Only three days after allegations that former Penn men’s basketball head coach Jerome Allen took bribes in exchange for a recruitment slot, the school’s athletic department has taken official action.
On Monday afternoon, Penn Athletics announced that it is launching an investigation into the allegations against Allen, revealing in an online statement that it is hiring outside legal counsel to handle the matter.
“Penn Athletics is aware of the allegations regarding former head men’s basketball coach Jerome Allen, and we take these allegations seriously,” the department wrote. “The University has retained outside legal counsel to investigate the matter. We will have no further comment at this time.”
The University’s announcement comes in the immediate aftermath of Bloomberg’s initial report that, in a federal indictment filed Thursday in a case of alleged Medicare fraud, Miami-based businessman Philip Esformes was accused of bribing Allen in order to help get his son, Morris Esformes, admitted to Penn.
Most noteworthy is that, according to the indictment, Philip Esformes purportedly gave Allen more than $74,000 from 2013 to 2014 between cash payments, limo transportation, and paid trips to Miami via a private jet.
Since the initial news broke, Allen, his attorney, the Boston Celtics (Allen’s current employer), Morris Esformes, and the current Penn men’s basketball program have all declined to comment publicly. However, Philip Esformes’ attorney, Howard Srebnick, has spoken to Bloomberg and The Miami Herald, defending his client. Srebnick claims that the Esformes’ connections to Allen did not break any regulations.
“His father hired the coach when Mo was a high school sophomore to help Mo improve his game, as many parents do when their kids show athletic promise,” Srebnick, who graduated from Penn in 1985, said. “[Morris] scored more than 150 points higher on his SAT than I did, and I cannot dribble a basketball with either hand, much less sink a three-point shot.”
Asked if the University would allow a coach to receive payments for individual basketball coaching, as Esformes' lawyer said was the case, Penn Director of Athletic Communications Mike Mahoney told Inside Higher Ed via email, "I believe NCAA rules would not allow a coach to provide individual training to a recruitable athlete."
Though he enrolled at Penn in the fall of 2015, the younger Esformes never appeared on the Penn men’s basketball roster. Allen had been fired the preceding March following three straight seasons finishing in the bottom half of the Ivy League. Morris Esformes remains at Penn and will be entering his senior year in Wharton this fall.
Philip Esformes will appear in court on July 27 in Miami. According to Bloomberg, he plans to plead not guilty.
Allen, who coached at Penn from 2009 to 2015 after starring for the school as a player in the 1990s, has not been charged with a crime as of yet. It remains unclear if or when he will appear in court. Allen remains listed as an assistant coach on the Celtics’ roster.
This is an ongoing investigation and will continue to be updated as The Daily Pennsylvanian receives further information. This story was last updated at 3:15 P.M. on Monday, July 23.