Former Penn coach Jerome Allen sentenced to four years probation

Former Penn head coach Jerome Allen was sentenced to four years of probation in a Miami courtroom Monday afternoon for accepting bribes from a Florida businessman to place his son on the Quakers’ recruited athletes list.

“If there is any lesson here, you can’t pay your way in and you shouldn’t be able to pay your way out,” U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams said. “There is a debt owed — it’s more than just a reputational cost to you.

The Miami Herald was the first to report that Allen was sentenced to six months of house arrest, 600 hours of community service, and ordered to pay a $202,000 fine and an $18,000 forfeiture judgment to the U.S. government, in addition to the probation.

Allen was one of the most celebrated players in Penn history. The local product from Philadelphia’s Episcopal Academy played for the Quakers from 1991 to 1995, earning three first team All-Ivy and two Ivy League Player of the Year awards.  He led the Red & Blue to three straight Ancient Eight titles from 1993 through 1995 with 14-0 records in each season.

For his legendary career, Allen was inducted into the Big 5 Hall of Fame in 2009 and the Penn Athletics Hall of Fame in 2017.

Following the 1995 season, Allen was drafted in the second round by the Minnesota Timberwolves.  He would spend two seasons in the NBA with Minnesota, Indiana and Denver before heading to Europe, where he played until 2009.

Former Penn Director of Athletics Steve Bilsky hired Allen as a voluntary assistant in August 2009, and promoted him to interim head coach on Dec. 14, 2009, following the firing of Glen Miller.

Bilsky would remove the interim tag in March 2010, saying, “What isn’t as well known, until you spend time with him (Jerome), is the humility that coincides with his pride. It is the combination of these qualities, plus his vision to return Penn to glory, that makes me so pleased to name him the John R. Rockwell Head Coach of Men’s Basketball.”

Allen would end up with one of the most disappointing coaching careers in school history. During the five-plus years he was in charge, Penn went 65-104 overall and 38-46 in the Ivy League.  His best season was 2011-12, when the team went 20-13 overall and 11-3 in the conference, good enough for second place.

After the graduation of Ivy Player of the Year Zack Rosen in the spring of 2012, Allen’s teams would go 26-61 overall and 15-27 in league play over the next three years. Allen departed from Penn after the 2014-15 season, ousted by M. Grace Calhoun, Bilsky’s successor as athletic director.

Allen bounced back quickly, being hired by Brad Stevens as an assistant coach for the NBA’s Boston Celtics in July 2015.

During an investigation into possible Medicare fraud by Florida nursing home and assisted living facility owner Philip Esformes, information came to light that Esformes had bribed Allen from 2013 to 2015 to get Esformes’ son, Morris, into Penn as a basketball recruit.

At Esformes’s trial this past spring, Allen testified that he was paid $300,000 in cash and wire transfers so Morris could qualify as a “recruited” basketball player to help him gain acceptance to Penn’s Wharton School of Business. Allen said he placed the son on a priority list of five high school basketball recruits at the expense of other worthy candidates to ensure his acceptance into Penn, though the Hebrew Academy (Miami Beach) student-athlete wasn’t good enough to make the team.

The younger Esformes was accepted to Wharton and listed on the team’s new recruit announcement for the fall of 2015.  He did not make new coach Steve Donahue’s team.  Esformes would remain at Penn and walk across the stage during the graduation ceremony of the Wharton School in May 2019.

While the news of the alleged indiscretion broke in July 2018,and Penn announced it had hired outside legal counsel to investigate the matter, the Miami Herald reported that Allen was first contacted about this matter by the FBI in January 2017. His lawyer, Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., informed Judge Williams that his client was immediately cooperative and proceeded to assist Justice Department lawyers in making their case against Esformes.

Esformes was ultimately acquitted of healthcare fraud by a federal jury but was convicted in April of 20 counts of paying bribes and kickbacks to physicians, money laundering, bribing a Florida health regulator and obstruction of justice.

Allen pleaded guilty in October to accepting bribes from Esformes.  While his former school was still investigating his actions as coach, the Boston Herald reported that a Celtics source mentioned that the team would suspend Allen “for a period believed to be in the range of approximately two weeks.”

At Monday’s sentencing, per the Miami Herald, Justice Department prosecutor Elizabeth Young recommended a prison sentence of four months, which was a 45% reduction in Allen’s sentence because of his “substantial assistance” in their case against Esformes. Sullivan countered with a request for probation.

Allen told the judge that he took the money from Esformes because he needed a way to shore up his shaky finances and how the scandal of being convicted of a crime made him a better person.  He said that he talks to youths in  juvenile detention centers and elsewhere about his misconduct to help them deal with their personal problems.

“We’re delighted he got probation,” Sullivan said, according to the Miami Herald. He’s going to make the most of it.”

In October, the Daily Pennsylvanian noted that the internal investigation, conducted by hired outside legal counsel, was in its”final stages.”

No results of the investigation have yet been released.

In February, Penn Athletics acknowledged that the outside consultant overseeing the internal investigation was Chuck Smrt of The Compliance Group, a former NCAA enforcement staff member.  The results of the investigation has still not been released.

Penn’s Kevin Bonner, who was recently promoted to Senior Associate AD/Governance and Administration after serving as the Associate AD/Administration and Strategic Communications, did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Ivy Hoops Online.

While the report and its recommendations have not been released, a review of the Penn Athletics Hall of Fame enshrinees listed online reveals that Jerome Allen’s name is no longer included. This change, which was recommended by the editorial staff of the Daily Pennsylvanian earlier this year, has not been previously reported.

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