Miami coach Golden: Errors were made
Miami Hurricanes coach Al Golden says some of his players may have made mistakes that prompted an NCAA investigation into convicted Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro's role with the program.
Golden, preparing for his first season with the Hurricanes, said he just became aware of the investigation into allegations that Shapiro gave more than a dozen former or current players gifts and services.
''We're not going to let this knock us backward,'' Golden said Tuesday before a morning practice. ''We have great kids on this team to the extent that they may have made a mistake. OK, that's fine. But that's also part of growing up. What we have to teach them now is if something did occur, let's be honest and move forward.''
NCAA investigators visited the campus Monday in the wake of Shapiro's allegations that he provided players with the use of a yacht and other favors, said his attorney, Maria Elena Perez. Shapiro and Perez have been talking with the NCAA about the matter for a couple of months and provided documentation, she said.
Golden said athletic director Shawn Eichorst and president Donna Shalala were meeting with investigators, but the coach didn't expect to be included in those discussions.
''It's hard for me to stand up here and defend something that occurred three, four, five, six years ago,'' Golden said. ''I don't know the extent of it. We're going to look at it. We're disappointed, but we're not discouraged.''
Shapiro's relationship with the program dates back about a decade. Some of the alleged incidents occurred in the past four years, which would be within the NCAA's statute of limitations regarding violations.
Miami officials said that when Shapiro first made his allegations nearly a year ago, he and his attorneys refused to provide any facts to the school.
''The university notified the NCAA enforcement officials of these allegations,'' the school said in a statement. ''We are fully cooperating with the NCAA and are conducting a joint investigation. The University of Miami takes these matters very seriously.''
Golden joined the Hurricanes in December after Randy Shannon was fired. Eichorst was hired as athletic director in April to replace Kirby Hocutt, who resigned to become athletic director at Texas Tech.
Golden said he emailed his team ''every day this summer'' about avoiding problems that recently hit other schools, and he specifically mentioned North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Ohio State. He said his players have a ''Cane Code'' reminding them about such issues.
''We've got to make sure the third parties stay away from our student-athletes,'' Golden said.
Golden said his players were told about the investigation before practice Tuesday. He declined to make them available to the media.
''I didn't think that would be fair to the kids,'' he said. ''I'm living day by day right now.''
Golden said he didn't expect his 24 committed players for the upcoming signing class to waver in their commitments.
In June, when Shapiro was sentenced, the U.S. Attorney's Office said he ''used investor funds to make payments to dozens of student athletes who were attending a local university in the Miami area to which Shapiro made significant donations ... cash in amounts up to $10,000 and gifts such as jewelry and entertainment at nightclubs and restaurants in Miami Beach. As a result of a 10-year gift to the university, its Student-Athlete Lounge was named for Shapiro.''
The University of Miami was not specifically mentioned in that release, but the school temporarily named its lounge for Shapiro. His name was removed in 2008 after the school said he did not follow his pledged donation-payment plan.
Prosecutors said Shapiro spent more than $400,000 in investor funds for Miami Heat floor seats, among other luxuries. Shapiro also used investor funds to buy a pair of diamond-studded handcuffs, which he gave as a gift to a professional athlete - long believed to be Shaquille O'Neal.
Among the creditors listed as those who are owed money by Shapiro's company, Capitol Investments, are the university, the Heat and former Wisconsin football coach Barry Alvarez, along with members of his family. Alvarez has a close relationship with Shalala, largely from her time at Wisconsin.
Court records show Shapiro was accused of owing the Heat $732,348.49 for courtside seats he promised to buy, almost $600,000 of which were for future seasons. Alvarez's family has filed claims for at least $1 million. Miami has an outstanding claim of $40,000 surrounding a deal for a skybox lease.
Shapiro said he gave away a 2006 Heat NBA championship ring to satisfy a debt, though did not reveal in sworn statements how he obtained the ring that was given to hundreds of Heat staffers.