College Cheating Scandal Brings Down Rhode Island 'Golden Boy'05:42
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Gordon Ernst, former Georgetown tennis coach, departs federal court in Boston on Monday, March 25, 2019, after facing charges in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal. (Steven Senne/AP)
Gordon Ernst, former Georgetown tennis coach, departs federal court in Boston on Monday, March 25, 2019, after facing charges in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal. (Steven Senne/AP)

Thirteen parents and one college coach have now agreed to plead guilty in the college admissions cheating scandal. Parents allegedly paid to have their kids' test scores boosted and to bribe coaches to recruit students for sports many did not even play.

One of the coaches reportedly involved is Gordon "Gordie" Ernst — who allegedly took $2.7 million in bribes when he was a tennis coach at Georgetown University — to let 12 students into the school.

Before he was embroiled in the scandal, Ernst was known as a tennis and hockey star from a well-known athletic family.

“I mean, he was a superstar. So when the news broke, it’s shattering. It's a really, very kind of symbolic loss in a certain sense," Bill Reynolds (@breynolds401), sports columnist for the Providence Journal, tells Here & Now's Robin Young.

Reynolds knew Ernst when they were younger and he recounts how popular he was to Rhode Island sports fans.

"Gordie Ernst was a name, when he was in high school, that if you knew sports or followed sports or cared about sports at any level, you knew who he was," Reynolds says. "He was the one who carried a lot of hopes with him.”

Interview Highlights

On the Ernst family

“He had a brother who was very good [at sports], not as good as Gordie, but certainly outstanding. His father was a kind of a local coaching legend, Dick Ernst Sr. Everyone knew who the Ernsts were — whether you actually knew them or not. You knew about them.”

On his personal connection to Gordie Ernst

“Well, I knew Gordie when he was a kid. He had to be a teenager and he used to play on a court on the east side of Providence, used to kind of hang around the court. So I knew Gordie not real well but I certainly know him, and I also knew about him coaching Michelle Obama [on] the White House courts. And the story was one day, Barack Obama comes out and Gordie said something to him, some kind of wisecrack, and Barack Obama — as the story goes — gave him a look like, knock it off. You're not back in Rhode Island in a schoolyard.”

On Ernst’s sudden departure from Georgetown to coach at the University of Rhode Island

“He had bailed out of there. So [Georgetown] had to know something and they had wanted to get rid of him because I'm sure he would not have left.”

On the college admissions scandal

“It's a huge scandal. I think making it worse, at least around here, was Gordie Ernst was the Journal 'honor roll boy.' ... Every year, they pick a Rhode Island honor roll boy and girl and they are symbolic of the best that we have that year in the state. So the question you ask ... is this the kind of thing that Journal honor roll boys do? And if it is, that's kind of sad. It kind of makes you wonder.”


Jill Ryan produced this interview and edited it for broadcast with Tinku Ray. Serena McMahon adapted it for digital. 

This segment aired on April 10, 2019.

Robin Young Twitter Co-Host, Here & Now
Robin Young brings more than 25 years of broadcast experience to her role as host of Here & Now.

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