If there’s one man’s opinion and voice that I value in this entire Miami/Nevin Shapiro scandal, it’s coach Al Golden‘s. Why? Because it’s the voice of a man who just so happens to be eyeballs-deep in one of the worst sets of accusations against a college football program — through no fault of his own, mind you — since SMU.
And on the eve of UM’s season-opener against Maryland, Golden has to game plan without eight of his players. So, naturally, he’s a little ticked at Shapiro, who I think we can all agree isn’t someone you’d want hanging around at your next tailgate party.
Unless it’s on his yacht and he’s paying for it.
“This guy stole nearly $1 billion from well-educated, well-trained, white-collar people who were in the investment world,” Golden told the Miami Herald. “They gave him their money. It’s the hardest thing to get someone to do.
“People trusted him enough to give him their life savings. That’s how good this idiot was as a con man. He was the best of the best. He got smart, successful people in their 50s and 60s to hand over millions.
“Now we’re asking why these 18- and 19-year-old players from an entirely different socio-economic background didn’t turn him down when he offered them what, $170* for something?”
(*note: in context, Golden was talking about quarterback Jacory Harris, who received $140 in benefits from Shapiro)
Look, rules are rules, and whether you think a college athlete should be allowed to take benefits/be paid or not, the NCAA doesn’t allow it. But Golden brings up a fair question about what goes on inside the mind of an impressionable 18-to-22-year-old football player. Some of the allegations are far more egregious in their complete disregard of NCAA bylaws, but I think the sentiment is the same.
There are a ton of reasons why a college athlete would accept impermissible benefits, and not all of them revolve around being from a lower economic class. Even with university education in place, it’s hard to keep kids from taking handouts. Former Miami coach Randy Shannon, a monstrous antagonist to Shapiro, couldn’t stop it from happening.
“I’m not saying [the players] didn’t do anything wrong,” Golden explained. “But this wasn’t to make the program better or get players in school or anything like that. But [Shapiro] wanted to fulfill his dream of hanging out with players.”
And, that, I believe is the rarely-mentioned portion of this whole catastrophe: the human interest story. Lost in the numerous allegations of alcohol, hookers and parties is the fact that a single man in his thirties did everything in his power to befriend athletes nearly half his age.
That reeks of loneliness and isolation that no prison cell is capable of holding.
And when Shapiro looked for help after being arrested for his nearly $1 billion Ponzi scheme, no one answered. It’s the reason why Miami is in the situation they’re in. Shapiro divulged information to Yahoo! because he felt jilted by the UM athletes who wouldn’t bail him out.
“It’s easier to take something than to give something,” Golden said.
Shapiro may have been smart enough to con people out of millions of dollars, but he wasn’t smart enough to figure out that, on a lesser degree, UM’s athletes were doing the same thing to him.