By Peter Gleason
In an idiotic decision that heavily penalizes Penn’s athletics for two years, the NCAA has shown why it should be disbanded as soon as possible.
The NCAA handed former Quaker basketball coach Jerome Allen a 15-year show-cause penalty after he allegedly accepted at least $250,000 from a prospect’s father to train, recruit and help ensure the player was admitted to the Ivy League school.
According to a resolution agreement negotiated between the university and the NCAA, the sides agreed that Allen’s actions “resulted in multiple tryout and recruiting contact violations in addition to accepting the supplemental pay without reporting it as athletically related income while employed at the university.”
Allen’s punishment matches the longest show-cause penalty ever levied against a coach by the NCAA. In July, former UNC Greensboro women’s basketball assistant Phil Collins was given a 15-year show cause penalty for betting on professional and college sports, including the school’s men’s basketball team.
The NCAA also placed the Quakers on two years’ probation, fined them $5,000, imposed a three-week ban on men’s basketball recruiting communications and reduced the number of recruiting days by seven.
“Penn Athletics was proactive in this review and fully cooperated with NCAA enforcement staff,” university officials said in a statement. “While Penn Athletics and its men’s basketball program accept the penalties handed down by the NCAA, it is unfortunate that this process did not fully differentiate wrongdoing for personal gain versus wrongdoing for competitive gain in penalizing the institution in addition to the involved individual. The University of Pennsylvania was harmed by the actions of its former head coach and the men’s basketball program received no competitive advantage. We are hopeful that this case will lead to changes in how the NCAA processes similar situations moving forward.”
A Penn Athletics statement says the Athletics Department accepted responsibility for Allen’s violations, while also hoping that the NCAA would change the way it approaches situations like this in the future.
“Penn Athletics was proactive in this review and fully cooperated with NCAA enforcement staff,” the statement read. “While Penn Athletics and its men’s basketball program accept the penalties handed down by the NCAA, it is unfortunate that this process did not fully differentiate wrongdoing for personal gain versus wrongdoing for competitive gain in penalizing the institution in addition to the involved individual. The University of Pennsylvania was harmed by the actions of its former head coach, and the men’s basketball program received no competitive advantage.”
The NCAA ruled that any school wanting to hire Allen after his show-cause penalty expires must suspend him for the first 50% of the season.
The NCAA said Allen, who is now an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics, refused to cooperate with its enforcement staff and Penn officials during the investigation.
Allen testified during a federal criminal trial in Florida last year that he accepted roughly $300,000 in bribes from Philip Esformes, a nursing home mogul who was accused of orchestrating the largest health-care-fraud scheme in U.S. history.
Esformes was convicted of bribery, kickback and money-laundering charges, and a federal judge sentenced him to 20 years in prison and ordered him to reimburse $5 million to the Medicare system and forfeit about $39 million to the federal government.
Allen pleaded guilty in October 2018 to one felony count of money laundering, and a federal judge sentenced him to four years’ probation, including six months of house arrest, and 600 hours of community service. He was ordered to pay a $202,000 fine and $18,000 in forfeiture.
Penn fired Allen in March 2015, nearly two years before FBI agents approached him about Esformes’ bribes. Allen has been an assistant coach with the Celtics since July 2015; he served a two-week suspension following his conviction.
Allen testified during the trial that he trained Esformes’ son Morris in basketball during several trips to Miami, during which Esformes paid for Allen to stay in beachfront hotels, ride in limousines and attend Miami Heat games.
After the workouts, Esformes handed him plastic bags filled with about $10,000 in cash, Allen told the jury. Esformes told Allen that his son’s dream was to attend Penn and play basketball for the Quakers. If Allen made that happen, Esformes told him, they would be “family for life.”
Allen said he didn’t believe Morris Esformes was good enough to play basketball at Penn. After Allen was fired, Morris Esformes was asked to try out for the team and was offered a spot on Penn’s junior varsity squad but declined to play.
“I just didn’t think he was good enough,” Allen testified during the trial. “He was 5-foot-8, wasn’t overly athletic. He could handle the ball fairly well, and in my opinion at that time, he wasn’t good enough to help our program win.”
In the fall of 2014, Allen still put Morris Esformes on a list of priority recruits and slotted him for one of two spots for admission at the prestigious Wharton School of Business.
“I failed on many levels,” Allen said in a statement in October 2018. “Primarily, I had a failure of character. I did not live up to the high standards I set for myself, or were expected of me in the position that I held.
“I am heartbroken that my players — current and former — will know that I broke the law. But, I do hope that some good may come out of this.”
Other coaches have been given long penalties as well.
Willie Anderson, a former football recruiting coordinator at Oklahoma State, was given a 12-year show cause in 1989, when the Pokes were found to making illicit payments to players and were given a two-year TV ban and three-year postseason ban.
Three other basketball coaches — former Baylor head coach Dave Bliss, former Southern Mississippi head coach Donnie Tyndall and former Louisville assistant Andre McGee — were hit with 10-year show cause penalties following NCAA investigations.