Report: Coaches, ‘millions of dollars’ part of Miami allegations

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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.

College Football Hall of Fame adds title sponsor

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The College Football Hall of Fame is no longer the College Football Hall of Fame. Well, it is, but it isn’t.

It’s still a massive museum dedicated to honoring our nation’s greatest sport, but it will no longer be known by that name. The Atlanta-based Hall has added a title sponsor, and it’s the same corporation that sponsors everything else college football within Atlanta, from the Peach Bowl to Paul Johnson‘s sock drawer (presumably) — Chick-fil-A.

The new name and logo was unveiled Thursday.

As of press time, there was no word on if the first 100,000 CFT readers will receive a free 12-pack of nuggets upon entry.

Report: Cannabis oil not the reason C.J. Harris denied walk-on opportunity at Auburn

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A major brouhaha broke out on social media last last week when it was reported that C.J. Harris was denied by the NCAA an opportunity to walk-on at Auburn because of his prescription for cannabis oil, which he uses to prevent epileptic seizures. Harris claims to be seizure free since January 2017 thanks to the medication.

“After Auburn coaches and staff took a second look at his medical records, they told Harris’ father Curtis that his son could not compete in NCAA athletics while he was taking cannabis oil,” reported WGXA-TV, which broke the story.

“You’re taking something away from a kid who’s worked so hard in his life to get there,” Curtis Harris, the player’s father, said. “And you’re just taking it away because he’s taking a medication that’s helping with his disability.”

But according to Brandon Marcello of Auburn Undercover, the story is more complicated than that. A source told Marcello that it was Auburn’s doctors, and not NCAA rules, that will prevent Harris from suiting up for the Tigers. Writes Marcello:

Auburn’s team physician did not clear Harris due to the pre-existing medical conditions, a source close to the Auburn football program said. The Auburn medical staff was concerned about the epilepsy and wanted to protect his well being in a full-contact sport that could lead to head trauma, the source said.

That information will not stop people from ripping on the NCAA, however, largely because it’s fun to rip on the NCAA.

But the Harris situation is a flashpoint in a larger cultural issue. Public opinion on marijuana is changing — 61 percent of Americans believe it should be legal, according to a Pew Research poll in January, an increase from 57 percent in 2017 and a massive leap from the 31 percent who thought the same in 2000 — and cannabis is already legal for purchase on a medical basis in 29 states. And the opinion of Auburn’s doctors doesn’t change the fact Harris would still be ineligible under current NCAA rules.

However, the NCAA’s Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports has discussed “medical marijuana and CBD products at recent meetings” and will do so again at its next gathering in June, according to SB Nation. The Harris situation — and the subsequent public reaction — should be a a topic of conversation.

 

Two Illinois players charged with theft for relocating deer sculpture

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A pair of Illinois players have been charged with theft between $500 and $10,000 after taking a sculpture from a Champaign park and relocating it to the top of their apartment building.

Jimmy Marchese, a junior linebacker, and Drew Murtaugh, a sophomore linebacker, told police they were walking home on the night of April 29 and saw a sculpture of a running deer, titled “Startled,” lying on the ground and took it home, placing the sculpture on the roof of their apartment. The Champaign Park District pleaded for the sculpture’s return on Facebook, and an anonymous tip led the authorities to Marchese and Murtaugh.

“Startled” has since been reinstalled at Champaign’s Scott Park, where the $5,000 sculpture will require touch-up work by the artist who created it.

“We had to have the artist come and do some work on it. We think we got it worked out to where it would be a lot harder for anyone to take it out again,” Champaign Park District director Joe DeLuce told the Champaign News Gazette.

The Illini pair has already appeared in court for a probable-cause hearing, and are due back on June 12. They face penalties ranging from probation to five years in prison.

Illinois spokesman Kent Brown told the News Gazette that head coach Lovie Smith is aware of the incident but has taken no action.

Marchese, a native of Vernon Hills, Ill., played in all 12 games in 2017 with two starts, and was named to the Academic All-Big Ten team. Murtaugh, hailing from Crystal Lake, Ill., did not letter as a redshirt freshman in 2017, but joined his partner in petty crime as an Academic All-Big Ten honoree.

 

Georgia DB Tray Bishop arrested on felony charge for alleged recording of sexual act

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Georgia freshman defensive back DetravionTray” Bishop was arrested on Wednesday on charges of felony eavesdropping/surveillance. The charges stem from an incident from this past fall, according to a report from Chip Towers of DawgNation.com. Bishop, who promptly turned himself over to the authorities after a warrant for his arrest was issued, has already been released from a county jail on a $5,700 bond.

The arrest follows an investigation by University of Georgia police responded to a complaint filed by a woman in April. The woman claimed Bishop recorded a sexual act between the two without her consent back in November.

“The complainant wished to report that there was a student going around showing people a sex tape of her … without her consent,” the police report said, according to the DawgNation report. “… A subsequent investigation into this incident led us into determining that the crime of unlawful eavesdropping occurred on [Nov. 5]. The investigation showed that Detravion Bishop had recorded [victim’s name] inside his dorm room without her permission and without her knowledge.”

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has responded to the situation, expressing concern over the circumstances Bishop is caught up in.

“We are investigating the matter and it’s important that we gather all information relevant to the situation before we determine what policies may come into play,” Smart said in his statement. “Then we can take appropriate action if necessary.”

Bishop was a three-star recruit in Georgia’s Class of 2017, according to his Rivals profile. Bishop red-shirted last season.