Charles Robinson, college football writer for Yahoo! Sports and surrogate NCAA watchdog whose past work has prompted NCAA probes into the Reggie Bush and Oregon-Willie Lyles scandals, has come out with his latest bombshell that will surely rock the college football landscape, this time with the University of Miami in the crosshairs.
And it does not look good for The U.
In the exhaustive Yahoo! Sports report, former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro, who is currently serving a 20-year federal prison sentence for his part in a $930 million Ponzi scheme, admits to allegedly providing millions of dollars worth of improper benefits — including cash, gifts, parties, lodging and prostitutes — to Miami players and recruits, as well as owning a sports agency during his time as a booster.
Shapiro, 42, said he had ties to 72 Hurricanes players between 2002 and 2010 and that at least six coaches from the basketball and football programs were aware of the violations.
Some of the notable players Shapiro mentioned to Yahoo! Sports include former Canes Frank Gore, Devin Hester, Andre Johnson, Antrel Rolle, Jon Beason, Robert Marve, Willis McGahee, Kenny Phillips, Sean Taylor, Jonathan Vilma, Vince Wilfork, D.J. Williams, Kellen Winslow Jr. and current quarterback Jacory Harris.
ESPN’s Pat Forde said on SportsCenter last night that, because there is potential that The U could be seen as a “repeat violator,” there is the possibility that the school’s football program could receive the “death penalty,” the harshest NCAA sanction that entails banning a school from competing in a sport for at least a year.
Again, it’s important to understand that these are just allegations by a desperate weasel in jail (whom I’m sure Jason Whitlock is going to refer to as an attention whore just like he did with Willie Lyles), acting because he thinks it’s going to right the wrongs that landed him behind bars. But if you look at Robinson’s report, there’s tons of evidence — pictures and documents — as well as former Miami players and recruits backing up Shapiro’s claims.
You can read the Yahoo! Sports report here. It’s very long, so to save you time, I’ve provided some of the highlights below:
Shapiro on how he came to be known by the players as “Little Luke”:
“Here’s the thing: Luther Campbell was the first uncle who took care of players before I got going,” Shapiro said, referring to the entertainer notorious for supplying cash to Miami players in the 1980s and 1990s. “His role was diminished by the NCAA and the school, and someone needed to pick up that mantle. That someone was me. He was ‘Uncle Luke’, and I became ‘Little Luke.’
On his legacy after this report:
“I understand the public perception of me and that’s going to be what it’s going to be. My name has been dragged through the mud as much as it could be. But remember, when Jose Canseco told the truth about the steroid problems in baseball, he was considered a dirty rat. Everyone said he was bitter, he was out of baseball, he’s out of money, he was this and that. But he changed the face of the game. I don’t care if I change the face of the game. But I’m telling the truth about what happened at Miami. It’s the truth. And you tell me, why should the University of Miami be exempt from the truth?”
Former Cane Andrew Williams on Shaprio’s allegations that the booster gave him gifts:
“Who, me?” Williams said. “Man, naw.”
Shapiro had relationships with Miami coaches and staffers, and they often directed recruits to him:
Among the specific incidents, Shapiro or other sources say Hurtt, Hill, Stoutland, Pannunzio and Allen all delivered top-tier recruits to Shapiro’s home or luxury suite so the booster could make recruiting pitches to them. Among the players who were ushered to Shapiro while they were still in high school: Eventual Miami commitments Ray-Ray Armstrong, Dyron Dye and Olivier Vernon (prompted by Hurtt); eventual Florida commitments Andre Debose (Hurtt) and Matt Patchan (prompted by Stoutland and Pannunzio); eventual Georgia commitment Orson Charles (Pannunzio); and eventual Central Florida commitment Jeffrey Godfrey (Allen).
Shapiro on his influence on Miami recruits:
“Hell yeah, I recruited a lot of kids for Miami,” Shapiro said. “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.”
The booster said his role went one step farther with the basketball program, when he paid $10,000 to help secure the commitment of recruit DeQuan Jones. Shapiro said the transaction was set up by assistant coach Jake Morton in 2007 who acted as the conduit for the funds, and was later acknowledged by head coach Frank Haith in a one-on-one conversation.
Shapiro often set up players with prostitues:
In individual situations, he would set up a player with a hotel room and have a woman sent to their location. In group settings, Shapiro said he would use the Mercury Hotel in South Beach, where he would purchase multiple rooms where array of women would be made available to a large group of players. The rooms were typically registered under the alias “Teddy Dupay” – a reference to the former University of Florida point guard whose 5-foot-9 stature and features were similar to the 5-foot-5 Shapiro.
