head coach at the University of Central Florida in 2016. When the position opened, Ernst applied again.
Following the announcement of the indictments last week, the University underwent a “case-by-case review” of athletes and found no concerns connected to the bribery cases, according to a statement from Director of News and Editorial Development Brian Clark first reported in the Providence Journal.
Ernst is next scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Boston March 25.