When Nevin Shapiro was flying high as one of the University of Miamis most influential boosters, Sean Pee Wee Allen went along for the ride.
It was intoxicating to be Shapiros personal assistant or, as Allen puts it, his gofer. A UM graduate who had worked on the equipment staff for the football team, Allen was now tooling around in Shapiros Mercedes-Benz while hobnobbing with Canes players at strip clubs, house parties and yacht excursions all paid for by the seemingly wealthy booster.
Allen had access, and the combination, to Shapiros cash-filled bedroom-closet safe. When he wasnt picking up the tab for all the good times, Shapiro was handing out cash gifts $50 here, $100 there to dozens of UM players, and trying to recruit some of them to the sports agency he co-owned. It was the same agency Allen worked for shortly after graduating from UM in 2005.
Together, they broke collegiate athletic rules all the way, Allen told The Miami Herald.
At first, I was a little concerned, Im going to get busted, Allen said in an interview at his bayfront condo last month. After a certain amount of time went by, I was like, Dang, Im getting away with everything.
Today the partys over. Shapiro, 43, is serving a 20-year sentence for running a nearly $1 billion Ponzi scheme, which is related to the UM football scandal only in that he used some of his tainted proceeds to pay for the alleged financial benefits to players. Allen, 29, is jobless, a pariah with Hurricanes fans and persona non grata on the Coral Gables campus.
Since March 2011, the NCAA has been investigating the universitys football program. Investigators have grilled Allen for hours about his part and others in Shapiros shenanigans at UM . The NCAA has also questioned Allen about how he allegedly helped current Canes coach Al Golden recruit high school players after he took over in December 2010 months after Shapiro was behind bars.
A spokesman for UMs athletic department, Chris Freet, declined to comment Saturday for this story. He said the university is cooperating with the NCAA in its investigation. The association also declined to comment.
Of all the central figures involved in the NCAA investigation, Allens perspective is the most unique. He has known all about Shapiros business for much of the past decade, while working under three different UM coaches (Larry Coker, Randy Shannon, Golden) and for Shapiros agency, Axcess Sports & Entertainment.
When the hammer falls on the universitys athletic department, as is expected, with penalties likely ranging from lost scholarships to bans on bowl games, Allen will have played a critical role, corroborating much of what the convicted felon first told the NCAA.
But theres a stark difference between why he and Shapiro opened up about their rule-breaking. Shapiro said he felt betrayed by the UM players after he spoiled them. Allen, interviewed three times by the NCAA in the past year, said he stopped lying and told the truth after he was subpoenaed by Shapiros lawyer to testify under oath in Shapiros bankruptcy case in December 2011.
What has Allen said thats new?
That while working for Axcess he gave some of his own money to potential NFL draft picks at UM while still hanging out on the Canes sidelines at games and practices. UM athletic department employees knew he worked for Axcess and did nothing to stop him, Allen said.