Shapiro described one such party in graphic detail, taking place at the Mercury Hotel during Miami’s off-week in September of 2002 and featuring multiple women hired to have sex with players. The booster said he rented out several suites on a single night and entertained a handful of Hurricanes players. […]
Shortly after the purchase of Shapiro’s $1.6 million yacht in the spring of 2003, the booster said he stopped convening larger scale “parties” and began offering prostitutes for individual players on his boat or in hotel rooms.
Shapiro created a bounty system of reward for players’ performances on the field:
[I]n the spirit of Luther Campbell’s history with the program, Shapiro said he started a bounty system in 2002 tied to both rivalry games such as Florida State and Florida, and also games against highly ranked opponents.
The system is similar to the one reputed fan of the program Campbell was alleged to be running in the 1980s, in which he reportedly paid athletes for big plays. […]
The booster told Yahoo! Sports he had a number of individual payouts for “hit of the game” and “big plays.” He also put bounties on specific players, including Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow and a three-year standing bounty on Seminoles quarterback Chris Rix from 2002 to 2004, offering $5,000 to any player who knocked him out of a game.
Shaprio frequently attended strip clubs and nightclubs with Miami players and even a former basketball coach:
Shapiro rotated through multiple strip clubs with players on a regular basis – Solid Gold, The Cheetah, Pink Pony and Tootsies Cabaret. Shapiro often arrived to the clubs with thick wads of cash to spend on the dancers. Despite that, his additional credit card charges for just Solid Gold from mid 2005 to 2010 totaled $32,683.25.
Strip club visits included both coaches and players – something that was referenced in a portion of federal testimony by Chicago real estate investor Sherwin Jarol, who was deposed in Shapiro’s Ponzi case. At one point in his testimony, a recording of which was viewed by Yahoo! Sports, Jarol describes a pair of August 2008 visits to Solid Gold nightclub with Shapiro. He says “the coach of the Miami basketball” team (Frank Haith) attended one trip. Further in his testimony, he testifies that he “believe(s) there were a couple football players” and added “they all seemed to have a relationship with Nevin. Some stayed at his house,” he said.
It was a regular occurrence for Shapiro to purchase private rooms for athletes inside the strip club – when the booster would give dancers cash to engage in whatever behavior the players desired.
Equally consistent if not more frequent were Shapiro’s visits to multiple nightclubs, where he also favored paying his bills with stacks of cash. But that didn’t stop massive charges from overflowing onto his credit cards. According to his statements, the reputed Hurricanes hotspot of Miami Beach’s Mansion nightclub racked up $83,963.52 in charges on Shapiro’s American Express bills from early 2005 to early 2009.
One time, Shapiro even paid for an abortion for a stripper who claimed a football player impregnated her:
Shapiro described taking a player to the Pink Pony strip club and paying for a dancer to engage in sex with the athlete. In the ensuing weeks, Shapiro said the dancer called one of his security providers and informed him that the player had gotten her pregnant during the incident. Shapiro said he gave the dancer $500 to have an abortion performed, without notifying the player of the incident.
“I was doing him a favor,” the booster said. “That idiot might have wanted to keep [the baby].”
To sign players to his sports agency Axcess Sports he would use his relationships and influence with players to introduce them to his former business parter and current UFL commissioner Michael Huyghue, who handled the business end of things:
Shapiro said it was also up to Huyghue to develop his own financial link to kids, providing his own set of extra benefits to athletes as he saw fit, including cash payments, travel and other inducements. And Shapiro told federal prosecutors that’s precisely what Huyghue did, giving multiple illicit benefits, including cash, to several players at Miami. Claims that Huyghue called “fantasy.”
“He’s a convicted felon,” Huyghue said. “I just don’t want to get into such fantasy. I just wouldn’t want to even go down that path. I don’t even care what he said. Whatever he could say, there’s just no substance to it.”
Shapiro acknowledged that his flagrant actions took place in plain sight, right under the unversity’s noses:
“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. You would have had all the information you needed. Follow me to a nightclub or a strip club. Lunches. Dinners. The boat. Hotels for parties. All the outings at Lucky Strike. These guys were at my house. There was all kinds of (expletive) going on in. Gambling. Pool tournaments. Prostitution. Drinking.” […]
But Shapiro says therein lies the twist. He believes the University of Miami didn’t want to know what he was doing – that the school looked the other way because it was desperate to retain a booster who had donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the program. […]
“Let’s not kid ourselves. The whole time I was out there rocking and rolling, they were just waiting for the big check to come. And you know what? If I wasn’t sitting in jail right now, they probably would have gotten it, too.”
Renegade Miami football booster spells out illicit benefits to players [Yahoo! Sports]
Photo via same story.