By Michael Felder
Yahoo! dropped yet another bomb on the college football world yesterday with Charles Robinson's wonderfully crafted piece about Nevin Shapiro and the Ponzi schemer's epic dealings with the Miami Hurricanes football team. The article is as well researched and thorough a report as we've seen and Robinson crushes it again.
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Quite honestly after seeing the reporting during last week's Texas A&M fiasco where people were just throwing crap up against a wall to be first for first's sake it is refreshing to see real journalism where people have sources on record, fact check and wait until they are sure to run the story out.
The story, obviously, has taken over the college football world that we live in as the tale itself is of a grand magnitude with big players, big events and big spending. There are big morality issues that are going to cloud the water for many people. This Miami story has got a lot of moving parts and we'll get into them all from the coaching staff issues and possible ramifications to the Paul Dee hypocrisy and of course the most grandiose player benefits in recent history.
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But first, Shapiro. Nevin Shapiro is a rat fink. He's a grown man that spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to get high school and college football players to like him. He's a guy that got himself into a lot of trouble pulling the okey-doke on regular citizens, bilking them out of their savings, to help finance his decadent running arounds with the Canes team. He's the guy that tried for months to sell a book for months about the benefits he provided.
Yeah and Shapiro is also the guy who left panicked, screaming voicemails threatening people who did not return his phone calls. Shapiro is also the guy who sucker punched a South Florida club owner, mangling the owner's eye. Shapiro is also the guy that walked around for weeks bragging about his destruction of the owner's face while lying about the fight being fair.
Ah, new information about just how much of a power complex this Nevin Shapiro character has? Definitely check this informative article out and note the date, December 2010 folks.
That doesn't mean he's lying just shows what sort of a guy he is. Odds are given Shapiro's dealings and as far as he's fallen most of this information is true. It does not appear that this is going to be shortening his sentence, Shapiro isn't helping out with some massive federal investigation by coming clean. He's spilling the beans to Yahoo! out of spite, because the friends he thought he put a down payment on in college weren't actually his friends.
Now, on to the rest of this folks...
The grandiose nature of this all is going to really color folks' opinions of this from the players' perspective. The use of two multi-million dollar houses, one tremendous yacht, suites at the Mercury Hotel, partying at Mansion and the Opium Garden, VIP access to the best strip clubs, dinners all over Miami and yes, the prostitution and in one case an abortion.
Now personally, I'm of a mindset that what's "cool" is largely dependent upon surroundings. What flies as great treatment in Tuscaloosa or Madison or Gainesville would be laughable in Miami or Los Angeles. So while guys can go into their local college bars, in their college towns, get their drinks comped or, as often happens, bought for them and consider that a top of the world feeling The U isn't afforded that luxury.
Not an excuse for the U, just the fact that being in that setting creates expensive tastes. Hell in Chapel Hill at Players a few Holy Grails and being walked to the little side area might work but in Miami that same feeling only comes with bottle service and VIP access.
Regardless of your moral stance on things, whether you have no issue with what actually happened or you find some of the acts morally abhorrent, the root issue remains the same. At the base of this, independent of morality, we're talking about extra benefits. 72 players, reportedly, got extra benefits from Shapiro.
That's it. Period.
Outside of playing to people's emotional and moral outrage there really isn't much reason to discuss the acts themselves. Much like the UNC tutor situation these will be converted into cash violations by each player and the NCAA will react according to the given dollar amounts.
While the players aspect of it is business as usual with regards to "guys get stuff because they play ball, that's an extra benefit and they get punished" the biggest aspect of this story isn't the prostitutes, the stripper parties or the cash bounties. No, the biggest issue here is the involvement of coaches with Shapiro's dealings.
The coaches have come out and denied any wrong doing, called the claims false and now things will get interesting. Alabama Jeff Stoutland and Joe Pannunzio will be under scrutiny, up at Louisville I'm sure Mark Ennis is wondering about how this affects Clint Hurtt's status and in the Swamp Aubrey Hill might be gone as quickly as he came. Their immediate futures and for their families, their livelihood, is in real jeopardy.
How this plays out will be interesting because for starters the men are somewhat obligated to participate in this investigation. If they "pull a John Blake" and refuse to comply that means forfeiting their current employment to escape the NCAA's umbrella of compliance. The NFL isn't exactly in "hiring mode" right now. While they may get future gigs in the league guys like Hurtt and Hill have built their reputation as great recruiters, guys able to get the talent to the school, college football is what they do.
The NCAA does have a statute of limitations; a four year window in which violations must occur for schools to be held accountable. However, they also have a clause that would allow them to extend the investigation outside of the four year window should a school show a pattern of reckless violations or an indifference that enabled violations to occur. With Shapiro this fits the bill for extending the violation time period. Running all the way back to 2001 through current players there are enough dots that should the NCAA decide to go that route they can really pin the tail on the U's ass.
Of course we also get to Paul Dee. He spurred the "well you should have known" movement in college football. The idea of "high profile players" requiring "high profile compliance" was created by Dee during the Reggie Bush investigation as the Trojans talked plausible deniability. Now, in Dee's own backyard you've got the Reggie Bush situation on steriods. A disgruntled "investor" who paid benefits to, not just one guy a la Lloyd Lake, but to some 72 players.
There have been folks calling for the death penalty already. Their shouting from their mountaintops has been loud enough for everyone to hear. Meh. I take this the same way I have with every other investigation we've seen in the last year; I'm not rooting for some program to get rocked by this. Personally, I don't think that's how you fix this stuff and quite honestly I'm not going to sit here and root for the NCAA to punish current or future Miami players.
As you call for your death penalty and root for the NCAA to come down on this with an iron fist I wonder; hasn't the NCAA already dropped the ball on this? Why are people looking for tremendous punishment as a deterrent after nine years where the NCAA didn't bother looking?
I just can't root for the "crime stoppers" approach that the NCAA takes in these matters. There is no move to actively seek out wrong doing or unearth facts. They're content to let the entire charade of "no violations" occur until something comes out in the news or a tip gets kicked their way. If Shapiro doesn't get banged in the Ponzi scheme then they have nothing and all that has happened at Miami matters the same amount that it did a few weeks ago when Sean Spence was talking about being excited for the season at ACC media days; zero.
For now we've got 72 players named in the investigation, a handful of coaches and 12 guys who were looking to make lead Miami to their first ACC Championship Game this season. It will surely affect their current season and we'll see what comes down the chute going forward.
Get more great college football analysis over at In The Bleachers.