by Carla Parker, Contributor to Jersey Girl Sports
On June 12, 1995, Sports Illustrated writer Alexander Wolff wrote an open letter to then-president Tad Foote claiming that the University of Miami football program were a disease that had ruined the school’s image and needed to be at least temporarily shut down.
After years filled with scandals of player’s misconduct, crime, drug usage, and privileges provided to players, including Uncle Luke’s “pay for play” – in which the rapper reportedly paid UM players for major hits and plays – Wolff felt the University should shut down the program to clean it up. Of course people thought that was too extreme but with the latest news coming out about former and current UM players excepting thousands of “impermissible benefits” from an incarcerated Hurricanes booster, Wolff’s suggestion doesn’t seem so bad now.
Yahoo! Sports reported yesterday that Hurricanes booster Nevin Shapiro, who is incarcerated for his role in a $930 million Ponzi scheme, said he provided thousands of impermissible benefits to at least 72 athletes from 2002 through 2010.
In 100 hours of jailhouse interviews during Yahoo! Sports’ 11-month investigation, Shapiro described a sustained, eight-year run of rampant NCAA rule-breaking, some of it with the knowledge or direct participation of at least seven coaches from the Miami football and basketball programs. The benefits to athletes included cash, prostitutes, entertainment in his multimillion-dollar homes and yacht, paid trips to high-end restaurants and nightclubs, jewelry, bounties for on-field play (including bounties for injuring opposing players), travel and, on one occasion, an abortion.
Some of the former players that allegedly received these gift were Jonathan Vilma, Devin Hester, Vince Wilfork, D.J. Williams, Frank Gore, Kellen Winslow Jr., Willis McGahee, Andre Johnson, Antrel Rolle and more.
The most damaging NCAA violation were details of Shapiro’s co-ownership of a sports agency – Axcess Sports & Entertainment – during his time as a Hurricanes booster. The same agency that signed two first-round picks from Miami, Vince Wilfork and Jon Beason, and recruited dozens of others while Shapiro was allegedly providing cash and benefits to players.
To back up Shapiro’s claim, Yahoo! Sports audited approximately 20,000 pages of financial and business records from his bankruptcy case, more than 5,000 pages of cell phone records, multiple interview summaries tied to his federal Ponzi case, and more than 1,000 photos. Nearly 100 interviews were also conducted with individuals living in six different states. In the process, documents, photos and 21 human sources – including nine former Miami players or recruits, and one former coach – corroborated multiple parts of Shapiro’s rule-breaking.
Asked why Shapiro is coming out with this information now: he felt betrayed. Shapiro took care of these guys for years and when it was time to help him out when his troubles began and the Ponzi scheme was uncovered, he reached out to the former players for bail money and financial assistance to no avail.
The University of Miami football program has been a troubled program for as long as I can remember. When I hear of the Hurricanes football program I don’t think of the great players that the program produce or of the championships that were won. When I hear of the Hurricanes football program I think of the many scandals that has put the school in a negative light.
And I don’t blame the kids for all of the problems because if someone offered you thousands of dollars and gifts you wouldn’t turn it down. I know I wouldn’t.
I blame the adults in this case, specifically the athletic program and administrators for allowing “boosters” to have this much access to the football program. The administration allegedly knew of this guy’s action (some also allegedly took handouts as well) and turned a blind eye to it.
The school does not have ANY control of this program and until they get control of the program scandals like this will continue to happen.
In my opinion, the best thing for the school to do is to “temporarily shut down” the football program.