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Father of recruit paid former coach $300,000 to get son into Penn, Jerome Allen testifies

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When it comes to college basketball and the federal government these days, it’s all about the investigation into corruption in the sport that has laready led to multiple arrests and convictions out of the Southern District of New York.

There’s an even stranger story between the two institutions colliding in Florida.

Former Penn coach Jerome Allen pleaded guilty last October for accepting $18,000 from the father of a recruit who was trying to get his son admitted into the Ivy League school, but it turns out that was just scratching the surface of this sordid tale.

Allen, in testimony in federal court Friday, admitted to receiving approximately $300,000 from the aforementioned father of a recruit which came to light with that man, Philip Esformes, was accused of falsely filing about $450 million of false Medicare and Medicaid claims in Florida, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

That would be the former Penn coach getting caught up – albeit tangentially – in a federal probe of nearly HALF A BILLION DOLLARS in fraudulent claims because the guy the government was after was paying Allen to get his son on the Quakers’ basketball team, according to Allen’s testimony.

More than that, Allen testified that former Penn assistant, Ira Bowman, was aware of the situation after James was fired by Penn in 2015.

“We were extremely disappointed to learn that Jerome Allen, former head men’s basketball coach at Penn, accepted payments to recruit a potential student-athlete to Penn and concealed that conduct from the Athletic Department and University administration,” Penn said in a statement released to the Philadelphia Inquirer. ““Until Jerome’s testimony last week, we also were unaware that former assistant men’s basketball coach Ira Bowman had any relevant knowledge of the matter. The University has been cooperating fully with the government and the NCAA so that the matter is appropriately redressed.”

Allen, now an assistant with the Boston Celtics said he received plastic bags with about $10,000 in cash and eventually started receiving wire transfers, ultimately receiving about $300,000, he said.

Usually, it’s coaches – or their intermediaries – that pay players to get them into a school. This is a new one. Given the power of an Ivy League diploma, maybe it makes some sense. But, wow, is it a wild tale.

Penn ends No. 17 Villanova’s 25-game Big 5 winning streak

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Villanova’s 25-game Big 5 winning streak is over.

The 17th-ranked Wildcats fell to Penn, 78-75, at the Palestra on Tuesday to see its undefeated run among its Philadelphia counterparts come to an end after six years.

It’s also an end to the six-game winning streak coach Jay Wright’s team has enjoyed since losing back-to-back games to Michigan and Furman last month.

Issues persisted on the defensive end for the Wildcats as they fell on a night they shot 50 percent from the floor and 34.6 percent from 3-point range. The Quakers bested that by converting 51.1 percent of their shots overall and 43.8 percent of their 16 attempts from distance.

Villanova had put some distance between itself and the shellacking it took courtesy of Michigan and the OT lost to Furman, but it continues to be clear that while still a top-25 caliber team, Wright’s squad this year looks to be well short of the teams that celebrated national championships in 2016 and 2018. Eric Paschall was expected to step into the void from losing so many players to the NBA off last year’s title-winner, but he took just five shots against Penn and has been generally inconsistent all season. Five-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly can’t even got on the floor. That leaves Collin Gillespie and Phil Booth, who combined for 39 points Tuesday, carrying a bigger burden than would be ideal.

The Wildcats are likely ultimately going to be fine – they lost to a good team Tuesday – but unless they can get more from especially Paschall it’s hard to see them elevating themselves to a Final Four contender.

That’s the weight of expectation after two titles in three years.

We knew the Big East championship wasn’t going to be Villanova’s to simply waltz to, but the top-half of the league continues to look incredibly tightly grouped together without mich separation.

Penn, meanwhile, looks a real threat in the Ivy, as was evident in the Quakers’ win over Miami last week. The win over Villanova only solidifies their status.

AJ Brodeur and Antonio Woods both scored 16 points against the ‘Cats as Penn led by as many as 12 points on the night, but still had to survive a Booth attempt from 3 at the buzzer to finally end Villanova’s supremacy over Big 5 hoops.

Former Penn coach Jerome Allen pleads guilty in bribery case involving former recruit

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Former Penn head coach Jerome Allen has pled guilty to bribery charges in connection with him accepting a payment of $18,000 from the father of a high school recruit who was trying to get his son admitted into the school.

Allen announced the guilty plea in a statement through his attorney late this week as the current Boston Celtics assistant coach will likely face a multi-week suspension, according to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald.

“In 2014, before I joined the Celtics organization, and while I served as the Head Basketball Coach of the University of Pennsylvania, I accepted $18,000, as referenced in the Information, from the father of a prospective student for the purpose of using my position as coach to help his son get admitted to the school as a “listed” recruit. My plea agreement with the Government requires me to repay the $18,000 plus a $200,000 fine,” the statement read in-part.

