University of Miami

Donna Shalala, Miami Hurricanes brace for NCAA hearings

On the eve of the University of Miami’s hearing with the NCAA Committee on Infractions, Sports Illustrated released excerpts from its exposè about college sports’ governing body and its investigation into the Hurricanes’ athletics program, including allegations from former booster Nevin Shapiro that he received inside information from coaches to win bets on 23 football games between 2005 and ’09.

According to SI, Shapiro supplied the magazine with financial statements and bank records from 2005 to ’08 that show dozens of five- and six-figure sums moving from Shapiro’s entities to sports handicapper Adam Meyer’s accounts during the college football season. Meyer is the operator of a website Meyer’s lawyer, Joel Hirschhorn, told SI that Meyer would place bets for Shapiro when his client was in Las Vegas.

Shapiro told the magazine that several days before favored UM lost 19-16 to N.C. State on Nov. 3, 2007, he learned from a coach that quarterback Kyle Wright would be benched because of a bad knee and ankle. Shapiro said he placed his bet before the benching became public, and the betting line moved from 13 points to 11. SI says records show that six days after the game, nine wire transfers moved $1.18 million from one Shapiro business to another. Shapiro, who told SI he got his inside information from two members of the coaching staff, claims the $1.18 million is from the N.C. State gamble he won.

Why is Shapiro divulging this information to SI now? As Alexander Wolff wrote in Wednesday’s column: “Shapiro hopes to do with the federal government what he never got to do with the NCAA, because the enforcement division’s arrangement with [lawyer Elena] Perez, which [NCAA president Mark] Emmert called “shocking,” stopped the Miami case in its tracks. He wants to walk investigators through those bank records. If the Feds look into Shapiro’s gambling, they might find crimes adjacent to it that involve others. And by cooperating he might get his 20-year sentence reduced.”

These allegations, however, are not part of what the eight-person infractions committee will hear when it meets when UM representatives and NCAA investigators Thursday through Saturday at a downtown hotel.

SI said emails from earlier this year obtained by the magazine between Shapiro and an NCAA investigator make it clear that Shapiro wouldn’t consent to an interview with the NCAA to discuss his gambling on Miami games after the NCAA balked at paying for his attorney to attend the interviews. It should be noted, though, that the NCAA did look into gambling allegations, asking former UM assistant equipment manager Sean “Pee Wee” Allen questions about it through Shapiro’s attorney.

The NCAA is expected to ignore the SI report. Re-opening the investigation seems unlikely because the NCAA already has explored the gambling allegation and found nothing.

UM president Donna Shalala and a group of about a dozen other staffers — including football coach Al Golden, basketball coach Jim Larranaga and athletic director Blake James — flew to Indianapolis early Wednesday afternoon in preparation for the hearings. Former UM basketball assistants Jorge Fernandez and Jake Morton and former receivers coach Aubrey Hill, who face individual charges, were also seen pacing around the hotel where the meetings are scheduled to take place.

In addition to the allegations from Shapiro, the SI article titled “The Institution Has Lost Control” (set to be released in magazines Thursday) also touches on the “atmosphere of instability, distrust and tension in the NCAA’s enforcement division” since Emmert took office in October 2010.

Among the findings, according to SI after months of interviews with more than 20 current and former NCAA staffers: New performance metrics that pressure NCAA investigators to try to solve cases more quickly (12 months was the expectation); Emmert’s public comments on ongoing cases has disheartened staffers; and college presidents have more direct access with Emmert to discuss cases involving their schools.

“People are questioning the need and effectiveness of an enforcement staff in general to the point that I wonder if the membership will say we don’t want it,” former NCAA enforcement rep Abigail Grantstein told SI.

Grantstein was fired during the organization’s eligibility probe of UCLA freshman basketball star Shabazz Muhammad after her boyfriend was heard loudly discussing Muhammad’s case on an airplane in August last year, before key facts of the case had been gathered.

“The time is ripe to cheat,” an ex-enforcement staffer told SI. “There’s no policing going on.”

Related stories from Miami Herald