Former Miami booster and indicted Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro provided thousands of dollars in impermissible benefits to "at least 72 student-athletes" between 2002 and 2010, according to a Yahoo! Sports report.
The investigation included over 100 hours of jailhouse interviews with Shapiro, along with financial records and corroboration from several sources - including former Miami players - to support the claims. Among the most alarming details to the program include seven former coaches and three athletic support staff who either witnessed, had knowledge of, or even participated in Shapiro committing all kinds of NCAA violations. The report details the life of a rampant rule-breaker who was never told to stop.
"At a cost that Shapiro estimates in the millions of dollars, he said his benefits to athletes included but were not limited to: cash, prostitutes, entertainment in his multimillion-dollar homes and yacht, paid trips to high-end restaurants and nightclubs, jewelry, bounties for on-field play (including bounties for injuring opposing players), travel and on one occasion, an abortion," Robinson writes.
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."
The University of Miami has not commented specifically on the allegations made by Shapiro, as is generally the policy of schools under NCAA investigation, except to say that Shapiro was not as forthcoming to the school and to the NCAA as he was to Yahoo! Sports.
“When Shapiro made his allegations nearly a year ago, he and his attorneys refused to provide any facts to the university,” Miami associate for communications Chris Freet said. “We notified the NCAA enforcement officials of these allegations. We are fully cooperating with the NCAA and are conducting a joint investigation. We take these matters very seriously.”
Shapiro was once one of Miami's most prominent boosters, donating hundreds of thousands of dollars (and committing $250,000 more) to the football program, and presenting head basketball coach Frank Haith (now of Missouri) and current Miami president Donna Shalala with a check for $50,000 -- earmarked for the basketball program -- at one fundraiser. Shapiro alleges that his donations were was enough for Miami's brass to look the other way on the litany of violations he was perpetrating because they were so desperate for donations.
In fact, not only did Miami officials cast a blind eye to Shapiro, they embraced him as a booster, naming a student lounge after him and letting him lead the team onto its home field before games -- twice. In fact, former Miami athletic director Paul Dee maintained as of Tuesday that Miami "didn't have any suspicion that he was doing anything like this. He didn't do anything to cause concern." Dee is the former chair of the NCAA Committee on Infractions, having served the maximum allowable nine-year term as chair.
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Shapiro said he gave money, cars, yacht trips, jewelry, televisions and other gifts to a long list of notable former Hurricanes including Vince Wilfork, Jon Beason, Antrel Rolle, Devin Hester, Willis McGahee and the late Sean Taylor.
The potential fall-out from this report could be devastating to the Miami athletic department. Miami's football program was hit with serious sanctions in 1995. Many thought that the program would be protected by any allegations because of the NCAA's four-year statute of limitations. However, under NCAA bylaw 36.2.3 an investigation can expand beyond the statute if information reveals that in individual tied to a university has engaged in "a pattern of willful violations" over a sustained period beyond the previous four years.
One of the most damning aspects of the report was that while Shapiro was a booster for the Hurricanes, he was also acting as a runner for a sports agency -- Axcess Sports & Entertainment -- that he also owned a minority share of. Shapiro's partner in that agency, former NFL agent and current UFL commissioner Michael Huyghue, vehemently denied Shapiro's charges to the Associated Press.
"It's just fantasy," Huyghue said. "He never had any role in my company. He didn't have the acumen to represent players."
Yahoo! Sports reported that Axcess signee Vince Wilfork received $50,000 and a pair of Cadillac Escalades from Shapiro on behalf of the agency, however, and that Hester recognized Shapiro as a runner (though Hester did not name which agent).
Among the litany of gifts and incentives that Shapiro lavished on the Hurricanes included a $5,000 bounty on rival quarterbacks Chris Rix of Florida State and Tim Tebow of Florida. Neither quarterback was knocked out of a game against Miami, but Shapiro said Rix was targeted several time by Miami defenders.
“We pounded the (expletive) out of [Rix],” Shapiro said. “Watch the tape of those games. You’ll see so many big hits on him. Guys were all going after that $5,000 in cash. [Jon Vilma] tried to kill him – just crushed him – a couple of times trying to get that $5,000. And he almost got it, too.”
Vilma, a current member of the New Orleans Saints, did not comment to Yahoo! Sports.
Now, Shapiro's prediction of the "death penalty" for Miami -- an entire season's cancellation, which is punishment only meted out by the NCAA once, to flagrant and repeat offenders Southern Methodist, in 1987 -- will probably not come true. Robinson even said as much in an interview on ESPN on Tuesday night, saying the idea isn't "reasonable or possible with any program anymore."
And yet it might be. For perhaps the first time since that fateful day in February 1987, the notion of a "death penalty" is now at least a remote possibility. For Miami, that means some of the NCAA's strongest sanctions are likely in store, so even if the worst-case scenario doesn't come true, the once-storied program will probably be damaged for years and years to come.
AP Sports Writers Steven Wine, Eric Olson, Cliff Brunt and RB Fallstrom contributed to this story.