Lifestyle & Belief

Gifts scandal rocks University of Miami football

A day after a Nevin Shapiro, a former University of Miami booster, told Yahoo! Sports that he gave improper gifts to 72 of the university's football players and other athletes between 2002 and 2010, the University of Miami, the NCAA and current NFL players sought to play down the scandalous implications of the allegations.

According to The Associated Press:

Shapiro said he gave money, cars, yacht trips, jewelry, televisions and other gifts to a list of players including Vince Wilfork, Jon Beason, Antrel Rolle, Devin Hester, Willis McGahee and the late Sean Taylor. Shapiro also claimed he paid for nightclub outings, sex parties, restaurant meals and in one case, an abortion for a woman impregnated by a player. One former Miami player, running back Tyrone Moss, told Yahoo! Sports he accepted $1,000 from Shapiro around the time he was entering college.

Shapiro also claimed he put “bounties” on opposing teams’ players heads, offering $5,000 to any Miami player who knocked former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow or Seminoles quarterback Chris Rix out of a game.

The NCAA said Wednesday it started investigating the claims made by Shapiro, who is currently serving a 20-year sentence in federal prison for operating a $930 million Ponzi scheme, five months ago, the AP reports. "If the assertions are true, the alleged conduct at the University of Miami is an illustration of the need for serious and fundamental change in many critical aspects of college sports," NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement.

Miami Hurricanes’ football coach Al Golden said it was too soon to take disciplinary action, and all players, including those named as beneficiaries of Shapiro’s largesse, participated in Wednesday’s practice. Players weren't allowed to speak with the media.

Current Miami players implicated by Shapiro include quarterback Jacory Harris as well as Ray Ray Armstrong, Travis Benjamin, Sean Spence, Marcus Forston, Vaughn Telemaque, Dyron Dye, Aldarius Johnson and Olivier Vernon. Former Miami quarterback Robert Marve, now at Purdue, also allegedly accepted gifts from Shapiro, Yahoo! Sports said.

NFL players named in the Yahoo! Sports story deflected the media’s questions. New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle, who allegedly got thousands of dollars in cash, a $7,500 watch and multiple trips to strip clubs from Shapiro while at Miami, had more to say than most.

“Right now, to me it doesn’t matter what’s true and what’s not true,” Rolle told ESPN. “Like, there’s really nothing for me to comment on with this guy. Obviously he’s on a rampage to cause, you know, havoc. And, you know, I’m just going to let him do his talking because right now it’s really irrelevant.”

Yahoo! Sports said it conducted an 11-month investigation that included 100 hours of jailhouse interviews and auditing thousands of pages of financial and business records to substantiate Shapiro’s allegations.

Shapiro claimed Miami turned a blind eye to his illegal spending on players because they wanted him to continue donating tens of thousands of dollars annually to the university, Yahoo! Sports reports. “The whole time I was out there rocking and rolling, they were just waiting for the big check to come,” he said.