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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Texas Coach Center, Former Georgetown Coach Ernst Charged in Federal Investigation; Ohio State Men, North Carolina Women Retain Top Spots in D-I Rankings

College tennis is making news today, none of it good. Anyone who follows college sports knows that scandals are commonplace, especially in revenue sports like basketball and football, which generate hundreds of  millions of dollars. Other sports do come under the scrutiny of the NCAA enforcement, and occasionally a tennis program will be sanctioned for providing impermissible benefits to recruits or student-athletes. 

But today's federal arrests, which include two coaches in Division I college tennis, are based on a different kind of wrongdoing, uncovered during the investigation of another case. Key Worldwide Foundation provided a system that allowed wealthy parents to obtain for their children admission to selective colleges, either by committing academic fraud in test scores or by paying coaches to recommend for admissions players who are represented as student-athletes, but are not. This company, which was granted 501(c)(3) non-profit status by the IRS, would collect money from wealthy parents, including two well-known Hollywood actors, then would arrange to distribute it either to SAT and ACT exam proctors or college coaches, with the latter often able to guarantee admission for an athlete that would not be possible for another applicant. 

The Washington Post article on today's Justice Department charges can be found here.

Texas men's head coach Michael Center
The University of Texas's men's head coach Michael Center, who has been in that position for 19 years, was one of 50 people--coaches and parents, not students--indicted today. He was arrested this morning in Austin and charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. He was arraigned this afternoon, and has been placed on administrative leave.  The government complaint against Center can be found here.

According to this article from the Austin American-Statesman, Center will plead not guilty to those charges later this month in Boston. Associate head coach Bruce Berque will take over the team, now ranked No. 4 in the country, in Center's absence.

The other Division I tennis coach indicted is Gordie Ernst, currently the women's head coach at the University of Rhode Island, for his actions while coaching at Georgetown. Ernst, who has been placed on administrative leave by Rhode Island, is accused of accepting more than $2.7 million in bribes during his 11 years of coaching the men's and women's tennis teams. Ernst's employment at Georgetown ended last year. From this detailed account by the student newsmagazine Georgetown Voice, which names the students and parents involved, it appears Ernst left Georgetown due to violations of admissions policy.

Other coaches, in other sports, named in the indictments are from Yale, Stanford, USC, Wake Forest, UCLA, and San Diego. USC has already fired an athletic department employee and its water polo coach, and it has been reported that Stanford has fired its sailing coach, who pleaded guilty to the charges today.

Indicted in the testing part of the investigation is Mark Riddell, a former college player at Harvard who was employed at the IMG Academy in Bradenton as Director of College Entrance Exam Preparation. For more on the case against Riddell, see this article from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

There is nothing positive to say about any of this, although it is important to remember that the federal government has to prove its case, and the accused are innocent until proven guilty. How much of this is the tip of an iceberg? I have no idea. But in competitive environments, whether in college admissions or in recruiting, or on the tennis court, cheating will exist, always.

In more mundane college tennis news, Ohio State, who lost last night to Texas A&M, remains No. 1 this week in the ITA Men's Division I rankings, while North Carolina is in the top spot again in this week's ITA Women's team rankings. This week's ITF Top 10 are below, with previous week's ranking in parentheses. There were no new individual rankings this week.

Men’s ITA Division I Top 10 Team Rankings, March 12, 2019:
1. Ohio State (1)
2. Wake Forest (2)
3. Virginia (4)
4. Texas (3)
5. Stanford (7)
6. Baylor (5)
7. North Carolina (6)
8. Florida (9)
9. Columbia (8)
10. Mississippi State (10)

Women’s ITA Division I Top 10 Team Rankings, March 12, 2019
1. North Carolina (1)
2. Georgia (2)
3. Duke (3)
4. Vanderbilt (5)
5. Stanford (4)
6. UCLA (6)
7. South Carolina (9)
8. Texas (16)
9. Washington (7)
10. Kansas (12)


ITA Board of Directors said...

The ITA Powers-to-Be message to all coaches and players was "Sportsmanship" as one of their main priorities moving forward.

One of their Board Members is Michael Center. Has the ITA made a public statement?

Shouldn't any ethical misconduct by any Board Member be a disqualification to staying as a Board Member?

USTA Chair Ump said...

“I could have missed the call....Like that never happens...😱.... remember...Innocent until Proven guilty... right?”