The Florida nursing-home executive accused of bribing former Penn basketball coach Jerome Allen to get his son into the university was convicted of the charge Friday in U.S. District Court in Miami, along with other charges also involving kickbacks and money laundering.
In all, Philip Esformes was found guilty on 20 of 26 charges, mostly involving money he paid to doctors to send patients to his nursing homes.
Allen already had pleaded guilty to receiving the bribes, and had testified against Esformes.
This case has not been directly linked to the nationwide admissions scandal that includes famous actors and coaches and administrators at a host of schools, from USC to Georgetown to Yale.
This case closely parallels that wider one, and is the only one that has directly hit Philadelphia. It’s also hit the Final Four, since Allen testified that when he was let go at Penn, he had arranged for then-Quakers assistant Ira Bowman to take over supervision of this whole issue and earn some cash for his troubles.
After Allen testified, Bowman was quickly suspended by Auburn University, where he had moved from Penn last year. That’s the same Auburn University that will play Saturday in this weekend’s Final Four, down an assistant coach.
Friday afternoon, Penn Athletics issued the following statement: "As a result of the Jerome Allen case, Penn Admissions and Penn Athletics have worked with an outside consultant to review and strengthen our processes for the recruitment of student-athletes and will continue to assess where we can improve our recruitment and evaluation processes.
“These processes are framed in relationship to the rules for athletic recruitment governed by the NCAA and The Ivy League. Since the admissions evaluation and selection process entails multiple layers of review, documentation and audits, we have a comprehensive view into an applicant’s candidacy and aim to connect and collaborate the different parts of the application — academic, athletic and other talents, standing as a school citizen, and any other background context."
Another parallel to the larger case is that this Penn case came to light only because federal investigators were looking at a different kind of scam. In the Florida case, it was health-care fraud. In the wider case, a stockbroker had been hit with a Securities and Exchange Commission violation, defrauding customers. He reportedly offered up the Yale soccer coach for accepting bribes. More colleges became snared in that web.
Penn, which hired outside counsel to investigate, presumably started with Allen’s admission that in addition to taking bribes, he was watching a recruit during a period when that was an NCAA violation. There’s no telling what the NCAA will make of it in the end.
As it happens, the NCAA established the Rice Commission to look into what it suggested was a cesspool of college basketball recruiting. Will it do the same for this fraud involving high-end academic institutions? Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state and Stanford provost, could start at her own school, since the Stanford sailing coach already has pleaded guilty to accepting bribes.
Another common bond for some but not all of the cases: The Ivy League’s Academic Index, which requires that a pool of recruited athletes from all sports at a school needs to have an AI score — a combination of grades and test scores — within one standard deviation of the average AI of that school’s student body. There are usually further guidelines that vary from school to school, meaning some sports have higher AI numbers than others.
The point is that a student with high standardized test scores and grades can help another athlete get into school, since the AI has minimums, but also needs to hit a certain average.