Wake Forest University volleyball head coach William “Bill” Ferguson resigned Thursday, months after being charged in the national college admissions scandal. The sweeping federal investigation found dozens of wealthy parents were paying to get their kids into elite universities across the country.
Federal investigators say Ferguson accepted $100,000 to say a student was a recruit for his team in 2017, the News & Observer previously reported. The student had been wait-listed at Wake Forest and was then admitted.
Ferguson has pleaded not guilty and his attorney claims Ferguson is innocent and “does not belong in this indictment,” according to the Associated Press.
“I loved our time at Wake, and I believe the volleyball program is in very good shape for the future. Wake is a wonderful place. I am proud of the players and assistant coaches who came through our program and those currently here,” Ferguson said in a statement Thursday. “It’s essential that I step aside so that the team and coaches can continue to move forward while I focus on the case, and focus on my family. I look forward to the success the program will enjoy.”
The bribery scandal erupted across the country in March and Wake Forest was the only North Carolina school explicitly named in the indictment. Outside of the state, dozens of wealthy parents were accused of paying thousands or millions of dollars to get their kids into elite schools like Yale, Stanford and the University of Southern California. The most well-known celebrities involved are actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman.
Ferguson was placed on administrative leave on March 12 after his name surfaced in the college admissions scam known as “Operation Varsity Blues.”
Wake Forest University President Nathan Hatch made the announcement in a statement describing Ferguson’s alleged involvement and naming Randi Smart as interim coach.
The student was enrolled at Wake Forest, but university administrators said they do not believe she was aware of the alleged financial transaction, Hatch said in a statement on March 13.
Ferguson resigned just days before the Demon Deacons’ first match, an exhibition game against the University of Georgia on Saturday.
“With the volleyball season about to begin, we appreciate and respect Bill’s wish to put the interests of the student-athletes and the program first,” athletic director John Currie said in a statement. “Interim coach Randi Smart has done an excellent job of leading our student-athletes through this period of uncertainty. We are grateful for her continued leadership of the program as we get ready for our first home exhibition match this Saturday.”
Wake Forest University said it had no comment beyond the statement.