Thursday, August 18, 2011

Will this be called Hurricane Nevin...or Hurricane Shapiro?

His name is Nevin Shapiro. He's in prison, serving a multi-year sentence for a Ponzi scheme.

That alone makes him a dirtbag (or a scumbag, as former University of Miami head football coach Jimmy Johnson called him).

But Shapiro also says that from 2002-2010 he gave more than 70 University of Miami athletes all sorts of improper benefits -- cars, money, women, an engagement ring and so on -- that he knew violated NCAA rules. 

Now the fallout is being speculated.

Let's assume that Nevin Shapiro is telling the truth, and his version of it includes that multiple coaches knew what he was doing. In fact, a few of them also received gifts from him, Shapiro claims.

Once Shapiro went to prison, he says the university, the coaches and the players to whom he had given so much turned on him. Ignored him. Cut him off. And he told Yahoo! Sports that decision angered him.
They were once his friends, he said. They were once eager to accept his help out of trouble, drink his booze and fish off his boat. Now they won’t acknowledge him. They won’t help him. They won’t support him, financially, emotionally or anything else. He’s threatened some of them that he’d bring this story to light if they didn’t step up, a move some will consider extortion or blackmail.
Shapiro doesn’t care. He can’t be hurt any more than he already is.
“We always said we were family,” Shapiro said. “Be consistent with me. Don’t take my money when you need help and then turn your back when I need help. This is what boys do for each other.”
So he sits in this hellhole and it all boils over.
“[Expletive] them,” he spits.
This is vengeance born from desperation.
Desperation certainly can be felt around the university and an athletic department that would face tough sanctions if Shapiro's claims are validated. The university's president is urging calm while insisting a thorough internal investigation will follow.

NCAA President Mark Emmert also is urging that no one jump to conclusions.

That's true, but considering that Yahoo! Sports took 11 months to conduct and complete its report (and it suggests current Hurricane athletes were among the beneficiaries, so to speak, of Shapiro's improper actions), the conclusions right now look damning.

Could Miami get the death penalty, meaning the football program could be shut down? It could be, and one of the reasons is that no such illicit behavior takes place in a vacuum. As the Miami Herald correctly points out, to blame just Shapiro for the burgeoning scandal is a mistake.

Don’t just blame Shapiro, though. Blame, and question, how this could have happened if you buy that it substantially did. Blame UM, from its president to its board of trustees to its athletic directors to its coaches. Oh, and save some blame for the “student-athletes” whom one is hard-pressed to cast as victims — the athletes who hardly needed a college degree to be smart enough to know they were violating all sorts of rules.
The scope of this is enormous, as detailed late Tuesday by a newly revealed probe by Yahoo! Sports encompassing an 11-month investigation. The NCAA also is investigating, but it seems as if Yahoo! has done a lot of their work for them.
Poor Al Golden, right?
None of this alleged mess has anything to do with the first-year football coach, but he inherits it. He is left to deal with its fallout just 19 days from his first game.
You have to wonder: Would Golden have taken this job if he knew that these accusations and these possible NCAA sanctions were off in the distance, in the dark, waiting like a sucker punch?
These accusations — that one sleazy booster had an open wallet to dozens of UM players over many years — are shocking, not less than that. They make others of college football’s many recent scandals seem nearly quaint.
Quaint, indeed. And when you add to this already volatile mix that Miami already is considered a "repeat offender" in the eyes of the NCAA, then whatever explosion results could indeed be deadly. 
 
Yes, it will be tempting to suggest that the NCAA's rules are hopelessly out of date and therefore what took place at Miami (and elsewhere) is a by-product of athletes getting a head start of taking care of their families. Spare me. That discussion can be had at another time.
 
For now, the discussion centers around a developing investigation that could lead one of the more high-profile football programs in the country to be shut down. (In fairness, let's acknowledge that the athletes whom Shapiro says he gave gifts to were not just on the football team; sanctions, therefore, could be handed down on other Hurricane athletic teams as well.)
 
So, will this scandal be called Hurricane Nevin? Hurricane Shapiro? Or something else?

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