The Ivy Coach Daily

August 12, 2018

UPenn Basketball Scandal

UPenn Scandal, Penn Basketball Scandal, Penn Basketball
UPenn’s basketball team has been in the news in recent days over allegations that its former coach accepted a bribe (photo credit: Bryan Y.W. Shin).

A couple of weeks back, we reported on the scandal brewing at the University of Pennsylvania over an alleged bribe paid to UPenn’s former head men’s basketball coach in exchange for his recruitment of a then-high school student from Florida (and current UPenn undergraduate), Morris Esformes. In short, this question has been raised: Did the former UPenn head men’s basketball coach flag Esformes as a recruit to give him a major leg up in admissions even though this student wasn’t deserving of being an athletic recruit based on his skills — all because the student’s father paid off the coach? It is unquestionably one of the most intriguing scandals to come to light in recent years in the world of Ivy League admissions and it’s one that isn’t going away anytime soon.

The Defense of the Student’s High School Play

In fact, there was a recent article in “The Daily Pennsylvanian” entitled “Jerome Allen allegedly took bribes to recruit a student-athlete. How good was the player to begin with?” by Cole Jacobson that offers an outstanding analysis of the athletic recruit’s basketball skills, to gauge whether or not this player was worthy of being flagged as a recruit. As Jacobson writes, “The indictment against Morris’ father, Philip, alleges that Morris ’would not have been designated as a ’recruited basketball player’ had it not been for the kickback and bribe payments’ that Philip provided to Allen. Philip’s attorney, Howard Srebnick, has rigorously defended the Esformes family from such allegations, stating that Morris Esformes was qualified to get into Penn on his own academic and athletic merits. Srebnick, who graduated from Penn in 1985, told The Miami Herald, ’[Morris] scored more than 150 points higher on his SAT than I did, and I cannot dribble a basketball with either hand, much less sink a three-point shot.’”

This, of course, is a nonsensical argument by the student’s father’s attorney. There’s a big difference in being a Division I athletic recruit and being able to dribble a basketball with both hands. Also, the average SAT score of admitted students to UPenn has gone up quite a bit over the last thirty years. And while the attorney, Mr. Srebnick, surely made these comments in jest, he had an opportunity to set the record straight here for his client and his client’s son, to make it clear that a bribe didn’t help this young man’s case for admission to UPenn. Instead, he relayed an unfunny joke and perpetuated a misconception that a student can be “qualified” for admission to an Ivy League university. There is no such thing as “qualified” in the world of highly selective college admissions. If one could be “qualified,” then why would students with perfect or near-perfect grades and scores so often be denied admission to these schools?

The Contradicting Evidence of the Student’s High School Play

But regardless of Morris’ father’s attorney failure to set the record straight, just how good (or how bad) of a high school player was Morris? As Jacobson writes, “Esformes has a player profile on ESPN, though ESPN’s Class of 2015 recruiting rankings did not list him on their leadership of the top players in Florida, meaning that his player ranking was lower than two stars out of five. According to ESPN, players who have two stars ’are overmatched versus the better players in the nation. These players have weaknesses that will be exposed against top competition, but have the ability to develop into solid contributors at the mid-major Division I level.’”

Jacobson continues, “Esformes’ high school, RASG Hebrew Academy, had a significantly weaker basketball program than the schools most Penn recruits come from. Although Esformes had solid statistics — according to The Miami Herald, he averaged 15.5 points and 5.0 assists per game as a senior — his school’s low strength of schedule during his senior season contributed to it having a national ranking of 7,775, according to MaxPreps’ computer rankings. By comparison, among the active Penn men’s basketball rising seniors, Jake Silpe’s Cherry Hill East (NJ) team was ranked 736th nationally during his senior year, Hamilton’s Greater Atlanta Christian squad was 255th, and Jackson Donahue’s and Collin McManus’ Northfield Mount Hermon (NH) was 217th. Only Max Rothschild’s University (IL) squad was anywhere near RASG Hebrew Academy, at 3,245.”

But what do our readers think? Based on this information, do you think Esformes’ play was deserving of recruitment? Would you need to see him play in person? Our guess is he won’t be playing pickup basketball in a University of Pennsylvania gymnasium anytime soon. Anyhow, let us know your thoughts on the matter by posting a Comment below. We look forward to hearing from you.

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