In 2011, the University of Miami Hurricanes football and men's basketball programs were investigated for NCAA rules violations alleged to have taken place from 2002 to 2010, centering on improper benefits given by booster Nevin Shapiro, and reported by investigative reporters at Yahoo! Sports.
The Miami Hurricanes, particularly the football team, have experienced a number of past scandals. In 1994, The Miami Herald reported that 2 Live Crew member Luther Campbell and several NFL players had offered a "pay-for-play" system from 1986 through 1992, giving cash rewards for acts such as scoring touchdowns and big hits. This allegation was verified in the subsequent NCAA investigation, which also found that the "head football coach and the associate director of athletics for compliance and internal operations were aware" of the payments.
Also in 1994, former University of Miami academic advisor Tony Russell pleaded guilty to helping 57 football players and more than 23 other scholarship athletes in falsifying applications for Pell Grants. From 1989 to 1992, Russell helped players receive more than $220,000 of grants, which federal officials later called "perhaps the largest centralized fraud ... ever committed" against the Pell Grant program. As a result of the scandal, Alexander Wolff wrote a Sports Illustrated cover story suggesting Miami should temporarily shutter the football program and that athletic director Paul Dee should be fired.
In 1995, the NCAA announced that the University of Miami had also provided or allowed "more than $412,000 of excessive aid" to student-athletes between 1990 and 1994, failed to implement its drug testing program, and lost institutional control over the football program. That December the NCAA announced that Miami's multiple infractions would result in severe sanctions, including a one-year ban from postseason play and a 31-scholarship reduction from 1996 to 1999. In addition to the football team, the violations also involved Miami's baseball, men's tennis, and women's golf teams.
Born in Brooklyn in 1969, Shapiro's family moved to south Florida when he was young, and he graduated from Miami Beach Senior High School. Some time between 1999 and 2003, under the cover of a grocery business called Capitol Investments USA, Shapiro operated a $930 million Ponzi scheme, which eventually collapsed in November 2009. In April 21, 2010, he was charged in New Jersey with securities fraud and money laundering, and he pleaded guilty to one count of each on September 15, 2010. On June 7, 2011, he was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison and ordered to make $82,657,362.29 in restitution.
In 2002, he paid $1.5 million for 30 percent in a sports management company called Axcess Sports, which had been started by Michael Huyghue. The agency signed several Hurricanes including Vince Wilfork.
Shapiro was a major booster of the Miami Hurricanes athletic programs, and reportedly spent $2 million from 2002 to 2010 in support primarily of the football team, and also of the men's basketball team. In August 2010, Shapiro told The Miami Herald that he was writing a book titled, The Real U: 2001 to 2010. Inside the Eye of the Hurricane in which he promised to tell how Miami had violated NCAA rules affecting more than 100 players. "Once the players turned pro, they turned their back on me. It made me feel like a used friend," he said. Word of the potential violations was also reported in an August 31, 2010 article by Marcus Session in The Bleacher Report 
On August 16, 2011, Yahoo! Sports writer Charles Robinson published an article based on 100 hours of jailhouse interviews with Shapiro, detailing Shapiro's allegations regarding his illegal and unethical behaviors and the lack of oversight in the University of Miami athletics department.
Miami booster Nevin Shapiro, convicted of securities fraud and money laundering from a Ponzi scheme in 2010 and currently serving a 20-year prison sentence, allegedly used investor funds to finance donations to the University of Miami's athletic program, and claims that he gave an estimated $2 million in prohibited benefits to at least 72 current or former football/basketball players and coaches from 2002 to 2010. The Yahoo! Sports report alleges that Shapiro, through his donations, violated at least four major NCAA bylaws:
- Bylaw 11, involving impermissible compensation to coaches;
- Bylaw 12, involving amateurism of athletes;
- Bylaw 13, involving improper recruiting activity; and
- Bylaw 16, involving extra benefits to athletes.
Shapiro saw his involvement as a direct continuation of Luther Campbell's activities. In an interview with Yahoo! Sports, he explained:
Here’s the thing: Luther Campbell was the first uncle who took care of players before I got going. His role was diminished by the NCAA and the school, and someone needed to pick up that mantle. That someone was me. He was ‘Uncle Luke,’ and I became ‘Little Luke.’
NCAA sanctions on players
On August 25, 2011, media reports indicated that Miami had declared as many as 13 current football players ineligible, including projected starting quarterback Jacory Harris, as a result of the investigation. The school then petitioned the NCAA for reinstatement of at least some of the players involved. The following day, head coach Al Golden confirmed these reports, though not naming any players or indicating the number of reinstatements sought. Under NCAA rules, these players were still allowed to practice until the NCAA notified Miami about its decisions. Depending on the scale of each player's violations, penalties may include sanctions that do not require missing games, suspension for a fixed number of games, or permanent ineligibility. The school began the process in hopes that the NCAA would make its decisions on all players before the Hurricanes' season opener at Maryland on September 5.
On August 30, the NCAA announced the results of Miami's petition. It cleared one of the named players, Marcus Robinson, but found that the other 12 had received impermissible benefits. All of these players were required to make restitution before being reinstated. Four who were found to have received less than $100 were not suspended, and would be eligible to play once certified as having made restitution. In total, Hurricanes players repaid about $4,000 in restitution, with the greatest single amount being $1,200. The three who drew the longest suspensions accepted gifts from Shapiro during their recruitment, and had received the greatest amount of improper benefits among the group.
