The U(gly) Truth

(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

This is the investigative story about “The U” that you’ll hear too much about for the next few weeks. It’s long, so I’ll put up a few clips from the article followed by a few comments.

Yahoo! Sports – A University of Miami booster, incarcerated for his role in a $930 million Ponzi scheme, has told Yahoo! Sports he provided thousands of impermissible benefits to at least 72 athletes from 2002 through 2010.

In 100 hours of jailhouse interviews during Yahoo! Sports’ 11-month investigation, Hurricanes booster Nevin Shapiro described a sustained, eight-year run of rampant NCAA rule-breaking, some of it with the knowledge or direct participation of at least seven coaches from the Miami football and basketball programs. 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.

In 15 prison interviews with Yahoo! Sports and hundreds of telephone and email interactions, Shapiro laid out a multitude of reasons for blowing the whistle on his illicit booster activity. Chief is his feeling that after spending eight years forging what he thought were legitimate friendships with players, he was abandoned by many of the same Miami athletes he treated so well. He told Yahoo! Sports that following his incarceration, he asked multiple players for financial help – either with bail money, or assistance to individuals close to the booster. Shapiro admitted some of those inquiries included angry letters and phone calls to players whom he provided benefits.

Multiple sources say this photo was taken in Nevin Shapiro’s VIP section at Opium Garden nightclub in Miami Beach in 2003. From left to right are Devin Hester, Shapiro and Vince Wilfork. (Special to Yahoo! Sports)

“Some of those players – a lot of those players – we used to say we were a family,” Shapiro said. “Well, who do you go to for help when you need it? You go to your family. Why the hell wouldn’t I go to them?”

Now feeling outcast, the booster said his goal is to rip away the façade of ‘The U’, and reveal an ugly truth about one of the country’s most celebrated college football programs.

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.

In one instance, 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].” Due to the sensitivity of the allegation, Yahoo! Sports has chosen not to name the player allegedly involved.

Nevin Shapiro and a second source said this photo of the booster and Kellen Winslow Jr. was taken in Shapiro’s VIP section of Opium Garden nightclub in 2003.

“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.”

One day, you’re a University of Miami graduate playing in the NFL, the next day, your past comes back to haunt you. There are some big names being thrown out there in this one. Vince Wilfork, Andre Johnson, Devin Hester, Kellen Winslow Jr., Antrel Rolle, Jon Vilma…the list goes on. Most of this story isn’t shocking at all. College athletes at The U got tons of money, booze, women, and benefits beyond their dreams. Not surprising. The in depth documentation of the events is pretty surprising though… how deep it went, and how often it happened. Then, there is of course… the abortion. That one’s bad. Real bad. Deciding to not absolutely ruin a life, Yahoo chose to not reveal names… which I support. Sadly, not everybody does, and my guess… we should know by the end of the day which player it was because of stories like this by Deadspin. Leave it alone, guys. What good is gonna come from that? This story will certainly go down and biggest and most damaging to the NCAA in a summer that has been littered with blemishes to their validity and reputation. NCAA is going down along with U of Miami. Mark my words, although they might not be as high profile, there are hundreds of Shapiro’s out there just sitting on stories just like this one…about your alma mater. Brace yourselves…

-bp

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