When the mail arrives today, the folks at Yahoo! Sports are probably going to have some nice thank you notes on Ohio State and USC letterheads, because Charles Robinson’s mind-blowing investigation of the University of Miami could possibly go down as the biggest college football scandal in history. Even Southern Methodist alums are probably high-fiving this morning.
Former booster Nevin Shapiro spilled the Cuban black beans on nearly a decade of improprieties that include Hurricanes players and coaches (football and basketball) being paid, lavish house and yacht parties, prostitutes, jewelry, and even bounties for players to cause injuries to opposing athletes like Tim Tebow. Shapiro, in more than 100 hours of taped confessions, even claims to have paid for a stripper’s abortion. Throw in his admittance that his own sports agency, Axcess Sports & Entertainment, was funneling money to college players in exchange for their agreement to sign with them, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a scandal.
But don’t worry, Miami’s officials are taking this all very seriously.
“When Shapiro made his allegations nearly a year ago, he and his attorneys refused to provide any facts to the university,” [Miami associate AD for communications Chris] Freet said. “We notified the NCAA enforcement officials of these allegations. We are fully cooperating with the NCAA and are conducting a joint investigation. We take these matters very seriously.” (Yahoo!)
You bet your darn patootie they take this seriously. They’re likely going to hang a sign around Shapiro’s neck, labeling him a Ponzi scheme-running scoundrel, but that’s not going to alter the public perception of “The U.” What should happen? If the claims are true – and apparently there are 20,000 pages of financial documentation that suggest validity – then it’s the death penalty, even though that doesn’t exist anymore. What will happen? Nobody really knows, but we can guess that it will start with a few years of red-tape-laden legal battles, with the majority of former Miami players, coaches (some of which are now at Alabama and Florida, among other schools), and administrative officials calling Shapiro names, notably a big ol’ poopy pants liar.
Either way, we’ll be entertained. Miami fans won’t, but there are only a few hundred actual Miami Hurricanes fans on this planet, so the convenient fans will just find a new team. Have fun with that, Florida Gators. After the jump, check out the juicier quotes from Robinson’s incredible article.
“Here’s the thing: Luther Campbell was the first uncle who took care of players before I got going,” Shapiro said, referring to the entertainer notorious for supplying cash to Miami players in the 1980s and 1990s. “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.”
I actually spoke with Luther Campbell over the phone back in February for a magazine that I contribute to and he reiterated his assertion that he’s just a man of the players, along the lines of this opinion piece he wrote for the Miami New Times. We spoke mostly of conference realignment and Miami’s coaching future, so he didn’t say much that even raised an eyebrow. But he also talked about how top athletes like Jeff Godfrey were suddenly turning down Miami for unexpected schools like UCF. It makes a little more sense now. Luke is also answering questions all day today on Twitter, so that should be very interesting. He LOVES to talk.
“I’ve pled guilty to my crime,” the booster said. “I understand the public perception of me and that’s going to be what it’s going to be. My name has been dragged through the mud as much as it could be. But remember, when Jose Canseco told the truth about the steroid problems in baseball, he was considered a dirty rat. Everyone said he was bitter, he was out of baseball, he’s out of money, he was this and that. But he changed the face of the game. I don’t care if I change the face of the game. But I’m telling the truth about what happened at Miami. It’s the truth. And you tell me, why should the University of Miami be exempt from the truth?”
This quote is perhaps my favorite:
“It’s all true,” said one of Shapiro’s ex-girlfriends, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of reprisals from former Miami players. “He took care of them. What does that mean? It has a lot of meanings. He took care of them by giving cash to make sure they had stuff. He took care of them whenever they wanted to go party. He took care of them by getting them laid. He took care of them if they needed a place to stay. Whatever they needed, at that moment they needed it, Nevin would provide it. Whether it was sex, money, meals, a new TV, if their mother needed something, if they needed a new ring or some jewelry – whatever they needed, Nevin would provide it.”
I just picture Ray Lewis walking into church and saying, “I’m sorry, but there’s something I need to take care of,” before he drops his chain and cross pendant on the ground.
Another player – who also admitted taking benefits but requested anonymity – said he was aware that Moss took money from Shapiro and supported the decision.
“The guy had a kid while he was in college, a little Tyrone Jr.,” the player said. “He comes in poor as [expletive] from Pompano and he’s got a little kid to feed. I could barely feed myself. I can’t imagine having to feed a kid, too. Of course he’s going to take it when someone offers him $1,000.”
Always my favorite argument – gotta feed the family. But what was that whole thing about hookers?
Said Shapiro: “In 2002 and 2003 we were really rocking it for a while and it was just out of control. But I decided to get away from the regular Mercury Hotel situations. I was getting too old for that kind of thing, and I had the boat for prostitution situations. I still set up guys at hotels with individual-type things, but I never really used the Mercury after getting the boat.”
On the claim of bounties for injuring opposing players:
“We pounded the (expletive) out of that kid,” Shapiro said of Rix. “Watch the tape of those games. You’ll see so many big hits on him. Guys were all going after that $5,000 in cash. [Jon] Vilma tried to kill him – just crushed him – a couple of times trying to get that $5,000. And he almost got it, too.”
And the beat goes on. The article is an absolute must-read.
UPDATE: The website Inside the U is already providing contradicting “sources” as I catch up on my morning reading.
Shapiro, or “Lil’ Luke, or Lil’ Dookie“, nicknames the players gave him, is making theses allegations, “because he’s trying to pay back whoever he can,” a source said. “That’s the type of dude he was. He had like a Napoleon complex. He had to be on top of the world all of the time. I didn’t know him personally, but that’s how he carried himself. I have met a few times on the sidelines and stuff, but he was always, ‘I’m a man’ and he swears up and down that he changed everybody’s lives, which definitely doesn’t go for everybody.”
“I’m definitely confident UM will be okay,” a source said. “It will raise a lot of eyebrows, but at the end of the day, he’s sitting behind bars and he owes $900 million.”
I’d say that explains the mindset of most faithful Miami fans at this point. “He stole $900 million,” is going to be the intelligent man’s battle cry, while “He’s a bitter midget” seems to be the ignorant defense du jour.