- Brandon McGee, JoJo Nicholas, Micanor Regis, Vaughn Telemaque — No suspension
- Travis Benjamin, Marcus Forston, Jacory Harris, Adewale Ojomo, Sean Spence — Suspended 1 game
- Ray-Ray Armstrong, Dyron Dye – Suspended 4 games
- Olivier Vernon – Suspended 6 games
|“||If they're found to be true, it appears we've had a third-party individual have a really pernicious impact on a huge cross-section of student-athletes. The breadth of that would be pretty shocking.||”|
|— NCAA president Mark Emmert, |
Due to the nature of the allegations and the prominence of the Miami Hurricanes football team, as well as the history of scandals surrounding the program, reactions to the expose were rapid. Paul Dee, whose term as University of Miami athletic director from 1993 through 2008 encompassed both the current scandal and the violations uncovered in 1995, came in for heavy criticism. Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel summed up Dee's involvement as follows:
Dee, you may recall, was the Committee on Infractions chairman for USC's much-publicized case last summer involving former stars Reggie Bush and O. J. Mayo. It was Dee who, in announcing some of the stiffest penalties of the last 20 years (a two-year bowl ban and 30 docked scholarships), closed with the preachy reminder that "high-profile athletes demand high-profile compliance". Dee, Miami's AD during most of the period covering Shapiro's allegations, is retired and no longer under NCAA jurisdiction. Still, it seems only fair he should spend a day at USC's Heritage Hall wearing a sandwich board with the word "Hypocrite."
According to NCAA President Mark Emmert, the NCAA began investigating the situation "four or five months" prior to the publication of Robinson's article, and NCAA investigators had conducted multiple interviews with Shapiro.
Many sportswriters, including Charles Robinson and Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports, speculated that if the allegations were found to be true, the Hurricanes could face the "NCAA death penalty", which was last given to a major program in 1987 when the SMU Mustangs had their football season cancelled. According to the NCAA, "A school is a repeat violator if a second major violation occurs within five years of the start date of the penalty from the first case. The cases do not have to be in the same sport." According to several sources at Miami, NCAA investigators had started probing for a "pattern of willful violations," which would allow it to investigate back to the date the earliest infractions occurred. The violations would overlap with the Hurricanes baseball team's two-year probation from 2003 to 2005, which would make the football and basketball teams eligible for the "death penalty." However, NCAA Vice President for Enforcement Julie Roe Lach has said discussion about using the death penalty has been limited.
Wolff, who had suggested in 1995 that the Miami football program should be shuttered, again called for Miami to temporarily drop football in an open letter to university president Donna Shalala published in the August 29, 2011 issue of Sports Illustrated. In the letter, Wolff noted that Dan Wetzel had described the Miami program as a "de facto professional team" run by Shapiro, but that no NFL owner, in contrast to Shapiro, would have "stocked hotel rooms and his own yacht with prostitutes and strippers for players' pleasure and sprung for an abortion when one of the women got pregnant." Wolff also had praise for Randy Shannon, who had been fired as Miami head coach after the 2010 season, noting that he "seems to have been the only person in Coral Gables who wanted nothing to do with Shapiro, reportedly warning his players to avoid him and threatening to fire assistants caught dealing with him."
On November 20, Miami announced that it was withdrawing from bowl consideration for the 2011 season due to the ongoing NCAA probe. With the NCAA yet to announce its results as the end of the 2012 season approached, Miami again chose to withdraw from postseason play, giving up a berth in the ACC Championship Game.
UM statement on NCAA Notice of Allegations
NCAA announces final sanctions
The NCAA announced its sanctions against Miami and four former coaches on October 22, 2013: As stated by the NCAA, these sanctions were brought about by the University of Miami's lack of institutional control in the poorly monitored activities of a major booster, the men's basketball and football coaching staffs, student-athletes and prospects.
- Entire athletic program
- Three years of probation.
- No further postseason ban.
- Loss of 9 total scholarships over the 2014, 2015, and 2016 seasons. The program may divide those as it chooses.
- Players on unofficial visits may be provided only one complimentary ticket to one home game in both 2014 and 2015.
- Men's basketball
- Loss of one scholarship in each of the 2014–15, 2015–16, and 2016–17 seasons.
- Former Miami men's basketball coach Frank Haith, who by that point in time was the head coach at Missouri (and took the same position at Tulsa in 2014), was suspended for the first five games of the 2013–14 season.
- Three former Miami assistants—Aubrey Hill (football), Clint Hurtt (football), and Jorge Fernández (men's basketball)—each received a two-year show-cause penalty. At the time of the announcement, Hurtt was the defensive line coach at Louisville; that school has not yet commented on his future.
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- Glossary of terms, NCAA, archived from the original on August 27, 2011, retrieved August 29, 2011,
Death Penalty: The ‘death penalty’ is a phrase used by media to describe the most serious NCAA penalties possible. It is not a formal NCAA term. It applies only to repeat violators and can include eliminating the involved sport for at least one year, the elimination of athletics aid in that sport for two years and the school relinquishing its Association voting privileges for a four-year period. A school is a repeat violator if a second major violation occurs within five years of the start date of the penalty from the first case. The cases do not have to be in the same sport.
- Robinson, Charles; Wetzel, Dan. Source: Willful violators clause could apply at Miami. Yahoo! Sports, August 18, 2011
- Thamel, Pete (August 17, 2011), "Storm Over Miami", The New York Times, retrieved August 21, 2011,
But Julie Roe Lach, the N.C.A.A.’s vice president for enforcement, said in an interview Wednesday that there had been little discussion about reviving harsh penalties like television bans or the so-called death penalty, two punishments once used by the N.C.A.A. that have long been shelved.
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