For the University of Miami, the Nevin Shapiro nightmare is over.
For former Hurricanes head basketball coach Frank Haith, it’s almost over. He must serve a five-game suspension, but continues to collect his $1.6 million annual salary from the University of Missouri.
For Jorge Fernandez, it may never end.
The sleepless, tearful nights continue for the 50-year-old former UM assistant basketball coach, and he fears he may never fully recover from the collateral damage of the two-and-a-half year NCAA investigation.
His West Kendall house is headed for foreclosure. He is without health insurance, because he could afford to insure only his two daughters, Alexa, 7, and Olivia, 3. The money that he and his wife, Maritza, had put away for the girls’ education “is pretty much all gone now.” He is driving his mother’s 2006 Altima, selling sporting goods and t-shirts, wondering if he will ever be hired to coach in college again.
How desperate did times get?
“It’s kind of embarrassing to admit this, but we had to do a garage sale one week because we needed money to buy groceries,’’ Fernandez, who made $138,000 as UM’s lead assistant, told the Miami Herald on Thursday in an emotional three-hour interview. It is the first time he’s spoken publicly about the UM recruiting scandal.
Fernandez expressed “tremendous regret’’ for his mistakes, revealed that he called the Hurricanes basketball office on Wednesday to apologize, broke down when describing how it has affected his family, and talked about the pressures of college basketball recruiting that lead coaches to bend and break rules.
Assistant coaches like Fernandez and former UM football assistant Aubrey Hill often take the biggest fall in NCAA investigations, wind up professionally marooned, while their bosses — sometimes equally or more guilty — land cushy jobs with handsome paychecks. Hill, now coaching at Carol City High, declined to be interviewed for this story.
When former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl was dismissed in 2011 after committing NCAA recruiting violations, he got a $1 million buyout and a job as an ESPN analyst. His assistants, Steve Forbes and Jason Shay, wound up spending two seasons at North Florida State junior college in Niceville, before getting hired at better programs a few months ago.
“You can make fun of coaches, say, `Well, he’s a cheater and he got what he deserved,’ and that’s fine,’’ Fernandez said. “I’m a big boy. I can handle you saying that. I made a mistake. I’m accountable. I paid a steep price. But, there are real criminals out there, child molesters and murderers and rapists. I’m not a criminal. I broke an NCAA rule, and now I’m shut out of my profession and can’t provide for my family.’’
Fernandez then paused, buried his head into his hands and wept.
“My wife didn’t sign up for this,’’ he said, wiping his tears. “I feel awful for what it’s done to her and my kids. I’ve had my daughter ask me for some money to buy candy or a toy, and I don’t have it to give to her. That’s when you feel you’re not a good husband, not a good father. Anybody who has lost their job knows what I’m saying.