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Gordon Ernst ’89 to plead guilty in Varsity Blues

Ernst ‘89 offered coach position in 2016, will plead guilty to charges in federal court

Gordon Ernst ’89, a former Division I tennis coach at Georgetown University, will admit to profiting over $3 million through his involvement in the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal. Ernst, one of nearly four dozen defendants to plead guilty in the case, will accept a list of charges that includes conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery, three counts of federal programs bribery and filing false tax returns.

Ernst, who played for the tennis and hockey team as a student at Brown, was offered the head coaching position for Brown’s men’s tennis team in 2016, The Herald previously reported.

Between 2007 and 2018, Ernst allegedly designated at least twelve students as athletic recruits in exchange for bribes from college admissions consultant Rick Singer. Ernst, who left Georgetown in 2018 when an internal investigation revealed that he had violated the school’s admissions rules, was arrested in 2019 alongside a slew of coaches, athletic directors and parents.

Two years after news of the scandal broke, the first trial has begun in Boston’s federal court. Before he decided to plead guilty, Ernst was set to stand trial in November.

As part of his guilty plea, Ernst has agreed to ask for no less than one year in prison, and the prosecution has agreed to recommend a sentence no longer than four years. Ernst must also forfeit assets totaling over $3.4 million, which authorities claim is equal to the amount he gained from his illegal activities.

Ernst’s lawyer, Tracy Miner, declined to comment.

Ernst was considered for the head coaching position once in 2014 before former Athletic Director Jack Hayes offered Ernst the position in 2016, The Herald previously reported. Hayes’ offer to Ernst was met with concern and opposition from team members and individuals with ties to the team, according to former co-captains Lucas Da Silveira ’17 and Gregory Garcia ’17, The Herald previously reported.

“Gordon Ernst interviewed for the Head Men’s Tennis Coach position at Brown several years ago but was not hired,” wrote Vice President for Athletics and Recreation M. Grace Calhoun ’92 in an email to The Herald.

Hayes did not respond to The Herald’s request for comment by press time.

 In 2016, Da Silveira and Garcia were involved in the hiring process for the head coaching position and expressed their disapproval of Ernst as a candidate. In a 2016 email to Hayes that was obtained by The Herald in 2019, Da Silveira and Garcia wrote 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.”

In the email to Hayes, the captains identified Ernst’s poor coaching record at Georgetown, conversations with players who had been coached by Ernst and Ernst’s apparent prioritization of his own financial gains over the success of his players as sources of concern for team members. Ernst never assumed the role of head coach for the tennis team and remained at Georgetown until 2018.

While Da Silveira and Garcia advocated against Ernst’s hire, Ernst himself was in the midst of his tenure at Georgetown – a 11-year span in which he received $2.7 million in the form of payments from Singer, according to court documents filed during his 2019 indictment.

Between bribes from Singer disguised as consulting fees and payments made directly by parents, Ernst amassed roughly $3 million in addition to his normal salary during his time as a coach. In 2014, Ernst allegedly received $200,000 in exchange for recruiting an applicant who otherwise would not have been considered by the Georgetown athletic program.

In 2018, Georgetown launched an investigation into Ernst’s recruiting practices and found that he had violated the University’s rules, leading to his departure. Ernst was then hired by the University of Rhode Island, where he worked until his arrest in 2019.

Out of 57 people indicted in the “Operation Varsity Blues” scandal, Ernst is one of nearly four dozen defendants to plead guilty. A plea hearing has yet to be scheduled, according to federal prosecutors.


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