Hurricanes under eye of NCAA for 5 months

Posted: August 18, 2011

CORAL GABLES, Fla. - The NCAA said yesterday it has been investigating the relationship between a convicted Ponzi scheme artist and the University of Miami for 5 months, and the allegations - if true - show the need for "serious and fundamental change" in college sports.

Former booster Nevin Shapiro, now serving 20 years in federal prison, claims he treated players with sex parties, nightclub outings, cars and other gifts. Shapiro told Yahoo! Sports he provided improper benefits to 72 football players and other athletes at Miami from 2002 to 2010.

"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.

The Hurricanes' entire football team took the practice field yesterday, even though Shapiro's claims involve several current players. Coach Al Golden said it was too soon to take disciplinary action.

The Hurricanes open their season Sept. 5 against Maryland.

"Everybody is practicing," said Golden, who left Temple after last season to take over at Miami. "If it is determined somebody broke rules, then certainly they'll be first dealt with . . . As we get ready for Maryland, hopefully we'll swiftly learn if errors were made. If there are guys that are going to have to sit out games, we'll adjust our practice accordingly."

Players weren't permitted to speak with the media.

Last week, Emmert led a group of university presidents in drafting an outline for change in college sports, including higher academic standards, a streamlined rule book and new parameters for athletic scholarships. The group included Miami president Donna Shalala.

The allegations against Miami - a program that once reveled in an outlaw image and dealt with a massive Pell Grant scandal in the 1990s - have sparked the latest in a string of NCAA investigations involving some of college football's most high-profile and successful programs.

In the past 18 months, football teams at Southern California, Ohio State, Auburn, Oregon, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and LSU all have been investigated or sanctioned by the NCAA.

Shapiro began making his allegations about a year ago. Golden joined the Hurricanes in December after Randy Shannon was fired. Shawn Eichorst was hired as athletic director in April to replace Kirby Hocutt.

Golden said when he interviewed for the job, Miami officials did not tell him about Shapiro's allegations.

"If they knew this was percolating, I believe they did have a responsibility to tell me," Golden said.

NCAA investigators were on the Miami campus this week in the wake of the allegations by Shapiro, and have interviewed Shalala and Eichorst. Shapiro was sentenced to prison in June for masterminding a $930 million Ponzi scheme, plus ordered to pay more than $82 million in restitution to investors.

Most NCAA investigations are resolved in 6 to 7 months, but more complex cases take longer, an official said.

Lawyers for a federal bankruptcy trustee, seeking to recover more than $100 million for investment victims, said they will pursue anything of real value Shapiro allegedly gave to Miami players.

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