Miami faces allegations of serious NCAA violations

By David Hyde
McClatchy Newspapers

At a time of new beginnings, they’re slapped with new allegations.

Payments. Prostitutes. A booster gone wild. In a year about tomorrow’s hope, they’re blindsided by yesterday’s reported dopes. Allegations about basketball coaches. Football players. Maybe the university president, too.

The University of Miami is back in the headlines in every way it doesn’t want with former players making claims, athletic leaders playing defense and the school’s image chained to cheats again and dragged around the country.

In a story that raises as many questions as it answered, Yahoo! Sports alleges Miami committed major NCAA infractions primarily through the salacious spending and South Beach sins of former booster and convicted Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro.

To simplify the story, imagine Shapiro playing the Jose Canseco role of the jilted lover with all sorts of baggage who could be dropping the full truth on everyone. And to condense the story to Shapiro’s most concrete claims: 1. Former basketball coaches Frank Haith and assistant Jake Morton have some answering to do about Shapiro saying he allegedly paid $10,000 to get recruit DaQuan Jones. 2. Several former football players will be questioned by the NCAA about payments Shapiro told Yahoo! Sports they received from Shapiro and his partner and player-agent Michael Huyghue.

But the crux of the questions starts with Miami President Donna Shalala and former Athletic Director Paul Dee: What did they know about Shapiro, and why didn’t they know more? Miami thought enough of Shapiro and his money at one point to put his name and etched picture on the players’ lounge. As soon as word of his Ponzi scheme broke a couple of years ago, the name came off, the picture went down.

But Miami will have a hard time selling a case of complete ignorance here. A rogue booster shelling out money for strippers, cars, meals, jewelry, televisions and sex parties with prostitutes is one thing. A booster with his name on the players’ lounge is another matter.

Now perhaps it’s understood why when Randy Shannon took over the football program from Larry Coker, Shalala’s primary mission statement to him was to clean up the program.

Neither former head coaches Shannon nor Coker is implicated. But Shapiro says assistants Clint Hurtt, Jeff Stoutland and Aubrey Hill are.

Who knows what or who else will tumble out in coming days and weeks? NCAA investigators are on Miami’s campus. And the damage to the program’s image, if not its future, is clear from Shapiro’s claim that Vince Wilfork took payouts to sign with the player agency to Tyrone Moss reportedly confirming he took a $1,000 handout.

You think football coach Al Golden wants to hear about this on the edge of his first season? Or new basketball coach Jim Larranaga wants to deal with this before he’s even coached a game?

The NCAA has a lot of sorting out to do here, a lot of concluding how much of this was the work of a crazy booster and how much Miami should have policed on its own.

Here’s the crazy part: The Miami athletic director for much of this time, Paul Dee, now heads the NCAA’s investigative committee. Or, well, he did head the committee as far as this investigation is concerned. Some of the allegations are more salacious than substantive.

As the story reads, “Shapiro named 39 Miami players or prospective recruits” who had prostitutes paid for by Shapiro. But the story only confirmed it with two of them. And they’re not named. So a lot of these allegations start with Shapiro.

Who is he exactly? What is his motivation here? The only thing for certain is Miami athletics has a cloud hanging over it in a way it hasn’t for a while.

This was supposed to be a time of new beginnings. Instead, it’s time for old headlines.