URI tennis coach indicted in college admissions bribery case

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BOSTON (WPRI) — The head coach of the University of Rhode Island women’s tennis team has been placed on administrative leave after he was one of dozens of people indicted in connection with a massive college admissions bribery scandal.

At least nine athletic coaches – including URI’s Gordon Ernst – and dozens of parents were among those charged in the investigation dubbed Operation Varsity Blues, federal authorities said.

Prosecutors said parents paid admissions consultant William Rick Singer to bribe coaches and administrators to label their children as recruited athletes, to alter test scores, and to have others take online classes to boost their children’s chances of getting into schools.

Ernst is charged with one count of racketeering conspiracy. The charge stems from when Ernst, a Cranston native and Brown University graduate, was employed as the head coach of men’s and women’s tennis at Georgetown University.

According to the indictment, Singer paid Ernst bribes – falsely labeled “consulting fees” – totaling more than $2.7 million.

In exchange, Ernst is accused of designating at least 12 applicants as recruits for the Georgetown tennis team, including some who did not play competitively, facilitating their admission into the school.

According to URI’s website, Ernst joined the coaching staff in August of 2018. 

The school released the following statement Tuesday afternoon:

“The University of Rhode Island today was made aware of an indictment of head women’s tennis coach Gordon Ernst related to incidents that allegedly took place while he was “head coach at Georgetown University.  As a result, the University has placed Ernst on administrative leave while it continues to review the matter. Ernst was hired by URI in August 2018 as head coach. He has not been involved in the recruitment of any current players nor in the signing of any new recruits.”

Ernst was inducted into the New England Tennis Hall of Fame in 2015, and he also is a member of the Rhode Island Interscholastic Hall of Fame (2003) and the Cranston, R.I. Athletic Hall of Fame (2000).

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