2021 | Courts

Former Georgetown coach and Chevy Chase resident pleads guilty to bribery in college admissions scandal

He could face 1 to 4 years in prison and forfeiture of $3.4 million

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A former Georgetown University tennis coach pleaded guilty in Massachusetts on Monday to soliciting and accepting bribes in order to admit students as part of a widespread college admissions scandal.

Gordon Ernst, 54, formerly of Chevy Chase, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery, three counts of federal programs bribery and one count of filing a false tax return, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts announced.

Ernst, now of Falmouth, Mass., is accused of taking $2.7 million in bribes to help get students admitted by pretending they were tennis recruits.

Ernst was one of multiple people involved in “Operation Varsity Blues” — a scheme in which dozens of parents across the country allegedly paid bribes to college coaches and administrators to have their children admitted to elite universities. 

Ernst solicited and received bribes from William “Rick” Singer, the mastermind of the admissions scandal, and the families of prospective Georgetown students to ensure they were admitted to the university as athletes, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Ernst did not report the bribe payments on his federal income tax returns.

Authorities have previously said that Ernst accepted the $2.7 million in bribes between 2012 and 2018, and that he designated 12 applicants as recruits for the Georgetown tennis team.

Ernst has not coached at Georgetown since December 2017, following an internal investigation that “found he had violated university rules concerning admission” the university has said.

He later coached the women’s tennis team at the University of Rhode Island, but following his indictment in 2019, he was put on administrative leave and later resigned.

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

Ernst is scheduled to be sentenced March 2, 2022. Under the terms of the plea agreement, he will face between one and four years in prison, two years of supervised release and a forfeiture of more than $3.4 million, according to a press release.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said last month that Ernst planned to plead guilty.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com