The federal indictment spelled it out without using Jerome Allen's name.
A defendant in a massive health-care fraud case in Florida, according to last week's indictment, flew the head basketball coach of the University of Pennsylvania to Miami "on or about May 31, 2013," paid for a limo ride to the Fontainebleau and picked up the hotel charge. Then he rented a basketball court at the JW Marriott Marquis so Allen could watch the defendant's son play basketball.
The son was eventually listed as an incoming player at Penn, a designation that lasted until after Allen was replaced as head coach in 2015.
Penn is hiring outside counsel, and one of the details that could be investigated is whether watching a high school basketball player "on or about May 31, 2013" is an NCAA violation, which it might be if it was a recruiting "dead period."
If that was a violation, it might be a minor one compared to what else the indictment alleges: that Allen was paid by Philip Esformes to recruit his son, Morris.
Allen could not be reached for comment. Messages sent through the Boston Celtics, for whom he is an assistant, were not returned.
This might be unique in college hoops since usually illicit money is flowing the other way: to recruits and their families. There is little question that, if it's true that Allen was given more than $74,000 in the form of cash, a recruiting trip to Miami and a separate ride on a private jet in 2013 and in 2014, then more NCAA violations could come into play. You'd think finding a roster spot has to fit some definition of an extra benefit, among other extra benefits alleged to be flowing in multiple directions.
What is not clear from reading the indictment is whether federal prosecutors have a working knowledge of the Academic Index used for Ivy League athletics recruiting. The indictment alleges the son would not have been a recruited athlete "had it not been for the kickback and bribe payments." That may or may not be true.
The son became a student at Penn and now is a rising senior, still in the student directory as of several days ago, according to a Penn source.
The same source said the son had some kind of tryout when he was a freshman, after current coach Steve Donahue had replaced Allen, and there was a mutual understanding that the son wasn't a fit for that level.
"I think both sides quickly realized he was not going to contribute to the program,'' the source at Penn said.
That still doesn't mean the son didn't have some value as a recruit. The Ivy's Academic Index 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.
Ivy schools long ago figured out how to game this system. Say you really want three players for your team but their combined profile doesn't fit the Academic Index of your school. However, if your admissions department would allow you to recruit one or two more athletes with top-notch AI scores, suddenly all could get in. This sort of maneuvering goes on at every Ivy school, in non-revenue sports as well as the high-profile ones.
We don't know where Morris Esformes fell on the AI scale for his class, only that he was listed as an incoming basketball player and it didn't surprise seasoned Ivy watchers that some of the incoming players had much higher hoops rankings than others.
None of that absolves Allen, but it does help explain how a school such as Penn would be willing to take a player who didn't end up appearing for the Quakers.