Former Georgetown tennis coach Gordon Ernst plead not guilty on Monday to charges he accepted $2.7 million in bribes to smooth students’ acceptances to the university.
This was Ernsts’ second court appearance since March 12, when he was indicted by the Department of Justice on racketeering conspiracy charges as part of the nationwide college admissions scandal. He is accused of accepting money to label students as top athletic recruits for Georgetown’s tennis team, even though the students did not have the proper qualifications. The day the scandal broke, he was released by a judge on $200,000 bail.
Ernst was the first of 12 defendants to enter his “not guilty” plea in the Boston federal court. In his arraignment on Monday, federal prosecutors described Ernst as the “lead defendant” out of the group for his role in an “orchestrated, sophisticated and long-term bribery scheme,” reported the Providence Journal.
Ernst has not released any public statements since his indictment, but the University of Rhode Island (URI) wrote in a press release that Ernst resigned as URI’s head women’s tennis coach on March 23.
Ernst began at URI after his resignation from Georgetown in June 2018. His resignation followed an internal investigation conducted by Georgetown into why some of Ernst’s recruits never played on the team once they got to campus, a university spokesperson wrote in a March 12 statement to the Voice. The probe’s results lead the university to place Ernst on leave in December 2017 and eventually to his resignation. In a statement to the Voice on March 14, a URI spokesperson wrote that the university had contacted Georgetown staff members about Ernst in August 2018, including Georgetown athletics director Lee Reed, who allegedly gave Ernst a positive reference.
“Any statement Georgetown made after asking him to resign focused on his athletic record only,” a Georgetown spokesperson wrote in an email to the Voice when asked why URI was not informed of the investigation.
URI president David Dooley and athletics director Thorr Bjorn denied they knew of any issues surrounding Ernsts’ conduct before his indictment in a March 22 op-ed in the Providence Journal.
“How could we have known about Mr. Ernst’s record at Georgetown?” they wrote. “Like all searches at the university, the one for a new tennis coach followed a rigorous set of standards, approved by our Office of Human Resource Administration and Office of Affirmative Action.”
Ernst is due back in court on June 3 for a hearing to decide the date of his trial. The rest of the over 50 people accused in the college admissions scandal are due in court over the next week.