College Football Booster Tells Of Illicit Gifts

An investigation by Yahoo Sports is sending shockwaves through college sports. The website reports a University of Miami football booster, who was sentenced to 20 years in jail for running a Ponzi scheme, gave players thousands of illicit gifts over eight years. The gifts, which included money, cars and visits from prostitutes, are prohibited by the NCAA. David Greene talks to Dan Wetzel, a reporter for Yahoo Sports.

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DAVID GREENE, host:

There are college football scandals, and then there's this. Nevin Shapiro was a University of Miami football booster. That is, until he was sentenced in June to 20 years in jail, after pleading guilty to running a $930 million Ponzi scheme. Now, Shapiro says that over an eight-year period, he gave Miami players thousands of illicit gifts. They included: money, cars, jewelry, he even paid for visits from prostitutes. This, of course, is expressly prohibited by college football's governing body, the NCAA.

The detailed allegations were published in a lengthy Yahoo! Sports investigation yesterday. And not surprisingly, the story is sending shockwaves through the world of college sports.

Dan Wetzel is a reporter for Yahoo! Sports, and he joins us from Miami. Good morning, Dan.

DAN WETZEL (Reporter, Yahoo! Sports): Good morning.

GREENE: Before we get into these allegations, which are pretty eye-popping, can you just briefly remind us who Nevin Shapiro is?

WETZEL: Well, he's 42 years old. He's a Miami Beach native, a lifelong Miami Hurricane fan and a guy who, you know, really wanted to be around the players, around the program and had no problem doling out gifts to the players in violation of the NCAA rules. Because he wasn't really following the laws of the United States, so he really didn't care about the college rules either.

GREENE: Well, we gave some of the list. But if you can, take us through some of what he doled out to the players, as you put it.

WETZEL: He would do just cash gifts. He would have them over to his mansion for parties, the kind of opulent, lavish parties out on his $1.6 million yacht for parties. He would give out extra money for players who made big hits during games. He would gamble on the games. He would take the guys out to nightclubs; let him use his car, all different things that are prohibited by the NCAA. Pretty much anything you could come up with, Nevin Shapiro did it during his eight years of being a Miami football booster.

GREENE: And prostitutes?

WETZEL: Prostitutes, the parties would be quite lavish, I guess, you would call it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GREENE: Is it conceivable that this could've gone on without the University of Miami knowing about it? And has the university responded yet?

WETZEL: You know, Nevin says there's up to seven coaches explicitly knew. They would even bring recruits over to his house for him to help recruit, which is against the rules. And I guess the single biggest question on how severely the University of Miami gets punished is that question: did they know or should they have known. Well, the school is trying to cooperate with the NCAA to find out. And they have responded by simply saying we're trying to get to the bottom of his with everyone else. But that will be the question.

GREENE: So a little bit more about this guy, Nevin Shapiro. You know, he was already admitted to running a massive Ponzi scheme. I mean what more did you learn about him and where did your investigation take you?

WETZEL: Well, you know, because of his background, the man is a proven con man and liar. We took him as a very non-credible witness, if you will, when we were doing our investigation. We said, you know, everything you say you have to prove, and he was able to do that. He provided - we went through 20,000 pages of documents; credit card bills, bankruptcy statements, federal testimony, phone bill's, emails, everything to document and back things up.

We interviewed over a hundred people across the country. There are corroborating witnesses and all sorts of stuff to put this in thing in. The fact is he'll probably allege even more to the NCAA than what we've printed, because allegations we've printed were only the ones we could corroborate.

GREENE: And what's his motivation? I mean is he trying to drag the university down with them? Or why is he talking to you?

WETZEL: His motivation is an old one - revenge. To Nevin, he was friends with these great football players, coaches and administrators at Miami; many of whom, you know, make a great deal of money or they're in the NFL, or are still coaching and working at the school.

When he was arrested and put in prison, almost all of them stopped being his friend, turned his back on them, did not provide financial assistance. To him, whether this makes any sense or not, they should have stuck by him - not run from him. And because of that he says he wants to hurt the people that hurt him. And he's just straight up revenge on these guys, and said if you're going to back away from me then I'm going to take everybody down with me.

GREENE: Dan Wetzel is a reporter for Yahoo! Sports. Dan, thank you for joining us.

WETZEL: Thank you.

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