The University of Pennsylvania men’s basketball program is being penalized after its former coach violated NCAA ethical conduct rules.
An NCAA press release Wednesday detailed the misconduct of Jerome Allen, the former coach who was given a 15-year show-cause penalty for infractions at the Ivy League school in Philadelphia. Allen, who has been an assistant coach for the Boston Celtics since Penn fired him in March 2015, allegedly “accepted at least $250,000 from the father of a prospect to train, recruit and place the prospect on the recruited student-athlete list.”
The prospect, Morris Esformes, never played basketball at Penn but was offered a spot on the junior varsity team and admission to the Wharton School of Business, according to ESPN.
The NCAA said that Allen didn’t promote an atmosphere of compliance, and refused to interview about the transactions, which are classified as Level I-aggravated because the unethical conduct showed “reckless indifference to NCAA rules and seriously undermines college athletics.”
The NCAA ruled 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.”
According to ESPN, Allen’s punishment ties former UNC Greensboro women’s basketball coach Phil Collins, who gambled on sports, for the longest show-cause penalty. During the 15 years, any NCAA schools looking to hire Allen must restrict him from any athletic duties unless it shows cause why the restrictions shouldn’t apply. If Allen is employed as a coach the year after the show-cause period, he must be suspended for the first 50 percent of the season.
Along with Allen’s punishment, the Penn men’s basketball program received two years of probation (from Feb. 26, 2020 through Feb. 25, 2022), a $5,000 fine, a three-week ban on basketball recruiting communications, and seven fewer recruiting-person days for 2019-20.
Penn released a statement after the penalties were announced, stating that athletic officials promptly acknowledged the violation, accepted responsibility, and imposed meaningful corrective measures.
“Penn Athletics was proactive in this review and fully cooperated with NCAA enforcement staff,” the statement said. “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.”
ESPN reported that Allen was fired about two years before FBI agents contacted him about Philip Esformes’ bribes. Allen pleaded guilty in October 2018 to one felony count of money laundering and was sentenced to four years’ probation while being ordered to pay a $202,000 fine and $18,000 in forfeiture.
"I failed on many levels," Allen said in 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.”
After a tryout, Morris Esformes was offered a spot on Penn’s junior varsity team, but didn’t accept it.