Head Volleyball Coach Bill Ferguson appeared in federal court in Boston on March 25, where he pled not guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit racketeering.
Ferguson was indicted during the national college admissions scandal last month. Prosecutors allege that Ferguson accepted a total of $100,000 dollars in order to designate a student as a volleyball recruit to secure their admission to Wake Forest.
The Chicago Tribune first reported that Ferguson, among several other athletic coaches who are involved in the scandal, pled not guilty.
Liz McCarthy, the public affairs specialist in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts, confirmed in an email to the Old Gold & Black that that Ferguson was arraigned on March 25 and pled not guilty. This status also appears on the web page for the investigation.
One of the attorneys representing Ferguson, Shaun Clarke, believes that Ferguson is innocent and will have his name cleared.
“Bill Ferguson is not guilty of the charge against him,” Clarke said. “Two weeks ago, the U.S. Attorney [spoke of] a litany of abuses. Phony test scores, unqualified applicants, falsified athletic profiles. I can’t talk about what happened at other schools, but not at Wake Forest University. No one, no one was admitted to Wake Forest who didn’t earn it, as a student and as an athlete.”
Dane Ball is also representing Ferguson along with Clarke; they are both white-collar defense lawyers. Clarke and Ball are partners at Smyser, Kaplan & Veselka, a law firm in Houston, TX. According to Texas Lawyer, they have handled and won other prominent white-collar cases. They came to represent Ferguson as Clarke has a child currently enrolled at Wake Forest.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the defendants could face up to 20 years in prison and significant fines. The indictment seeks the forfeiture of $50,000 from Ferguson.
The twelve defendants, all of whom had been indicted in the investigation, appeared in court last Monday afternoon before Magistrate Judge Page Kelley. The Chicago Tribune reported that they appeared in groups of three in a “brisk sentencing lasting about an hour,” as all pled not guilty.
This group included other coaches and athletic directors at elite universities, such as Gordon Ernst, former tennis coach at Georgetown, Donna Heinel, former senior associate athletic director at University of Southern California, Jovan Vavic, former USC water polo coach, Laura Janke, former USC assistant women’s soccer coach and Jorge Salcedo, former men’s soccer coach at University of California, Los Angeles.
Many of the parents, including celebrities Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, have also appeared in federal court in Boston over the course of last week and this week.
An initial status conference for Ferguson has been scheduled for June 3 of this year.
Clarke explained that first, the government is required to give relevant evidence to the attorneys and then the attorneys will attend the status conference.
“The status conference is two weeks after that and is to discuss with the lawyers if there’s any questions about what we got and to discuss a potential trial date,” he said.
Athletic Director Ron Wellman said that he is following the case, but has no further comment. Ferguson remains on administrative leave as the case continues.