After Penn parent Philip Esformes had his 20-year prison sentence for Medicare fraud commuted by fellow Quaker parent President Donald Trump on Tuesday, Ivy Hoops Online looks back at the people and departments, directly and indirectly, involved in the bribery scandal in which Esformes got former Penn men’s basketball head coach Jerome Allen to place his son, Morris Esformes, on the recruited athletes list for the fall of 2015.
A quick note to readers of Ivy Hoops Online that Thursday marked the 18-month anniversary of the Penn Athletics announcement that it would be hiring outside legal counsel to look into Jerome Allen receiving bribes from Florida businessman Philip Esformes to place Esformes’s son, Morris Esformes, onto the recruited athlete list for the entering Fall 2015 class. The information was revealed as federal authorities were investigating the elder Esformes for healthcare fraud.
It has been 15 months since news broke about former men’s basketball head coach Jerome Allen receiving bribes from Florida businessman Philip Esformes to place Esformes’s son, Morris Esformes, onto the recruited athlete list for the entering Fall 2015 class. The information, which was revealed as federal authorities were investigating the elder Esformes for healthcare fraud, led to bribery charges against Allen. Since that time, Allen and Philip Esformes were found guilty and sentenced for their crimes, while the younger Esformes graduated from Penn’s Wharton School.
In March, Yale was caught up in the national Operation Varsity Blues admission scandal, when its former women’s soccer head coach Rudy Meredith was alleged to have taken bribes to place students on his recruited athlete list. Meredith plead guilty to his actions and is awaiting sentencing. Of the two recruited students, one was admitted for the fall of 2018 and had her acceptance rescinded.
Looking at the responses to these scandals by the two Ivy League institutions, one has been open and one has been far from forthcoming.
- Princeton’s Bella Alarie completed her last 3×3 tournaments with USA Basketball with a silver medal effort in Edmonton this past weekend and a bronze medal showing in Montreal in early September. Overall, her team came in seventh place in the 28-team field.
The two-time Ivy Player of the Year, who also picked up a silver medal with USA Basketball at this summer’s Pan American Games, continues to improve her stock as she heads into her final year for the Tigers. Michelle Williams of the WNBA listed Alarie as one of the 12 potential first-round picks in next years’s Draft, while Howard Megdal of High Post Hoops had her as the number five pick for the Minnesota Lynx.
- Harvard men’s coach Tommy Amaker told Jon Rothstein that 2018 men’s Ivy League Player of the Year, Seth Towns, has been cleared for non-contact work. Towns, a co-captain of this year’s Crimson team, missed all of last year due to a knee injury sustained in the 2018 Ivy Tournament final against Penn.
Earlier this month, the senior from Columbus, Ohio, was one of 16 players attending the NCAA Elite Student-Athlete Symposium for Men’s Basketball in Indianapolis.
But the passage of time didn’t make Sports Illustrated’s deep dive last week into how Jerome Allen became guilty of bribery, wire fraud, money laundering and tax evasion any easier to digest.
Most Penn basketball supporters will find it an uncomfortable read, but its revelations are simply too many to ignore.
They reconfirm what we already knew – one of Penn basketball’s most admired figures used his head coaching position for personal gain at the expense of the program.
But taken as a whole, the article’s revelations paint a far more holistic portrait than that.
Allen is and will always be more than an implicated figure on a witness stand, and his story as told by SI merits closer examination – as do the institutions and forces that shaped it. As someone who covered Allen and Penn basketball extensively for the Daily Pennsylvanian from 2012 to 2014, I thought I’d do a closer read of SI’s story, portions of which are italicized below.
- Ben Baskin of Sports Illustrated published a longform article Thursday on former Penn head coach Jerome Allen and his part in a recruitment scandal that saw the Ivy great accept money from a parent to place an unqualified student-athlete onto the school’s recruited athlete list. The author wrote his article, which is available online and in the print edition, “with the aid of court transcripts and exhibits, financial records, news reports and interviews with three dozen of his friends, classmates, teachers, coaches, players, mentors and coworkers, many speaking anonymously for fear of personal and professional ramifications.”
The article provided the following new information: During his playing career, Allen faced a series of civil suits over unpaid debts—$5,000 owed to a car-leasing company, $13,000 to a bank, $6,700 to a landlord.
– While Allen was coaching Penn, the school sued him for nearly $25,000 for failing to pay off two decades of accrued interest on a loan he had taken out as a student
The Ivy League Tournament had a difficult time selling out the 8,722-seat Palestra in its first two years, so a move to the 2,800-seat John J. Lee Amphitheater seemed to ensure an overflow crowd for 2019. Unfortunately, the arena was not filled to capacity for its recent edition, and many seats were left empty during the opening Harvard-Penn semifinal.
To ensure sellouts as the tournament goes forward, the Ivy League has looked to its embattled undergraduate admissions departments to help solve the problem.