When it comes to college basketball recruiting, no conference or program is safe from allegations of using illegal tactics in the trade for top prospects. That’s even the case when schools aren’t providing financial aid for committed players, as a recent case involving a Florida businessman and an Ivy League basketball program make clear.
As reported by the Miami Herald, Philip Esformes, a Miami Beach businessman accused of widespread Medicaid fraud, has been indicted for paying some $75,000 to former Penn basketball coach Jerome Allen in the form of wire transfers, private jet travel and hotel rooms, among other expenses. The quid pro quo for Esformes’ financial support was Allen designating Esformes’ son, Morris, as a recruited basketball student.
Allen resigned after the 2015 season and is an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics. Still, the most fascinating development may be that Esformes never apparently cared whether his son did become part of the Penn basketball team. Rather, he just wanted the younger Esformes identified as a recruited player to improve (essentially seal) the likelihood that he be admitted to the school.
It worked, Morris Esformes enrolled at Penn but never set foot on the basketball court. And no one was the wiser about it until additional details in the latest indictment facing Esformes were released on Friday.
Esformes’ defense has noted both a long-term relationship between Morris Esformes and Allen, starting when the latter was hired in 2013 to help improve the younger Esformes’ game and his chances of attracting a scholarship. As that relationship grew, so did the odds of Esformes receiving a scholarship for basketball, even if (or perhaps because of) it came from Allen himself.
There is nothing technically illegal about what Allen did, though it is certainly frowned upon. And now he has to live with the repercussions. That’s not a good thing if he ever does want to move back into the college coaching ranks, or maintain his pro status without further side-eyed glances.