A former Georgetown University head tennis coach who pleaded guilty last fall to accepting bribes to help prospective students gain admission to the school was sentenced Friday to more than two years in prison, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Massachusetts.
The sentencing of the coach, Gordon Ernst, 54, of Chevy Chase, Md., and Falmouth, Mass., to 30 months represented the harshest punishment issued so far in the federal investigation known as Operation Varsity Blues, which has focused on the payment of bribes by wealthy parents in order to have their children admitted to elite colleges.
“Mr. Ernst was one of the most prolific participants in cheating the college admissions system,” Rachael S. Rollins, the U.S. attorney, said in a statement. “He put nearly $3.5 million in bribes directly into his pocket and sold close to two dozen slots at Georgetown to the highest bidder.”
Mr. Ernst pleaded guilty last fall to charges including conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery and filing a false tax return, according to court documents.
“Mr. Ernst was a key driver of this corruption of the college admissions process, and the court’s sentence speaks volumes about the gravity of his conduct,” Ms. Rollins said in the statement.
Attorneys for Mr. Ernst could not be reached for comment.
The disgraced former tennis coach was first arrested in March 2019, along with more than four dozen other coaches, parents and testing center officials. Mr. Ernst pleaded guilty to taking bribes to designate at least 12 students as recruits for the Georgetown tennis team between 2012 and 2018. Some of those students did not play tennis competitively, according to court documents.
More than 50 people have been charged in connection with the scandal.
Mr. Ernst also failed to report all of the income from those bribe payments on his federal income tax returns, according to a statement from the Department of Justice. His sentencing is one of the final installments in the Varsity Blues scandal, which prompted renewed concerns about a college admissions system that often favors wealthy applicants.
Mr. Ernst worked alongside the person that prosecutors said was the ringleader of the college admissions scheme, William Singer, who went by Rick, a private college counselor who offered wealthy families a “side door” into the nation’s top universities, often using athletic recruiters like Mr. Ernst to obfuscate a college applicant’s qualifications. Mr. Singer, who began cooperating with authorities in 2018, is one of four remaining defendants in the Varsity Blues case who have not yet been sentenced. His hearing is scheduled for September.