News & Politics

5 Facts About the DC Life of Gordon Ernst, the Tennis Coach Named in the Admissions-Scandal Indictment

He coached Michelle Obama and left Georgetown University under a cloud.

Photograph via iStock.

US prosecutors named former Georgetown University tennis coach Gordon “Gordie” Ernst in a blockbuster indictment on Tuesday. Ernst, the document alleges, was part of a scheme to “facilitate the admission of students as recruited athletes, regardless of their athletic abilities.” The feds allege that in exchange for bribes of $2.7 million from a California non-profit called the Key Worldwide Foundation, Ernst “designated at least 12 applicants as recruits for the Georgetown tennis team, including some who did not play tennis competitively, thereby facilitating their admission to Georgetown.” In return, the document says, parents of those students paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to Key Worldwide Foundation. Here’s a little bit more about Ernst:

• He came to Georgetown as head men’s and women’s coach in 2006.

He had previously been head men’s coach at the University of Pennsylvania and assistant men’s coach at Northwestern University. Ernst “will be a great asset to our University,” Bernard Muir, then the university’s athletics director, said at the time.

• He helped Michelle, Sasha, and Malia Obama with their tennis games.

Michelle has a big backhand,” Ernst told the New York Times in 2014.

• He was inducted into the New England Tennis Hall of Fame in 2015.

“Sports like tennis and golf are such country club sports,” he told the Providence Journal that year. “But they’re also sports where you can do business with other people and play them for a lifetime.”

• He resigned from Georgetown in 2018 and later began coaching at the University of Rhode Island.

Ernst appears to have given no explanation for his resignation at the time. In a statement Tuesday, Georgetown University told the Georgetown Voice Ernst left “following an internal investigation that found he had violated University rules concerning admissions. Georgetown cooperated fully with the government’s investigation. We are reviewing the details of the indictment and will take appropriate action.”

• His country club membership could be in trouble.

If convicted, the government intends to seek forfeiture of several of Ernst’s assets, including a condo in Falmouth, Massachusetts, and “Chevy Chase country club membership, as owned by Ernst.”


Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.