While Nevin Shapiro was handing out small amounts of cash like candy to the University of Miamis star football players, the Hurricanes booster was sinking a much larger sum $1.5 million into a budding sports agency fittingly called Axcess.
Axcess was hoping to sign many of those same athletes as clients and score huge fees on multimillion-dollar pro contracts.
Now his dual roles, as team sugar daddy and unlicensed sports agent, hang over the university like an anvil that is about to come crashing down on UMs storied football program.
Its a bigger deal than if the UM donor had just been secretly passing out goodies Shapiro says he picked up the tab for booze, hookers and party voyages on his yacht (named after the sports agency) in exchange for the chance to pal around with players.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association is soon expected to issue a formal notice of allegations detailing Shapiros and the universitys recruitment violations.
Documents of Axcess business meetings, financial records and internal correspondence recently obtained by The Miami Herald provide a first-time window into Shapiros 2003 investment in the sports agency. They show that the Jacksonville-based company aggressively targeted the rich pool of Canes players as National Football League prospects, though Axcess ironically only landed two of them despite all of Shapiros shenanigans.
List of recruits
The records were presented as evidence in Shapiros bankruptcy case over the past year, when witnesses gave depositions with UM and NCAA officials present.
Axcess founder, Michael Huyghue, who brought in Shapiro as an investor and has kept a low profile during the NCAAs probe since last year, said he knew nothing about his one-time partners payments to UM players nor his part as a rogue sports agent.
Candidly, it was convenient for [Shapiro] to say Axcess was his sports company and it was involved with him, Huyghue told The Miami Herald. But Axcess was not involved in his recruiting scheme.
When Axcess partners and employees met at an Orlando resort in May 2003, the agenda was dominated by a recruiting list of UM stars, including Vince Wilfork, Sean Taylor and 17 others. The roster was based on only those with current leads.
As part of the agenda, Shapiros first name appeared in italics among Axcess four-member recruiting team.
Miami lawyer Marc Levinson, who had gone to high school with Shapiro on Miami Beach, advised him on his new investment and role at Axcess. The idea was that Nevin might be able to assist Axcess in getting athletes ... with his contacts down at the University of Miami, Levinson, with the law firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon, said during a recent court deposition.
Levinson also testified in the October deposition, taken in Shapiros bankruptcy case, that the potential problem of Shapiros twin roles as a UM booster and Axcess investor came up as a legal matter. He said that his own law firm researched a Florida statute regulating sports agents who recruit college players. But Levinson said Axcess founder, Huyghue, made it clear to me that they would be advising [Shapiro] on what was permissible and what was not.
Shapiro, now a disgraced booster serving a 20-year prison sentence for running a $930 million investment scam, disclosed his alleged player-payoffs to the NCAA in March of last year. He made national headlines in summer 2011 when he became the centerpiece of an exposé published by Yahoo! Sports, which detailed his alleged impermissible gifts of cash, booze and prostitutes to at least 72 current and former Canes athletes.