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Ira Bowman (right) was an assistant coach for Penn men's basketball from 2012 to 2018. Steve Donahue (left) has been the head coach since 2015.

Credit: Chase Sutton

Former Penn assistant basketball coach Ira Bowman knew about and was involved in the bribery scheme that helped secure admission of a current Wharton senior to Penn, according to the recent testimony of former coach Jerome Allen.

Before March 8 — when Allen testified in a trial against Miami executive and Penn parent Philip Esformes — Allen pleaded guilty to accepting $18,000 in bribes and had not implicated any other members of Penn Athletics. Allen's testimony, however, alleged that Bowman was involved in the bribery scandal, marking the first indication that the scandal extended beyond Allen.

At the trial, Allen, a former Penn basketball star player and coach, admitted to receiving approximately $300,000 in bribes from Miami executive Philip Esformes between 2013 and 2015 to recruit his son Morris to play basketball for Penn.

According to Allen's testimony, he pushed hard for Morris as a top-tier recruit, despite protests from some members of the staff that allegedly questioned why Morris was being recruited, Law360 reported.

But in March 2015, just months before the end of Morris’ senior year of high school, Allen was fired from Penn after a streak of poor on-court performance. Allen testified that Esformes was concerned about his son’s position on the team without Allen looking out for him. To address these concerns, Allen created an additional bank account to which Esformes could wire money and from which Bowman could withdraw money, Law360 reported. Before, Bowman knew about the scheme but was not involved, according to Allen's testimony. 

Prior to his time as an assistant coach, Bowman played for the Quakers for two seasons in the mid-1990s. (File Photo)

Still, Allen testified that Morris quit the team before the season officially started, when it became clear that he would be cut under the new coach, at which point payments from Esformes ceased.

Allen left in 2015, but Bowman remained an assistant coach at Penn until 2018. This past summer, he moved to Auburn University, where he also works as an assistant coach. After Allen’s testimony, however, Bowman was suspended from his position at Auburn pending further investigation, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Just like Allen, Bowman has a history as both a player and coach at Penn. He transferred to Penn from Providence College before the 1994-95 season, joining a mid-90s squad, which included Allen, that won three straight Ivy titles. Current coach Steve Donahue was an assistant on the coaching staff during that time.

“I also was fortunate enough to play for some pretty outstanding coaches,” Bowman told The Daily Pennsylvanian in March 2018. “When you come to a place like Penn, obviously academics are really important to you, but also just a level of commitment to athletics as well. It’s always a special place and I always tell kids when we’re recruiting them, ‘There’s not another place like Penn in the country.’”

Donahue replaced Allen as the men’s basketball coach in 2015 while Bowman stayed on as an assistant. Morris Esformes did not ever make Penn’s basketball roster nor did he play on the team.

In October 2018, Allen pleaded guilty to charges of bribery and admitted that he had accepted $18,000 from Esformes. This month, he testified against Esformes, who faces charges of fraud for his involvement in a $1 billion Medicare-related scheme. Esformes also sent over $400,000 to William “Rick” Singer’s allegedly fraudulent charity. Singer is the consultant at the center of the recent college admissions scandal that many are calling the largest in the nation’s history.

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