Five months after former men’s coach Jerome Allen reportedly pled guilty to accepting a bribe from a Florida businessman, Philip Esformes, to place Esformes’s son Morris Esformes on the recruited athletes list, he testified late last week and provided more information than had been previously reported. Details of his testimony can be found at the Miami Herald, the Daily Pennsylvanian, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Law360.
Among the bombshells reported by Law360:
- Allen first saw Esformes’ son Morris play at a basketball court at the J. W. Marriott hotel in downtown Miami, which Allen said was a violation of NCAA rules that prohibit recruiting at private events.
- Esformes flew Allen down to Florida for regular visits in which Allen would work out with Morris and receive plastic bags filled with approximately $10,000 in cash. Eventually, the cash payments became wire transfers with the total approaching $300,000.
- “I just didn’t think he (Morris Esformes) was good enough,” Allen said. “He was 5-foot-8, wasn’t overly athletic. He could handle the ball fairly well, and in my opinion at that time, he wasn’t good enough to help out program win.” However, in the fall of 2014 Allen placed the young man on a list of top five priority basketball recruits and was slotted for one of two Wharton spots, despite protests from Allen’s staff who wondered why he had pushed so hard for this student.
- After Allen was forced to resign from Penn in the spring of 2015 and the young man was admitted to the school, Esformes was concerned that there would be no one on the coaching staff who would take care of his son. According to Allen, he suggested that the businessman send money to then-assistant coach Ira Bowman, who was aware of Allen’s arrangement with Esformes. Allen set up a separate account to which Esformes would wire money and gave Bowman a debit card for the account.
- Allen stated that in the fall of 2015, during team workouts, it was clear that Morris Esformes would not make the team and he decided to quit before he was cut. After that, the monetary payments stopped.
- Allen noted that he is facing up to 10 years in prison for taking the bribes, but stated that the government has agreed to seek a sentence on the lower end of the sentencing guidelines.
The Philadelphia Inquirer relayed the following statement from Penn Athletics on Monday: “We were extremely disappointed to learn that Jerome Allen, former head men’s basketball coach at Penn, accepted payments to recruit a potential student-athlete to Penn and concealed that conduct from the Athletics Department and University administration. Under Jerome’s testimony last week, we also were unaware that former assistant men’s basketball coach Ira Bowman had any relevant knowledge of the matter. The University has been cooperating fully with the government and the NCAA so that the matter is appropriately redressed.”
Bowman, a former Penn player from 1994-96 and the 1995-96 Ivy League Player of the Year, was an assistant at his alma mater from 2012-18. Since the summer of 2018, he has been an assistant coach at Auburn University.
Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl declined to say whether Bowman was still on the team’s coaching staff Tuesday and noted that “we and the administration” are gathering facts, according to multiple Auburn beat reporters on Twitter. But Bowman was at team practice later that afternoon and Sam Blum of AL.com reported that Bowman will travel with the team.
Last month, Penn Athletic Director M. Grace Calhoun met with the Daily Pennsylvanian to discuss updates in the school’s investigation of Allen.
Calhoun told the DP that Penn Athletics had hired Chuck Smrt of The Compliance Group to oversee the school’s internal investigation. The evaluation has been completed and reviewed, but the school was holding off on any announcement until Allen was done testifying in Esformes’s Medicare insurance fraud trial.
There has been no word from Penn Athletics regarding the release of its internal investigation.