Wednesday March 27, 2019
Mar 25, 2019
BOSTON — William “Bill” Ferguson, Wake Forest University’s former women’s volleyball coach, pleaded not guilty Monday to one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering in U.S. District Court in Boston in a national college bribery admissions scheme.
Ferguson joined 11 other defendants who also pleaded not guilty to taking bribes from wealthy parents in exchange for helping students get into elite universities such as Georgetown.
They appeared in Boston’s federal court nearly two weeks after they were arrested in what authorities have described as the biggest college admissions scheme ever prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department , which also ensnared prominent parents like actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.
Authorities say the coaches were paid tens of thousands of dollars to help falsify student’s athletic credentials and get them admitted as recruits for sports they didn’t play.
They include longtime tennis coach Gordon Ernst, who’s accused of getting $2.7 million in bribes to designate at least 12 applicants as recruits to Georgetown, as well as former UCLA men’s soccer coach Jorge Salcedo, Wake Forest University women’s volleyball coach William Ferguson and former USC water polo coach Jovan Vavic.
One by one, the suit-clad coaches stood before the packed courtroom before leaning into the microphone to say “not guilty.”
An attorney for Ferguson told reporters that his client is innocent and “does not belong in this indictment.” Ferguson is charged with taking a $100,000 bribe to recruit a student who had been placed on the wait list. He’s been suspended by Wake Forest.
“Two weeks ago, the U.S. attorney told you about a litany of abuses: phony test scores, unqualified students, falsified athletic profiles.
“Well I can’t speak to what happened at any other school, but not at Wake Forest University,” attorney Shaun Clarke said. “No one, no one was admitted to Wake Forest who didn’t earn it as a student and as an athlete,” he said.
Ernst left Georgetown in 2017 after an internal investigation found he violated admissions rules. He was later hired by the University of Rhode Island, which says it wasn’t told about the admissions rules violations.