“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. I wish to model to my young players how one accepts responsibility for wrongdoing, including the consequences that come from unlawful behavior.”

The case was handled in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida as Allen was involved with Miami businessman Philip Esformes and his son, Morris. In July, Bloomberg reported that Philip Esformes was accused of health-care fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and bribery, as the government uncovered more than $74,000 in gifts that Esformes allegedly gave to Allen in 2013 and 2014.

Allen was identified as “Coach-2” in the indictment, as he allegedly took multiple cash payments to help Morris Esformes enroll at Penn. Philip Esformes was hoping to get Morris into Penn as a “recruited basketball player” — increasing his son’s odds to get into the prestigious Ivy League school. Morris Esformes eventually was admitted, and enrolled, at Penn, but he never suited up for the basketball team since Allen was fired before he made it to campus.

While the NCAA hasn’t been involved in this issue, their potential involvement will be something worth monitoring going forward.

Former Penn coach allegedly took bribes from potential recruit’s father

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Former Penn head coach Jerome Allen allegedly took bribes from a Miami businessman who wanted his son to get into the school as a “recruited basketball player” — increasing his chances to gain entry to the Ivy League school.

According to a report from Bloomberg’s Michael Smith, David Voreacos and Eben Novy-Williams, Allen was involved with Miami businessman Philip Esformes, who had a son, Morris, who was allegedly recruited by several Ivy League schools. When Philip Esformes was accused of health-care fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and bribery, the government uncovered more than $74,000 in gifts that Esformes gave to Allen in 2013 and 2014.

Allen is identified strictly as “Coach-2” in the indictment that alleges that he took multiple cash payments, paid trips from Philadelphia to Miami, and a private jet trip that included Allen, Esformes and his son. The benefits are alleged to be $74,558 — including three separate wired payments of $15,000, $20,000 and $18,000 to Allen from Esformes.

These alleged incidents took place in 2013 and 2014, when Allen was still head coach at Penn and Morris Esformes was a high school basketball player trying to make it to the Division I level. Esformes was eventually granted admission to Penn as he was allegedly going to be on the basketball team. But Allen was fired before Esformes enrolled at the school. So Esformes went to school at Penn, but he never played for the basketball team. Esformes is currently still a senior at Penn.

Allen has been an assistant coach under Brad Stevens with the Boston Celtics since leaving Penn in 2015. He hasn’t been criminally charged for any of these alleged benefits while the NCAA also hasn’t been involved with anything yet.

But this is yet another black eye on college basketball — and this time coming from a prestigious Ivy League institution. It shows that cheating and using leverage happens at all levels of Division I college basketball. Lately, the schools have been paying to get players. This shows there are instances of wealthy people attempting to gain influence through athletics.

This case at Penn is certainly a rare one. Esformes tried to exploit a loophole that would allow his son entry into a great school under the guise that he was a potential Division I-caliber basketball player. And Morris Esformes did end up at Penn — and seems to be doing well. So, this didn’t end poorly for Morris or Allen.

Since Allen is coaching at the NBA level, this likely won’t alter his coaching career, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the NCAA get involved with Penn and Allen going forward.

The Palestra to host doubleheader in January to commemorate Big 5’s 60th anniversary

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When it comes to rivalries in college sports, the majority of them tend to focus on two programs that play on a frequent basis. That’s what makes the Big 5 different, in that it matches five programs in the Philadelphia metropolitan area (La Salle, Penn, Saint Joseph’s, Temple and Villanova) who meet annually with the winner being crowned “league” champion for that particular year.

And with the Big 5’s 60th anniversary coming in 2016, it was announced Wednesday that the Big 5 will bring back an old tradition for one night in January.

The old tradition: a doubleheader at The Palestra, which through the years has hosted many Big 5 games (including many that didn’t involve the Quakers before teams began hosting their home games on their respective campuses). The games will be held January 20, with La Salle hosting Temple and Penn hosting Saint Joseph’s.

“The Athletics Directors wanted to do something very special to celebrate this unique achievement,” Big 5 Executive Director Steve Bilsky said in the release. “We thought nothing would capture its history better than a competition to be held in the famed Cathedral of Basketball.

“The fact that we were able to pull it off in a very challenging college basketball scheduling environment is a credit to the AD’s, coaches, and conference commissioners, all of whom displayed tremendous perseverance and flexibility.”

