Rogue booster Nevin Shapiro was the nightmare that kept giving during “a decade’s worth of violations,” according to the 102-page University of Miami infractions report that documented abuses by Shapiro and those who were drawn to him.
“The booster at the center of this case was extremely ‘visible,’ ” the report said. “By granting him special access and celebrating him with the naming of a student lounge, it is clear that the institution embraced him. He certainly did not ‘fly under the radar,’ as the institution asserts, but rather was a major supporter of their athletics program, which creates a greater responsibility to monitor.”
In the end, it was the damage wrought by inadequate oversight that caused Miami officials to review their compliance system and enhance it with hopes that what happened with Shapiro never happens again.
“It takes time to change a culture, but we’re doing it,” UM athletic director Blake James said by phone after the NCAA put the university on three years’ probation and stripped nine scholarships from football and three from basketball. “Are we there yet? No. Will we be there within the next three years before our probation ends? Yes.”
James said UM is “investing in technology and human capital” to improve compliance. “We need everyone to understand if they see something that doesn’t look right, or they hear something that doesn’t sound right, then they need to notify us.
“The challenge is that right now it’s still fresh in everyone’s mind, so it’s probably something that is maybe a little easier, but this has to be the culture going forward because at some point down the road people will look at this as though it’s in the past.
“The reality is it’s with us forever.”
Long-time Hurricanes fans still remember UM’s Pell Grant scandal in the mid-1990s, when “more than $223,000 in impermissible financial aid,” the NCAA report said, “was distributed among 141 football student-athletes from the academic years 1990-91 through 1993-94 and approximately $188,000 in excess of permissible limits was awarded in three other sports because an improper method was used in calculating off-campus room and board stipends.”
And that was just some of what caused the NCAA to hit UM with a bowl ban after the 1995 season and a loss of 31 scholarships in football over three years.
Miami back then indicated to the NCAA that among its corrective actions would be to “establish procedures regarding the presence of former student-athletes in the team locker room and on the sidelines during institutional football games.”
Ironically, one of the changes UM made during the recent investigation was to basically do the same thing. “Back in the 2011 season there were boosters on the field every game,” James said.
Neither boosters nor former players are now allowed on the sidelines, unless a former player is a media member or being honored in an on-field ceremony. In that case, the player is monitored.
Senior associate athletic director for administration Jennifer Strawley, who oversees UM compliance, said former football players now gather in a lounge in the suite area at Sun Life Stadium.