Former Georgetown Tennis Coach Gets Longest Prison Sentence Of Operation Varsity Blues

AP Photo/Steven Senne, File

Operation Varsity Blues is still rolling and exposing the corruption in collegiate sports and admissions as a former Georgetown University tennis coach was recently sentenced.

Gordon Ernst, Georgetown’s former head tennis coach, was sentenced on Friday to 2-1/2 years in prison by U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani in Boston. In addition, he has to serve an extra six months of home confinement once released and forfeit $3.43 million.

In October, the disgraced coach pleaded guilty to conspiracy and bribery in the U.S. college admissions scandal. Ernst was arrested on March 12th.

Ernst was convicted of enabling children of wealthy parents to get into the elite school in exchange for almost $3.5 million in bribes as part of the vast collegiate admissions fraud. The outcome was the most lengthy sentence thus far.

Prosecutors alleged that Ernst accepted more bribes than any other coach in the case for over a decade. In exchange for the 22 students he approved as “tennis recruits” at Georgetown in Washington, D.C., 19 were the children of Rick Singer’s clients.

California college admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer manipulated college entrance exams and secured the admission of “student-athletes” under falsified athletic recruits through bribery. A forensic accountant for the government testified that Singer made nearly $28 million from the plot.

Singer reportedly spent over $20 million to continue the scheme. He allegedly paid different university sports foundations, school officials, teams, and coaches who participated in the fraud, according to prosecutors.

Edge College & Career Network & Key, Singer’s collegiate admissions “consulting” enterprise, reportedly received deposits of over $43 million and withdrawals of more than $34 million between January 2013 and February 2019.

Douglas Hodge, the retired chief executive of the bond giant Pimco, was sentenced to nine months in 2020 for paying hundreds of thousands to get four of his seven children into elite schools. He was caught while trying to get a fifth child placed. Over a decade, Hodge paid $850,000 in bribes, with $325,000 going to Ernst to have his eldest daughter and son admitted as tennis recruits.

He also paid $525,000 to have another daughter and son admitted to the University of Southern California as soccer and football recruits with fake credentials.

Another parent accused of bribing Ernst for a Georgetown slot, Amin Khoury, became the 57th Operation Varsity Blues case, the only one to end in an acquittal at trial. Khoury was not found guilty by jurors on all counts.

Ernst was in the United States Tennis Association’s New England Hall of Fame and had even given private lessons to the Obama family.

Prosecutors said most of the proceeds Ernst made were funneled through the Key Worldwide Foundation, an organization supposedly helping underprivileged kids. The Department of Justice noted Ernst used the money to buy a home in tony Falmouth, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Ernst had the longest-running business relationship with Singer of all the coaches and administrators. He is also the only one mentioned in the official tax documents as an “independent contractor” for Singer’s bogus charity, listing him as earning $1.3 million from 2014 to 2016.

Now the government has made Ernst trade a life of fabricated luxury for penance in service of the wealthy.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.