It's a story that has sent "shockwaves through the world of college sports," as NPR's David Greene said earlier today on Morning Edition:
"A University of Miami booster, incarcerated for his role in a $930 million Ponzi scheme, has told Yahoo! Sports he provided thousands of impermissible benefits to at least 72 athletes from 2002 through 2010."
According to Yahoo!, in an 11-month long investigation it conducted about 100 hours of jailhouse interviews with Hurricanes booster Nevin Shapiro, examined 20,000 pages of his financial and business records, about 5,000 pages of cell phone records, more than 1,000 photos and interviewed nearly 100 other people in six states.
What emerged are claims and evidence from Shapiro that he gave players cash, threw parties for them, hooked them up with prostitutes, entertained them at night clubs and let them use his cars. Shapiro also claims that some Miami football and basketball coaches knew about what he was doing.
Basically, Yahoo! reporter Dan Wetzel told David this morning, "anything you could come up with, Nevan Shapiro [says] he did it."
And what has driven Shapiro to come forward?
"Straight up revenge," Wetzel said. After Shapiro's arrest, trial and conviction for the Ponzi scheme, almost all of the players and coaches he says he lavished with gifts, "stopped being his friend," said Wetzel. "To him, they should have stuck by him, not run from him."
David Greene speaks with Yahoo's Dan Wetzel
As for the university, the Miami Herald writes today that football coach Al Golden "said he knew 'zero, absolutely nothing" about Shapiro and his sordid history" before the Yahoo! story broke.
The Herald adds that:
"Golden, the only UM official who has spoken publicly about the investigation, was hired in December but apparently not told about Ponzi schemer Shapiro's publicized claims in The Miami Herald last August that former Hurricanes players committed major NCAA violations and that 'they might be great players, but they're certainly not great people.' "
And, according to the newspaper:
"UM released the following statement Tuesday: 'When Nevin Shapiro made his allegations nearly a year ago, he and his attorneys refused to provide any facts to [UM]. The University notified the NCAA Enforcement officials of these allegations. We are fully cooperating with the NCAA and are conducting a joint investigation. The University of Miami takes these matters very seriously.' "
Update at 3:30 p.m. ET:
NPR's Tom Goldman just spoke with All Things Considered host Robert Siegel. As Tom said, it's not just the "impermissible benefits" [the NCAA's term] that players are alleged to have received that make this a huge story. Those include "cash, jewelry, prostitutes, bounties for injuring opposing players, paying for an abortion for a stripper who was paid to have sex with a player."
The alleged misdeeds "go miles beyond the recent infractions reported at Ohio State or USC," said Tom.
Then, he said, there's "the scale. ... [This] allegedly went on for about eight years ... [and] involved over 70 football players and other athletes" and perhaps a half dozen coaches.
Tom Goldman on the scope of the alleged scandal
Robert pointed out, though, that the story is "both shocking and deeply unsurprising," because "it's just not news that major college sports at big competitive universities are thinly veiled professional sports programs."
"Is anybody talking about fundamental reform that would change that?" Robert asked.
Yes, Tom said, but there's little likelihood of it happening.
"There's too much invested in the current system ... too many people making lots of money on the current system [and] too many fans tied to the tradition of big-time college sports."
So fundamental reform is unlikely, he said, "even if some elements of [major college sports] are seriously corrupt."
Their edited conversation is due on today's All Things Considered. We'll attach it to the top of this post later. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show.
Also today, NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement that:
"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. This pertains especially to the involvement of boosters and agents with student-athletes. While many are hearing about this case for the first time, the NCAA has been investigating the matter for five months. The serious threats to the integrity of college sports are one of the key reasons why I called together more than 50 presidents and chancellors last week to drive substantive changes to Division I intercollegiate athletics."
As The Associated Press points out, among the more than 50 officials who Emmert called together last week was University of Miami President Donna Shalala.