The last time there’s been a doubleheader involving Big 5 teams was back in December 2004, with Temple beating Villanova, Penn taking care of La Salle and Saint Joseph’s falling to Drexel. Drexel, which wasn’t a Division I member when the Big 5 was created (they didn’t move up until the 1973-74 season), is also a city school but is not part of the Big 5.

This plan to bring back the Big 5 doubleheader, if only for one day, will be a fun “flashback” in a sense to what the rivalry used to be. That’s something that was lost once being in a conference took on greater importance in the 1980’s, which impacted the way in which some programs scheduled in non-conference play.

While it may be difficult for the Big 5 to go back to the days of consistent doubleheaders at The Palestra for that reason, hopefully this leads to the powers that be considering an annual doubleheader for future seasons.

Late Night Snacks: No. 2 Duke rolls, freshmen step up for Florida State, Georgetown

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GAME OF THE DAY: Delaware State 77, Penn 75 (OT)

Just one game went to overtime Saturday and this was it, with the Hornets forcing the extra session after trailing by eight with 6:30 remaining in regulation. DeAndre Haywood finished the game with a team-high 23 points for Delaware State, and he also accounted for five rebounds, four assists and four steals on the afternoon. Tony Hicks paced the Quakers with 31 points, but Penn failed to win their home opener despite rebounding 47.7% of their missed shots.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES:

1. No. 2 Duke 109, Fairfield 59

One night after ripping apart Presbyterian, Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils did the same to a Fairfield team that hung around for most of the first half. Justise Winslow led the way for Duke with 18 points, and in total four starters scored in double figures for the Blue Devils. Duke shot 64.5% from the field and 55 percent of their made field goals were assisted.

2. Florida State 81, Manhattan 66

The Seminoles got off to a slow start against the defending MAAC tournament champions, but thanks in large part to the boost provided by their freshmen took control of things late in the first half. Freshmen Robbie Berwick (11 points) and Phil Cofer (four points, six rebounds) and sophomore Dayshawn Watkins (three points, three steals) factored into a 19-1 run that turned a four-point deficit into a 14-point lead for the home team. Six players finished the game in double figures for Florida State, which limited Manhattan to 28.6% shooting from the field.

3. Georgetown 83, St. Francis-Brooklyn 62

The big development in this win was the play of freshman L.J. Peak, who shot 9-for-9 from the field and finished with a game-high 23 points. D’Vanutes Smith-Rivera scored just eight points, but the preseason Big East Player of the Year dished out six assists with just one turnover.

STARRED:

1. L.J. Peak (Georgetown) 

23 points (9-for-9 FG) and three assists in the Hoyas’ 83-62 win over St. Francis-Brooklyn.

2. Obi Egemano (Oral Roberts) 

26 points, seven rebounds and four assists in ORU’s 77-68 win over Tulsa.

3. Jordan Mickey (LSU)

21 points (9-for-11 FG), six rebounds and six assists in the Tigers’ 93-82 win over Gardner-Webb.

STRUGGLED:

1. Ashton Moore (The Citadel) 

Shot 4-for-19 (1-for-11 3PT) from the field, scoring ten points in the Bulldogs’ 68-55 loss to Air Force.

2. Frank Eaves (Appalachian State)

Six points on 2-for-12 shooting to go along with five rebounds and four turnovers in the Mountaineers’ 73-47 loss at Ohio.

3. Carlton Allen (Manhattan)

Allen played just five minutes in the Jaspers’ 81-66 loss at Florida State, accounting for three rebounds and five fouls during his time on the court.

NOTABLES:

  • Derrick Walton Jr. scored 22 points, Zak Irvin 21 and Caris LeVert 20 to lead No. 24 Michigan to a 92-68 win over Hillsdale.
  • Year two at USC for Andy Enfield didn’t get off to the best of starts, as the Trojans fell 76-68 at home to Portland State.
  • John Brown returned to the court for High Point, scoring 19 points in a 74-62 win over UAPB at the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic.
  • Newcomer Stanton Kidd scored 19 points on just eight shots from the field in Colorado State’s 83-66 win over Montana.
  • Tyler Harris scored 23 points and LaDontae Henton added 21 to lead Providence to a 64-60 home win over Albany.
  • Butler shot a school-record 71.9% from the field in their 99-57 win over Maine. Roosevelt Jones was all over the stats sheet, accounting for 14 points, nine assists, four rebounds and two steals.
  • Chris Jans picked up a win in his regular season debut, leading Bowling Green to a 77-58 win at Drake. Jehvon Clarke scored 16 off the bench to lead the Falcons.
  • Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin scored 21 points apiece in LSU’s 93-82 win over Gardner-Webb. Also of note: newcomer guards Josh Gray and Keith Hornsby combined to score 35 points.