Forget the Ohio State mess, the North Carolina debacle, or the USC imbroglio; that’s penny-ante stuff compared to what’s being alleged occurred between 2001 and 2009 in a program-shaking new piece published by the Yahoo! investigative pitbull Charles Robinson.
Following an 11-month investigation by Robinson, it’s being reported that former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro — you know, this guy — is alleging “he provided thousands of impermissible benefits to at least 72 athletes” during an eight-year-period beginning in 2001. In the latest report, it’s claimed Shapiro spent what he estimated as “millions of dollars”, with the benefits ranging from “cash, prostitutes, entertainment in [Shapiro’s] 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.”
Unbelievably, those aren’t even the most damning accusations uncovered by Robinson through 100 hours of jailhouse interviews with Shapiro, a convicted felon. Shapiro alleges that at least three football coaches — Clint Hurtt, Jeff Stoutland and Aubrey Hill — as well as three members of the football support staff had direct knowledge or participated in the violating of NCAA rules. Additionally, Yahoo! is reporting independent of Shapiro that former football assistant Joe Pannunzio was also involved; Shapiro refused to discuss his relationship with Pannunzio.
It should be noted that none of the coaches mentioned in the article are on first-year head coach Al Golden‘s staff; Stoutland and Pannunzio are part of Nick Saban‘s program at Alabama, Hill is a member of Will Muschamp‘s new Florida staff and Hurtt’s at Louisville on former UF defensive coordinator Charlie Strong‘s Cardinals staff.
Among the allegations Shapiro makes involving former members of the coaching staff includes:
- Hurtt, Hill, Stoutland and Pannunzio delivered football recruits to Shapiro’s multi-million dollar home, allowing the booster to make recruiting pitches to the prospective players.
- Shapiro stated that he took high school recruits on his yacht as well as to strip clubs at the behest of the coaches, paying for services rendered at the latter establishment.
- Coaches took part in strip club visits with Shapiro and Hurricane football players.
In addition to the allegations involving coaches playing active roles in major violations, Shapiro was also the co-owner of Axcess Sports & Entertainment, a sports representation agency. Shapiro claims the agency — Shapiro’s partner was Michael Huyghue, currently the commissioner of the UFL — funneled money to former Miami players Vince Wilfork and Jon Beason, as well as dozens of other unnamed players. Wilfork, Shapiro claimed, was paid a lump sum of $50,000 while he was a Miami player as an inducement to sign with Axcess; Wilfork ultimately signed with the agency before becoming a first-round pick in the NFL draft.
Just as damaging as the above claims are to the program is the fact that Shapiro alleges a dozen unnamed, current members of the football roster were the alleged beneficiaries of Shapiro’s financial benevolence, which ended in April of 2009 after he was arrested for defrauding dozens of individuals out of over $80 million in a Ponzi scheme. Shapiro claims he was just grabbing the financial assistance baton from Luther Campbell, the rapper who was a big-time booster of the university before the school distanced themselves from him.
“Here’s the thing: Luther Campbell was the first uncle who took care of players before I got going,” Shapiro told Yahoo!. “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.’
“I became a booster in late 2001, and by early 2002, I was giving kids gifts. From the start, I wasn’t really challenged. And once I got going, it just got bigger and bigger. I just did what I wanted and didn’t pay much mind toward the potential repercussions.”
Shapiro was also asked why he did what he did, when he knew what he was doing could potentially place a football program he claimed to love dearly squarely in the NCAA crosshairs and in line for what could be significant sanctions.
“I did it because I could,” he said. “And because nobody stepped in to stop me.”
Among the things Shapiro claimed he did because he could included:
- Putting up bounties of $5,000 for any Hurricane who could knock players like former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow out of games.
- 39 Hurricane football players were on the receiving end of prostitutes paid for by Shapiro. Shapiro initially set the players up in hotel rooms before moving the “encounters” to his yacht.
- Provided plane tickets, jewelry, electronics and clothing to myriad players.
- Allow players to take his $1.6 million yacht out on fishing trips and other excursions. The boat was fully stocked with food and alcohol for the players. Shapiro claimed it cost $2,000 to fill the boat up with fuel for the trips.
- Paid for a stripper to have an abortion after she claimed an unnamed player had gotten her pregnant during an encounter.
There are myriad other claims, accusations and allegations made by Shapiro, but they are too lengthy to mention. Thus, we’d strongly, strongly urge you to click HERE to read the entire expose because it is truly riveting stuff that would likely make SMU of the eighties blush.
Robinson utilized a laundry list of sources and financial documentation — some of which Shapiro has already turned over to the NCAA — to corroborate Shapiro’s claims, which the Yahoo! reporter laid out in great detail.
In an effort to substantiate the booster’s claims, Yahoo! Sports audited approximately 20,000 pages of financial and business records from his bankruptcy case, more than 5,000 pages of cell phone records, multiple interview summaries tied to his federal Ponzi case, and more than 1,000 photos. Nearly 100 interviews were also conducted with individuals living in six different states. In the process, documents, photos and 21 human sources – including nine former Miami players or recruits, and one former coach – corroborated multiple parts of Shapiro’s rule-breaking.
NCAA investigators have been in Miami since Monday digging for answers to questions Shapiro’s claims have raised. It’s unclear how long The Association will remain on campus.
In light of Robinson’s report and Shapiro’s accusations, it could be a substantial period of time.
UPDATED 8:21 p.m. ET: the 12 current players who Shapiro claims received impermissible benefits have indeed been named. The names appear below; click on the name to go to the Yahoo! player page, which lays out the specific allegations made by Shapiro regarding that specific player.
Safety Ray-Ray Armstrong
Wide receiver Travis Benjamin
Defensive end Dyron Dye
Defensive tackle Marcus Forston
Quarterback Jacory Harris
Wide receiver Aldarius Johnson
Safety JoJo Nicolas
Defensive end Adewale Ojomo
Defensive end Marcus Robinson
Linebacker Sean Spence
Safety Vaughn Telemaque
Defensive end Olivier Vernon
Eight of those 12 players are listed as either starters or co-starters on the most recent depth chart. It’s unclear what impact this report and the investigations being conducted by the NCAA and the school will have on their eligibility for the beginning of the 2011 season an beyond.