A Ponzi-Scheming Former Miami Booster Stars In Yahoo!’s Latest Investigative Doozy
Okay. There's too much here for us to really detail it all, but suffice to say, Yahoo!'s latest investigative story airing yet another college sports program's dirty laundry is here. Now up: University of Miami football and basketball (mostly football, though), thanks to the "efforts" of former booster/large-scale criminal Nevin Shapiro, who claims he provided, in the words of Yahoo!'s Charles Robinson, "thousands of impermissible benefits to at least 72 athletes from 2002 through 2010."
Yep...72. And some of them (like star Miami linebacker Sean Spence) are still in school - for now, anyway. The impact could be felt on programs beyond Miami's - for example, the football programs at Florida and Louisville (where former Miami assistants Aubrey Hill and Clint Hurtt, respectively, now work), and Missouri's basketball program (former Miami head man Frank Haith took the job there this offseason...they must be thrilled).
So what did Shapiro provide? You know, the stuff you'd expect: use of his house(s), yacht, strippers, prostitutes, nightclub outings - for recruits and Miami players. Often, he paid players; other times, he set up tournaments for them to win money. There were various and sundry gifts (jewelry, clothing, etc.) Some payments were made to try and get players to sign up with a sports agency in which he owned a stake. Occasionally, he'd provide lodging to players. One time, he paid for an abortion to terminate a pregnancy that resulted from sex he facilitated. Sometimes, he put bounties on opposing players like Tim Tebow. He did a lot.
How'd Shapiro pay for all that? If you guessed "by obscene profits gained from an utter lack of anything resembling a moral compass," you're correct: he's currently serving a 20-year prison sentence for running a Ponzi scheme worth nearly $1 billion. How'd he get away with it? Well, he gave money to Miami athletics legally, also. No reason for the athletic department to mess with that relationship, right? (As Shapiro himself put it, "No one stepped in to stop me.") And why'd he come clean? Well, in addition to lacking a moral compass, Shapiro also finds himself without possession of shame:
Chief is his feeling that after spending eight years forging what he thought were legitimate friendships with players, he was abandoned by many of the same Miami athletes he treated so well. He told Yahoo! Sports that following his incarceration, he asked multiple players for financial help – either with bail money, or assistance to individuals close to the booster. Shapiro admitted some of those inquiries included angry letters and phone calls to players whom he provided benefits.
"Some of those players – a lot of those players – we used to say we were a family," Shapiro said. "Well, who do you go to for help when you need it? You go to your family. Why the hell wouldn’t I go to them?"
Hmm, "abandoned"? Might those investors Shapiro defrauded out of money feel "abandoned"? And also...he expected all this to end differently? Shapiro took advantage of his wealth to get up close and personal with Miami athletics. The athletes took advantage of his wealth, with full cooperation on Shapiro's part. As a fictional beloved stickup man once said, "All in the game."
Of course, it all comes back to power. Shapiro got it through money, which he got through...cheating. He's an insecure guy, an angry guy who lost it when he feared his power within Miami athletics might be waning. That type of insecurity probably springs in no small part from a Napoleon complex (fine, pun intended). There's no way we can fathom him being a sympathetic figure. He is, however, right in at least one instance: when he points out the complete inaction of the higher-ups in Miami's athletic department, people who didn't know what they didn't want to know:
Shapiro said he was enabled by the university, allowed to run the entire Miami team out of tunnel and onto the field – twice – and once honored on the field by former athletic director Paul Dee during a game. The same Paul Dee who wagged a finger at USC as the chairman of the NCAA’s committee on infractions in 2010, chiding the Reggie Bush/O.J. Mayo scandal as a systematic failure.
“High-profile players demand high-profile compliance,” Dee said while announcing USC’s sanctions.
Now Shapiro says Miami’s athletic compliance – Dee’s own backyard while Shapiro was operating – suffered one catastrophic oversight after another.
“If they had hired a private investigator for a day, it would have been the easiest job that guy ever had,” Shapiro said. “It would have been over in five minutes."
But no, we're sure Shapiro just "didn't do anything to cause concern" in Dee's eyes.
And this leads us once again to the fact that the entire NCAA has serious, fundamental flaws that allow stuff like this to happen time and again. We know, of course, the Yahoo! investigative team puts a ton of work into stories like this (witness the fact that you can click pages for individual players to look at associated cases of Shapiro-led wrongdoing), but they are coming out with so many stories like this (and does anyone doubt more are on the way?) that it really does seem like it's easy for them.
The scope of Shapiro's sleaziness is stunning, but it's not surprising...nor is the fact that no one tried to stop it. Maybe the least surprising fact of all: that it took Yahoo! to uncover it. Maybe if they uncover another case or 10 of rampant corruption, someone in the governing body that oversees all this will get serious about a way to combat said corruption (and/or dramatically reform the system in place) that doesn't involve sticking one's head in the sand.
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