August 15, 2011
This morning, we brought you the smoke coming from Miami about the NCAA's ongoing inquiry into Nevin Shapiro, noted hurricane booster and convicted Ponzi-schemer. Now, via the Miami Herald, Shapiro's attorney brings us the fire:
[Maria Elena] Perez said Monday she has been in contact with the NCAA, on Shapiro's behalf, for several months and has conveyed Shapiro's claims that well over a dozen former or current UM players have received gifts and other benefits that would constitute a violation of NCAA rules. Shapiro also has spoken to the NCAA directly, she said.
University officials did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Though there is reportedly a four-year statute of limitations on NCAA violations, Perez said some of the incidents occurred within the past four years, while others occurred before that.
"It's not about giving money — it's about giving favors," Perez said of Shapiro's allegations. "It's giving suits, giving jewelry, paying for entertainment, letting them use his boat twice a week."
Perez said she hasn't tallied up the value of the alleged benefits to Miami players, specifically — Shapiro had to detail all of his financial dealings to federal investigators, which must have been a lot of fun for everyone — but "it's well over thousands of dollars. It took $2,000 just to fuel up the gas tank of the yacht at Riviera Club." She also claimed Shapiro has given NCAA snoops the names of "well over a dozen but less than 100" former 'Cane players who he says accepted gifts.
As for evidence, Perez said, "Absolutely. He has different photos, phone records, credit card statements and bills."
Shapiro, known around the program as "Little Luke," after legendary 'Cane sugar daddy Luther Campbell, once had a suite at Miami home games and a player lounge named in his honor before it was removed in 2008. Elsewhere, he's been called "Miami's Caligula" for his orgiastic lifestyle and is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence for allegedly swindling investors out of $930 million — again, $930 million — in a massive scheme involving wholesale groceries.
To recap: A convicted Ponzi-schemer whose name was literally on the wall of a major program admits to lavishly subverting NCAA rules, and is willing to name names to investigators. Not to jump to conclusions, but that sounds kind of like a 10 out of 10 to me.
As such, Shapiro is not exactly the NCAA's ideal witness. He told the Miami Herald last year that he's shopping a tell-all book he wrote in prison, "The Real U: 2001 to 2010. Inside the Eye of the Hurricane," because players "turned their back" on him and treated him "like a used friend" after going pro. At the time, he also said he planned to use the proceeds to help pay back tens of millions he owes to jilted investors, if he ever found a publisher. (Perez also told the Herald Shapiro is "upset with UM" because "they took a negative position toward him for no reason" and "his contributions [to the program] were demonized.") This is a sketchy, dishonest character with strong incentive to lie for his personal benefit.
Then again, the NCAA has already proven itself more than willing to bring down a heavy-hitting program on the word of a convicted felon with an axe to grind, as it did last year when it sided with Reggie Bush's disgruntled business partner, Lloyd Lake, in order to drop killer sanctions on USC and effectively excommunicate former Trojan assistant Todd McNair from big-time college football. If it can do it then, it can do it again. And what they find in Mr. Shapiro's files should make for some very, very interesting reading.