If the NCAA truly wants to enact change, then it should hire Yahoo! Sports reporter Charles Robinson. For those not keeping up, Yahoo! — and more precisely, Charles Robinson, and to some extent, Dan Wetzel — has become the lead on about every college football scandal since USC-Reggie Bush. Yahoo! has fully emerged as a relevant player in sports reporting, particularly investigative journalism; more importantly, Yahoo! isn’t trying to balance journalism with multi-million dollar TV deals.
Simply: you really don’t want to see anyone from Yahoo! on your campus. Ever.
Sometime recently, Charles Robinson commented that he was about to expose a “10″-level (on a scale of 10) scandal. Many of us thought — er, hoped — he was referring to the Flagship, but we know now he meant Miami. Along with Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! exposed a scandal many folks feel is worthy of the death penalty (Chicago Tribune):
Robinson said the story broke open in December when Shapiro decided to speak with Yahoo! Sports. His motivations were clear. After providing for dozens of former players, none would take his calls or give him money he requested after his arrest, he said.
“This was about reaching out and touching guys who he felt like had completely abandoned him,” Robinson said. “He had an axe to grind and he was clear up front that speaking to us was part of that.”
It took nearly 100 interviews with other sources, 20,000 pages of financial and business records from Shapiro’s bankruptcy case, more than 5,000 pages of cell phone records, 1,000 photos as well as interviews from his federal case to corroborate what the booster said.
Robinson said he told Shapiro that he needed full access to financial records, passwords to email accounts, all photographs and other documentation to substantiate his claims.
“I essentially told him, ‘I want everything that proves you were a person who exists for the past 10 years,’ and he agreed,” Robinson said. “And almost immediately after we had that conversation in December, I began receiving boxes and boxes via Fed Ex of documents and phone records, credit card bills that all told were in the millions of dollars, bank statements that were in the millions of dollars, business records. It was literally an endless stream of paper.”
Yahoo! Sports’ investigation has many wondering how Miami officials didn’t know about Shapiro’s dealings with players. In what seems to be the broadest case of violations in NCAA history, many speculate the punishment could be the harshest for any school since SMU was given the “death penalty” in 1987.
My initial reaction was, as a program that two decades ago had to respond to a vile, poorly-written book, rife with inaccuracies and egregious errors, maybe we should wait to see just how reliable a convicted felon’s evidence is. Turns out, the due dilligence seems pretty solid (Yahoo!):
In an effort to substantiate the booster’s claims, Yahoo! Sports audited approximately 20,000 pages of financial and business records from his bankruptcy case, more than 5,000 pages of cell phone records, multiple interview summaries tied to his federal Ponzi case, and more than 1,000 photos. Nearly 100 interviews were also conducted with individuals living in six different states. In the process, documents, photos and 21 human sources – including nine former Miami players or recruits, and one former coach – corroborated multiple parts of Shapiro’s rule-breaking.
Today, Dan Wetzel levels a must-read indictment against a system that none of us can argue is working (Yahoo!):
College athletics is killing itself whole, one hypocritical scandal at a time, yet any honest reform is almost impossible to envision. We’re not talking about the too-little, too-late band-aids sprouting from last week’s vaunted NCAA retreat, one that featured no less than Shalala.
The whole system needs to go. The whole concept needs to be redone.
The problem is that the same rulebook that causes so many of these humbling hangovers also makes so much cash for the people that write and supposedly enforce it.
Until the shame outbalances the revenue, what’s the motivation to change?
The truth is no one respects the rules of amateurism – not the players and certainly not the administrators. They don’t embrace the austerity that should come from operating a system that, for tax-avoidance purposes, is hyped as just some extracurricular pursuit.
Know this about Nevin Shapiro: He rained down millions on Miami players during an eight-year spread, yet he didn’t come close to the levels of gifts and graft that former Fiesta Bowl CEO John Junker lavished on athletic directors, presidents and conference commissioners.
Shapiro took scores of players out on his $1.6 million yacht. It didn’t cost nearly as much as the Orange Bowl spent in 2010 to provide 40 athletic directors and four conference commissioners (plus spouses) with a four-day Caribbean cruise.
Included in that junket? Then-Miami athletic director Kirby Hocutt.
College athletics is about getting your palm greased. And nobody has its hand out like the already well-paid folks running the show.
If a bowl director is willing to pay off an AD so his sweetheart contract stays intact, hey, that’s business. If a player takes a fraction of the same thing, he’s suspended.
If that’s the deal, fine. Just don’t be so surprised that the players and boosters look at the administrators’ corruption and shrug off their own. Just stop thinking the student-athletes are too naïve to understand that everyone above them is being paid handsomely and will still beg and grab for every last quarter rolling down the street.
This isn’t 1955 anymore.
You think Miami players were rushing to get to know Nevin Shapiro? You ought to see administrators on a Nike retreat or when a television network asks for a game to be swapped or someone projects that there’s a couple extra bucks in conference mega-expansion.
Besides, the grown-ups leeched to Shapiro as hard and fast as the unpaid players. The promise of his donations overwhelmed any bit of restraint.
In 2001, Miami athletic director Paul Dee, who would later chair the NCAA’s committee on infractions and dole out hypocritical punishments, oversaw a department that gave freshman Willis McGahee a mentor: Nevin Shapiro, convicted felon. (Shapiro pleaded guilty to felony assault in 1995; he’s now serving a 20-year federal prison term for bilking investors in a $930 million Ponzi scheme.)
Then there was that now infamous picture of Shalala at a bowling alley eyeballing a check Shapiro had written for $50,000, the promise that thousands might one day turn to millions practically dancing above her head.
The people running college athletics are desperate for money – for themselves and their salaries and their facilities, for their private planes and their comped cars and their golf-course memberships.
They want to avoid paying players and taxes as if they run a little league, then get paid and pampered like they run the NFL.
Everyone is chasing the cash. Everyone was chasing Nevin Shapiro.
Now the truth has come out. The old charade has been exposed again, a parade of players seeking an under-the-table handout from an out-of-control booster.
So here come the ugly headlines and the prepared statements and the wringing hands calling for another summit or retreat or task force to discuss not changing much of anything.