Corruption Allegations Can't Shock College Football World

The Miami Hurricanes mascot leads the team onto the field for Miami's spring football game. (AP)
The Miami Hurricanes mascot leads the team onto the field for Miami's 2011 spring football game. (AP)

Nevin Shapiro is a convict. He’s serving a 20-year federal prison sentence for his role in a $930 million Ponzi scheme. His investors lost more than $82 million.

The figures associated with Shapiro’s crimes are mind-boggling, but the depressing reality of the post-Bernie Madoff era is that any numbers short of $20 billion just don’t match up.

Now another facet of Nevin Shapiro’s life is coming to light. Prior to his conviction, Shapiro lived in Florida and was a University of Miami athletic booster. According to an exclusive report by Yahoo! Sports, Shapiro claims that between 2002 and 2010 he provided all sorts of benefits to at least 72 football players and other Miami athletes in violation of NCAA rules and, in some cases, the law.

Shapiro also told Yahoo! that he routinely allowed Hurricanes athletes to party on his luxury yacht, paid them for big hits on rival players, took them to strip clubs and provided them with prostitutes.

Shapiro was also the co-owner of an agency representing pro athletes and some Miami players wound up becoming clients.

Shapiro claims he made multiple payments to New England Patriots All-Pro defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, including a lump sum of $50,000. Also on the list: Chicago speedster Devin Hester, San Francisco’s Frank Gore, Denver’s Willis McGahee, and New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma.

Shapiro’s allegations, many of which Yahoo! says it has confirmed with witnesses, are extensive. And some of his less-substantiated claims are certainly shocking, but what might be most surprising about the story as a whole is how unsurprising it seems.

When one Heisman winner returns his trophy while another’s father is accused of shopping his son’s services from school to school; when players trade memorabilia for tattoos; when the NCAA wipes out seasons and championships in a reality-altering clean-up of history, it’s hard to be overwhelmed by another round of accusations. Especially when the school in question has just a bit of history with this sort of thing.

Shapiro had a penchant for doing things on a grand scale and the way he treated athletes seems to be no exception. But after decades of violations by other offenders, Shapiro’s player payouts, like his elaborate Ponzi scheme, are sadly underwhelming.

This program aired on August 17, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

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Doug Tribou Reporter/Producer
Doug Tribou was formerly a reporter and producer at WBUR and for WBUR's Only A Game.



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