Claiming he paid for nightclub outings, sex parties, cars and other gifts, former Miami booster and convicted Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro has told Yahoo! Sports he provided extra benefits to 72 of the university’s football players and other athletes between 2002 and 2010.
His claims involve several current football players and threaten to bring down a program with a legacy dotted by scandals — but none quite like this.
Yahoo! Sports published its story Tuesday afternoon, hours after Miami coach Al Golden said he was certain that his team would “stay focused” amid an NCAA investigation into claims Shapiro first began making about a year ago.
The site said it spent 100 hours interviewing Shapiro over the span of 11 months and audited thousands of pages of financial and business records to examine his claims.
“I did it because I could,” Shapiro said of his spending. “And because nobody stepped in to stop me.”
Shapiro was sentenced in June to 20 years in prison for masterminding a $930 million Ponzi scheme, plus ordered to pay more than $82 million in restitution to investors.
“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.”
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 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 — only to be “abandoned” when he sought their help years later.
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. The school reiterated Tuesday it takes the allegations seriously.
The allegations against Miami — which dealt with a massive Pell Grant scandal in the 1990s, along with other controversies — have sparked what is just the latest in a string of NCAA investigations involving some of college football’s most high-profile and successful programs.
In the past 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.
Many current Miami players also were 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, also was named by Shapiro, Yahoo! Sports said.
Current Miami players were not made available to comment Tuesday, and will not be made available before Wednesday’s practice, the university said.
Yahoo! Sports also said Shapiro paid Wilfork $50,000 as a recruiting tool to sign with sports agency Axcess Sports & Entertainment, a firm Shapiro claimed he co-owned for much of the time he was involved with the Hurricanes. Yahoo! Sports reported players got cash and benefits through Shapiro’s partner, former NFL agent and current UFL commissioner Michael Huyghue.
Reached Tuesday by The Associated Press, Huyghue denied that story.
“It’s just fantasy,” Huyghue said. “He never had any role in my company. … He didn’t have the acumen to represent players,” Huyghue said.
Also reported by Yahoo! Sports:
—Shapiro said he paid basketball recruit DeQuan Jones $10,000 to secure his commitment. Jones, a part-time starter last year, is now a senior with the Hurricanes.
—At least six coaches and as many as 10 athletic department employees overall were allegedly aware of Shapiro’s illicit activity, including former basketball coach Frank Haith, now at Missouri. All the coaches named by Shapiro have since left Miami. Haith lashed out at the story in a statement released through Missouri late Tuesday.
“I am more than happy to cooperate with the national office on this issue and look forward to a quick resolution,” Haith said. “The NCAA has instructed me not to comment further at this time in order to protect the integrity of their review, so I appreciate your understanding in this matter. The reports questioning my personal interactions with Mr. Shapiro are not an accurate portrayal of my character.”
—Shapiro said he paid for 39 different players to receive sex from prostitutes. He also claimed to have offered a $5,000 bounty to any player who could knock Florida State quarterback Chris Rix out of a game, provided players access to his multimillion-dollar home and yacht, and even alleges he bought rims for Hester’s sport-utility vehicle.