The ugly truth about the Nevin Shapiro/Miami story

My blogging sabbatical is coming to an end…

I just wanted to make a quick point about the incredible takedown of the University of Miami football program by Yahoo! Sports.  Obviously Nevin Shapiro set high standards when it came to “making it rain” for the Hurricane football players, but near the end of a fine column by Dan Wetzel about the former Miami booster, he quotes Shapiro as saying something that should concern anyone who follows college football (or basketball, for that matter):

“Miami is not the school where payouts are made to prospective student athletes,” Shapiro said. “Miami is a private institution, it’s in a transient city. We didn’t have the money to pay recruits. There is so much more money in big public universities. In the SEC, the money is an endless river.

“If Miami relied on cash payoffs for players to come to Miami, they’d be out of business. They’d lose every bidding war.

“Eighty percent of the players came from the area, from Miami-Dade, Overtown, Liberty City, Belle Glade. The other 20 percent fell in love with the city. While the school obviously isn’t in Miami Beach, it’s considered the hottest scene in the country.”

He said he heard all the stories of how other programs recruit from the Miami players who considered going elsewhere. He was also a confidant to various assistant college and high school coaches. And he regularly entertained players from other schools who were friends with Hurricanes.

The reality of college football, he said, is nothing like it’s presented on television. The cheating is rampant.

“It’s everywhere,” he said. “Everywhere that it matters. Most people can’t even understand it.”

Think about that for a second.  Here we have a guy willing to go far more than the extra mile for his beloved football program.  Since he was the architect of a $930 million Ponzi scheme, I think it is fair to say he would have had no scruples about paying players and would have been willing to bid high — yet he didn’t think Miami could compete in that manner with larger state schools.

It may be impossible to overstate the amount of cheating that occurs in big-time college athletics.

Although I don’t have a specific rooting interest for a particular major college football/basketball school, I enjoy watching big-time college football and basketball and follow both avidly.  However, there is no denying the seedy underbelly of the sports, which is exacerbated by the NCAA’s own rules. (In his column Wetzel states that the NCAA maintains its standard of amateurism “in an effort to avoid having to pay taxes or its players”, a comment that is perhaps overly harsh but does have an element of truth to it.)

I was going to write that Nevin Shapiro was probably an outlier, even considering all the scandals we’ve witnessed this year (Ohio State, North Carolina, Oregon, etc.), but then I remembered that this is the third Ponzi-related debacle involving college athletics this month.  (It is the only one of the three that featured “bounties” for celebration penalties and injuring opposing players, however.)

Shapiro may be a symbol of college athletics at its worst, but it was dirty before he burst onto the scene, and there is still plenty of mud out there.  That’s the ugly truth.

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