Nevin Shapiro, a former Miami booster who is serving a 20-year prison sentence for masterminding a $930 million Ponzi scheme, has told Yahoo! Sports he provided impermissible benefits to 72 of the university’s football players and other athletes between 2002 and 2010.
Shapiro said he gave money, cars, yacht trips, jewelry, televisions and other gifts to a list of players including Vince Wilfork, Jon Beason, Antrel Rolle, Devin Hester, Willis McGahee and the late Sean Taylor. Shapiro also claimed he paid for nightclub outings, sex parties, restaurant meals and in one case, an abortion for a woman impregnated by a player. One former Miami player, running back Tyrone Moss, told Yahoo! Sports he accepted $1,000 from Shapiro around the time he was entering college.
”Hell yeah, I recruited a lot of kids for Miami,” Shapiro told Yahoo! Sports. ”With access to the clubs, access to the strip joints. My house. My boat. We’re talking about high school football players. Not anybody can just get into the clubs or strip joints. Who is going to pay for it and make it happen? That was me.”
Shapiro has said multiple times in the past year, including in the Yahoo! Sports story posted Tuesday, that he is angry with several of the players he claims to have helped when they were Hurricanes. Miami officials began cooperating with NCAA investigators not long after Shapiro made claims about his involvement with players last year. University president Donna Shalala and athletic director Shawn Eichorst were questioned by the NCAA this week.
”I can tell you what I think is going to happen,” Shapiro told Miami television station WFOR from federal prison in Atlanta. ”Death penalty.”
Yahoo! Sports says it spent 100 hours interviewing Shapiro over the span of 11 months and audited thousands of pages financial and business records to try and substantiate his claims.
Shapiro was sentenced in June after he admitted to securities fraud and money laundering. He was also ordered to pay more than $82 million in restitution to his victims.
Many current Miami players were also named by Shapiro as receiving benefits, Yahoo! Sports reported, including quarterback Jacory Harris, Ray Ray Armstrong, Travis Benjamin, Sean Spence, Marcus Forston, Vaughn Telemaque, Dyron Dye, Aldarius Johnson and Olivier Vernon. Former Miami quarterback Robert Marve, now at Purdue, was also named by Shapiro, Yahoo! Sports said.
The story cited specifics involving only Armstrong, Dye and Vernon, alleging they received extra benefits as recruits. Shapiro said he worked in concert with several former Miami assistant coaches during the recruiting process.
”It was me and some other players with my incoming (class). I’m not going to say the names but you can probably figure them out yourself,” Moss told Yahoo! Sports. ”When I was getting there my freshman year, it was me and a couple more players. It was me and a few more of the guys in my incoming class that he kind of showed some love to.”
Miami coach Al Golden, who was hired in December, acknowledged Tuesday that some of his players may have made mistakes.
”We’ll stay focused. I’m certain of that,” Golden said. ”We’re disappointed but we’re not discouraged. And again, there’s going to be a life lesson here. We’re talking about allegations from a man that’s behind bars, now. If these do hold some truth, then we’ll deal with them. There’s no other way to do it.”
Current Miami players were not made available to comment Tuesday, and will not be made available before Wednesday’s practice, the university said.
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 Tuesday morning. ”We are fully cooperating with the NCAA and are conducting a joint investigation. The University of Miami takes these matters very seriously.”
After Yahoo! Sports posted its story Tuesday afternoon, the university released another statement, saying it ”takes any allegations seriously, and will continue to cooperate fully in a joint investigation with the NCAA.”
The allegations against Miami are just the latest in what has been a string of NCAA investigations involving some of college football’s most high-profile and successful programs. In the last 18 months, the football teams at Southern California, Ohio State, Auburn, Oregon, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and LSU all have either been investigated or sanctioned by the NCAA.
The litany of scandals has led to calls for major reforms in the way the NCAA regulates and polices big-time college athletics. Commissioners of the major conferences, including Mike Slive from the Southeastern Conference and Jim Delany from the Big Ten, have called for major changes and increased penalties for rule-breakers. Last week, NCAA President Mark Emmert led a group of university presidents in laying out an outline for changes, including raising academic standards, streamlining the rulebook and changing the parameters of athletic scholarships.
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.
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.