Friday, August 19, 2011


The biggest little scandal to hit college sports since the last scandal to hit college sports has been flying under the radar for awhile, but this one looks like it could be the grandaddy of all the college sports scandals.

I won't go into the long, lengthy, sordid details here. I could never summarize 6744 words in a 200-line newsletter. You can read the ground-breaking story on the controversy surrounding the University of Miami athletic program here:

Let's just set a little background before getting to a few observations and questions that are raised by it.

Nevin Shapiro made millions in a ponzi scheme, filtered substantial sums of money to top football and basketball athletes at the University of Miami, as well as the athletic program itself. He lavished cars, cash, parties, and prostitutes at the players, eventually investing in a sports player representation firm. Shapiro then sheparded to the firm athletes with whom he'd nurtured very close relationships. After going to jail in connection with the ponzi scheme in 2010, he felt abandoned and betrayed by the Miami athletic community, so he dropped the goods on The U.

And that brings us to The Sports Bar's questions surrounding this mess at one of the country's most successful athletic programs:

1. Why didn't these allegations come out earlier? Shapiro's connection to Miami started in 2002. There were neighbors who saw the players at the Booster's house. Employees on Shapiro's yacht interacted with the player. Bodyguards saw everything. Restaurant staff served them. Prostitutes performed favors. Why didn't they come forward earlier? Maybe they did, maybe their stories weren't believable. Is a felon like Shapiro the most reliable source around?

2. Does the story establish Yahoo Sports as a major sports investigative reporting outlet? Yahoo Sports spent 100 hours interviewing the central figure, Nevin Shapiro, alone. They then sought corroboration of everything about which they reported. Right now, ESPN's Outside The Lines has nothing on Yahoo Sports investigations.

3. What part of the allegations were illegal? I don't think the Yahoo Sports story even once mentioned how, if at all, the gifts and favors were illegal. The story did refer to some activities as being "permissable", but I believe that was in the context of NCAA regulations. Just about every breath that Shapiro took on campus -- or off -- led to obvious NCAA violations. But was there illegal bribery? Prostitution? Was the conduct of the player agency in violation of Florida state laws? What about the use of the illegally gotten ponzi money?

4. What is the most disturbing of the allegations? The cash to players? The sex-induced parties? The conflict of interest in sending players to Shapiro's own player agency? The way the University either looked the other way, or was so stupid as not to see what was happening right under their noses? To me, the worst thing Shapiro initiated may have been the cash bounty put on Florida State quarterback Chris Rix. Money was offered to Miami players who could hurt Rix in the Miami vs. Florida State game.

5. Let's see how many steps it takes for this scandal to reach a messy political connection: 1. Donna Shalala is and was the President of the University of Miami when Shapiro was engaging in this behavior, including handing a $ 50,000 check to Shalala at a basketball fund raiser. Shalala was previously the Secretary of Health and Human Resources for the Clinton administration. There you go; just two degrees of separation.

6. That said, how long before someone tries to connect this to the White House (like I just did?). Will the Fair and Balanced network drum up an inference of impropriety on the part of a former democratic cabinet member? And will the Lean Forward network then blast the Fair and Balanced for trying to make the University of Miami story into a race issue, and blame the Tea Party?

7. The NCAA now says they have been investigating The U of Miami for 4 months now. Great! But why didn't they mention this before? I can understand confidentiality and "No Comment" on pending investigations, but why did they suddenly find it necessary to admit they were investigating? If their position before the Yahoo Sports story broke was not to reveal who they are investigating, why did they not stick to that policy?

8. If true, will the conduct by Shapiro and the athletic department be the Watergate of all college athletic violations? According to Yahoo Sports, several coaches knew what was going on. Will the NCAA invoke exceptions to their 4-year statute of limitations, or will The U get off easy because of the statute of limitations? And will this put a cloud over the entire athletic department at Miami, the entire Big East conference in which they play, or all of college sports?

You'll want to stay up on this, because it has all the makings of not just water cooler talk, but of being The Big One.

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