In the wake of the admissions bribery scandal involving former Penn men's basketball star and coach Jerome Allen, Penn Dean of Admissions Eric Furda is saying that safeguards need to be put in place in both the athletics and admissions departments.
On Oct. 5, Allen, who is currently an assistant coach for the Boston Celtics, pleaded guilty to bribery in connection to the recruitment of a student athlete – now, Wharton senior Morris Esformes – to gain him admission to the University. Allen had been implicated in an indictment of businessman Philip Esformes, who had allegedly defrauded the federal government of $1 billion and had used some of that money to bribe Allen to help Morris get into Penn.
This kind of bribery, which had forced Allen to repay the $18,000 and $200,000 in fines, had been unprecedented in college athletics, as money typically flows the other way.
Furda said that the recruitment of student athletes is a joint action of the two departments and responsibility on the matter is shared.
“The way I approach any of this is it is a shared responsibility. And that’s built on the trust that we have between our departments. And that’s critical,” Furda said.
Furda suggested new professional development and training for staffers in both departments to prevent future incidents of bribery. He added that any staffer, regardless of their seniority, should go through the training process.
Furda noted, however, excessive regulation of the recruitment and admissions process could hinder the ability of both departments to do their jobs well.
“Is One College Hall going to put up these walls so high that we can’t even recruit people? Will athletics need to put things up within their own department – that they’re not going to be able to recruit people?” Furda said. “Can we overly regulate, legislate any of the pieces?”
No matter the amount of protection a program has, Furda said that it still may not be enough to deter the wrongdoing.
“You’re still going to have the human aspect of this,” Furda said. “Individuals are going to act in a way that would go around even any of the highest safeguards."
Penn Athletics is currently in the "final stages" of an internal investigation conducted by hired outside legal counsel, Associate Athletic Director of Administration and Strategic Communications Kevin Bonner said.
"We remain in the final stages of the investigation. If or when we have more information, we’ll be sure to reach out," wrote Bonner in an emailed statement to the DP.
Esformes was accepted to Penn in 2015 as a member of Allen's final recruiting class before Allen was replaced by current coach Steve Donahue. Esformes never played or appeared on the men's basketball team's roster.
Penn Athletics follows the NCAA and Ivy League guidelines when it comes to the recruitment of student-athletes.
In an emailed statement to the DP, Associate Athletic Director for Student Development Matt Valenti wrote that potential recruits must be "academically representative" of the overall student body before their athletic ability and other intangibles within their respective sport is seriously considered.
"If those standards are met, our Penn Athletics staff works closely with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions to ensure that prospective student-athletes are viable candidates during the admissions process," wrote Valenti.
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