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Gordon Ernst ’89 pleads guilty to Varsity Blues bribery charges

Plea agreement, reached last month, recommends no more than four years of prison time

 Ernst will also forfeit more than $3.4 million in assets, which includes his $276,000-worth home in Falmouth, Massachusetts.
Ernst will also forfeit more than $3.4 million in assets, which includes his $276,000-worth home in Falmouth, Massachusetts.

Gordon Ernst ’89, a former tennis coach at Georgetown University who was offered a coaching position at Brown in 2016, pleaded guilty to accepting more than $3 million related to the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal on Monday in federal court. The list of charges includes conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery, three counts of federal programs bribery and filing false tax returns.

Ernst appeared through Zoom in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in front of Judge Indira Talwani, where he pleaded guilty to the list of charges included in the plea agreement, allowing him to face a maximum of four years in prison time. Talwani told Ernst that without the plea agreement, just one of the counts could have resulted in a sentence of up to five years in prison. Ernst will be sentenced in March 2022.

Prosecutors and Ernst’s legal team reached the plea agreement back in September where seven other charges against Ernst were dropped, The Herald previously reported

As part of the plea agreement, Ernst admitted to receiving more than $3 million through the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal and agreed to ask for no less than one year in prison time. 


Ernst will also forfeit more than $3.4 million in assets, including $276,000 in place of forfeiting his home in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Authorities stated that the sum of forfeited assets is equivalent to the amount Ernst gained from his criminal activities. 

Ernst’s attorney, Tracy Miner, could not be reached for comment.

Ernst allegedly received more than $2.7 million in bribes from Rick Singer, the college admissions consultant at the front of the Operation Varsity Blues scandal, in exchange for fraudulently naming at least 12 students as athletic recruits for his tennis program at Georgetown between 2007 and 2018, according to court records. Ernst also collected direct bribes from parents to help applicants secure admission to Georgetown.

Ernst was arrested in 2019 in connection to the admissions scandal, which charged 57 parents, coaches and athletic directors in total, with more than four dozen pleading guilty since. Ernst’s trial was previously set to occur in November before he agreed to plead guilty to the set of charges.

Ernst served as a tennis coach at Georgetown from 2006 to 2018. He left the school after an independent report conducted by Georgetown found that Ernst had violated the school’s admission rules. Ernst subsequently worked at the University of Rhode Island until his 2019 arrest. As a result of the slew of bribes accepted during his employment at Georgetown, Ernst gained roughly $3 million on top of his salary.

Ernst was offered the position of head coach of the Brown men’s tennis team in 2016, after playing tennis and hockey as an undergraduate at the University, The Herald previously reported. He was also considered for the position in 2014. 

Ernst’s offer of employment in 2016 was poorly received by members of the men’s tennis team, including by former co-captains Lucas Da Silveira ’17 and Gregory Garcia ’17, who were involved in the hiring process and expressed their concerns in an email to former Director of Athletics Jack Hayes, The Herald previously reported. Ernst never assumed the position of head coach at Brown. 

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

In an email to The Herald, University spokesperson Brian Clark said “the circumstances related to the charges (against Ernst) have nothing to do with any activity at Brown,” as he never worked at the University. 


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