The NCAA system works. The NCAA system works. The NCAA system works. If you say it over and over again maybe someone will start to believe it. I’m not that someone. Yahoo! Sports has released the findings of an 11 month investigation in which Nevin Shapiro, University of Miami booster, detailed an 8 year run of providing benefits to at least 72 athletes with direct participation from at least seven coaches from the Miami football and basketball program. Nevin Shapiro is currently incarcerated for his role in a $930 million Ponzi scheme and it’s those funds, he alleges, that were utilized to provide lavish gifts and services.
There have been countless schools sanctioned in recent history, none of which are as interesting as this University of Miami situation. In a detailed release, Yahoo! Sports uncovered specifics around the lavish gifts and services that Shapiro provided to players such as Jonathan Vilma, Devin Hester, Vince Wilfork, D.J. Williams, Frank Gore, Kellen Winslow Jr., Willis McGahee, Andre Johnson and Antrel Rolle to name a few.
Nevin Shapiro is an interesting individual. Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Shapiro moved to Miami in early childhood and, at a very young age, became a fan of the raw, gritty, swag filled, urban culture within the University of Miami sports program. It’s unclear what Shapiro’s financial situation was prior to 2003, however records do show that Shapiro earned a portion of his fortune in the lucrative Miami real estate market. It was with those funds that Shapiro paid the $12,000 fee to become a University of Miami booster in 2001. He also used those funds to become a “living scholar” to then little know athlete Willis McGahee providing a scholarship to the athelete. It was this living scholar program that gave Shapiro his gateway to the rest of the athletes at the University of Miami.
Shapiro was invited to the team’s award banquet as a living scholar program participant in 2001 and was introduced to Vince Wilfork and Andrew Williams. It was the gesture of giving a pair of Miami Heat basketball game tickets to Andrew Williams was established the beginning of an 8 year long financial relationship with the athletes at the University of Miami. The list of services that Shapiro provided is extensive. These services include:
- Trips to strip clubs
- Meals at high end restaurants
- Nightclub visits
- Entertainment at Shapiro’s residence and yacht
- Bounties on opposing team players
- An abortion for the acquaintance of a player (allegedly a stripper)
The most grievous offense, in the eyes of the NCAA that is, is Shapiro’s co-ownership of a sports agency titled Axcess Sports & Entertainment during his time as a University of Miami booster. His agency signed two (2) first round picks from the University of Miami, Vince Wilfork and Jon Beason. The sports agency also recruited dozens with the aid of cash and benefits including a $50,000 payment made to Vilfork in his junior year in order for him to sign with Axcess Sports & Entertainment. Other claims and NCAA violations included University of Miami coaches delivering players to Shapiro’s home to assist in recruiting efforts. And that NEVER happens.
So many are asking why now? Why is Shapiro detailing his involvement with the University of Miami sports program today? It’s quite simple. He feels wronged. By all accounts, Shapiro felt a sort of kinship with the players that he provided so many services and cash. He felt as if they were a family and family sticks together…….until you go to jail, apparently. When Shapiro’s troubles began and the Ponzi scheme was uncovered, he reached out to his “family” of former University of Miami players for bail money and financial assistance to no avail. His family abandoned him. His sole purpose now is to uncover the foundation of illegal NCAA activity at the heart of one of the most notorious, celebrated football programs in the country.
No rule changes or creating a salary structure for players will alter Shapiro’s or any booster’s involvement in college football programs. Gifts and benefits at that level will always exist for elite college players so I’ll avoid the ‘we can control this’ speech. You can’t. There is nothing that the NCAA can or will do to stop hookers, Escalades as gifts or racks on racks on racks. I’m quite comfortable saying that this type of booster activity is happening in all major football (specifically) programs. It’s how the game is played. There is, however, something that the NCAA can do.
There are 7 University of Miami coaches and/or administration involved in these allegations. We’ve seen this with Jim Tressell, Jerry Tarkanian and Pete Carroll to name a few. Carroll went on to coach in the NFL with literally no repercussions from the USC scandal. Tressell will land on his feet. If the NCAA really wants to at least make a good faith effort in curbing booster activity, fine the coaches, ban them from working in college football, partner with the NFL to disallow the rule violating coaches from making the leap. There are steps that can be taken to deter the powers that be at the university level from participating in the NCAA rule breaking. The general sentiment is that the NCAA has no intentions of doing anything other than what they’ve always done. The NCAA will penalize the program creating a football purgatory for existing players that had nothing to do with the Shapiro scandal. The NCAA will take away a few scholarships but not the money that The “U” earned during the 8 year span. The NCAA’s lack of proactive measures is as large a part of the problem as the boosters themselves.
Shapiro utilized his illegally obtained money and extensive network to lure athletes to the University. Those same athletes that benefited from Sharipo’s generosity and need to belong to the tune of millions moved on with out a second look and left Shapiro on an island when he needed them the most. It’s a sad tale. Even sadder is that the University of Miami sports program knew it, allowed it to happen and looked the other way. The ball is in the NCAA’s court but we all know how this game ends. The University will receive a sanction that causes the sports program to suffer and those truly at fault will move on to other things without a backward glance at the true problem…..themselves. That means you too, NCAA.