The University of Miami learned its sentence Tuesday and discreetly declined to spike a football in the end zone but did breathe a sigh of relief.
No death penalty, which was the panicked forecast two years ago when booster Nevin Shapiros lengthy and unseemly list of favors to athletes first came to light.
The NCAAs 102-page conclusion, which punishes UM by eliminating a total of 12 football and basketball scholarships over the next three years, contains no mention of prostitutes or abortions. But the report is chock full of embarrassing, dismaying and riveting details, including two dozen references to strip clubs.
It is clear UM used Shapiro as sugar daddy as much as he used UM to play out his sports groupie fantasies. They used each other, then turned on each other, and the entire tawdry saga, with its only-in-Miami backdrop, illustrates the most corrupt and greedy elements of college athletics.
The Committee on Infractions repeatedly criticizes UM for lack of institutional control, which means the athletic department failed to educate and police athletes and coaches who broke even the most common-sense rules.
While UM argued at its June hearing that athletes and coaches got conned by a con man, the committee disagreed emphatically, finding an environment existed where student-athletes and staff were comfortable if not encouraged to develop relationships with the booster. The committee was taken aback by lax monitoring and outright indifference over the course of Shapiros nine-year romp when not one of the eight coaches or approximately 30 student-athletes ... reported a single violation.
UMs pre-emptive strike strategy of mitigating penalties by banning itself from two straight postseasons especially last years ACC championship game was the significant, unprecedented key, according to committee chair Britton Banowsky, to its relatively light sanctions. What hurt more was the past 26 months of uncertainty for the football and basketball coaches trying to woo recruits.
Remember that 20 percent of the case against UM was thrown out because it was obtained improperly during depositions by Shapiros lawyer in his bankruptcy case. Like the 18½-minute gap in the Nixon Watergate tapes, the discarded information would have provided more incriminating evidence.
But what the NCAA gleaned in 118 interviews with 81 subjects and collected in 15 binders showed Shapiro freely entertaining numerous prospects and student-athletes as a significant donor with a visible presence. Shapiro, now serving a 20-year prison term for running a $930 million Ponzi scheme, sprinted out of the tunnel and onto the field with football players. He was a Living Scholars sponsor paired with an athlete who was told to rub elbows with boosters like him because they were presumed to be wealthy. He had a UM athlete lounge named after him. UM athletes and coaches used his North Bay Road mansion as a hangout and his favorite Miami Beach bowling alley, nightclubs and restaurants as their playground. He hosted fishing competitions on his yacht, Axcess. He and his bodyguards commanded VIP sections for UM guests. He gave out cash, loans, airline tickets even baby clothes, toys and a washer and dryer for the families of players.