Former University of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro claimed he spent millions providing gifts to Hurricanes athletes, recruits, coaches and others, but the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations sent to the school last week listed that number closer to $170,000, according to an Associated Press report Wednesday.
Citing an unnamed source, the AP report said Shapiro spent the bulk of his money — at least $90,000 — trying to get NFL players Vince Wilfork and Antrel Rolle to sign with the sports agency he was involved with. He also spent another $56,000 “on meals, entertainment, clothing, jewelry, travel, lodging and cash” to 72 football players, three recruits and a dozen “friends and family members” of those either on the team or being recruited, the AP said.
John Infante, a former compliance officer at Colorado State who writes the popular NCAA Bylaw Blog, doesn’t necessarily think Wednesday’s news helps UM’s case, even though the NCAA’s estimate of Shapiro’s impermissible gift-giving is far less than what Yahoo! reported in August 2011.
“Once you get over $100,000, it’s pretty much a lot of money,” Infante said. “If they had actually found millions of dollars, then it is no longer about postseason bans and scholarships reductions. Then you are talking about a death penalty.
“Now, it’s really just a matter of how many postseason bans and how many scholarships you are going to lose. Assuming those numbers stay the same, you’re still looking at something that looks a lot like the USC case with two athletes receiving the bulk of it and the rest of it spread among a larger group of athletes.”
Former USC running back Reggie Bush, who spent the past two seasons with the Dolphins, allegedly received $290,000 in gifts before the school was punished with a two-year bowl ban and scholarship reductions.
In light that the NCAA admitted to wrongdoing in its investigation and tossed roughly 20 percent of its findings against UM out earlier this month, Infante said he wasn’t surprised that the NCAA’s estimate was far less than Yahoo!’s. The trouble for UM, Infante said, is that the number of people involved is still pretty high and similar to the number Yahoo! first reported.
“For an extra benefits case, that’s definitely up there. It’s one of, if not the biggest,” Infante said. “I think you would have to go back to the Pell Grant case with UM or SMU’s case to find instances where this many athletes received a significant amount of benefits.
“What I’m interested to know now is what the individual athletes received. If two athletes received something like 50 to 60 percent of this money, it could be many of the others received things like impermissible transportation or cash, which isn’t a big deal in isolation. That’s maybe the one thing left to see — how many of the 70 athletes and prospects received significant benefits in the thousands-of-dollars range. It could be very few.”
The Hurricanes have already self-imposed several sanctions, including sitting out two bowl games and a conference football championship game. Several players were suspended and asked to repay some of the benefits they received from Shapiro. UM president Donna Shalala said on two occasions last week that she believes those punishments should be enough.
“All [Wednesday’s] news does is eliminate all the stuff that was probably not going to happen anyway,” Infante said. “There was no way the NCAA would talk about TV bans or the death penalty in this case. You’re still talking about postseason bans and significant scholarship losses. Now the question is how much of this stays in the case and how the NCAA balances its own problems in the investigation with Miami’s self-imposed penalties.”
• UM athletic director Blake James reiterated Wednesday that the school will not talk about the case. “I don’t know if we ever will,” James said of making public the Notice of Allegations. “We’re going through a process, and we’re not going to discuss the case until the process is complete, and for the most part we’ve kept to that model.”
• State senator Joseph Abruzzo, who represents District 25 in Palm Beach County, said he has a meeting scheduled sometime next week in Tallahassee with state attorney general Pam Bondi to discuss a potential state inquiry into the NCAA’s case against UM. Abruzzo believes the NCAA broke the state’s unfair trade practice statutes.
“My goal is simply what my letter last week stated — to meet with Bondi and ask her to look into what the NCAA did and if they violated Florida law,” Abruzzo told The Miami Herald on Wednesday. “If so, I hope we prosecute them to the fullest.”
Miami Herald sportswriter Susan Miller Degnan contributed to this report.