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Report: Miami flirting with NCAA Death penalty

Miami Hurricanes at center of massive NCAA investigation

Is Miami heading in to a death sentence? AP photo

Yahoo! Sports reports that a former University of Miami booster provided thousands of impermissible benefits to at least 72 athletes from 2002 through 2010. The allegations could lead to some of the most severe punishments college football has seen since Southern Methodist was handed the death penalty for the 1987 and 1988 seasons.

In short, former Hurricanes booster Nevin Shapiro admitted to Yahoo! Sports over the course of 100 interview hours over the past 11 months that he helped break NCAA rules over a span of eight years by providing as many as 72 former and current players thousands of dollars, as well as paying for other impermissible benefits including prostitutes, entertainment in his multimillion-dollar homes and yacht, paid trips to high-end restaurants and nightclubs, jewelry, bounties for on-field play (including bounties for injuring opposing players such as Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and Florida State quarterback Chris Rix), travel and, on one occasion, an abortion. Shapiro says that he spent in to the millions when everything is added up. Further complicating the story is the fact that at least seven coaches from the football and basketball programs knew about the violations, and Shapiro admits that he made payments to players as a recruiting tool for his sports agency, Axces Sports Entertainment, along with current UFL commissioner Michael Huyghue.

The actions admitted to by Shapiro are in violation of at least four major NCAA Bylaws. They are:

  • Bylaw 11 – involving impermissible compensation to coaches
  • Bylaw 12, involving amateurism of athletes
  • Bylaw 13, involving improper recruiting activity
  • Bylaw 16, involving extra benefits to athletes

Former football head coaches Randy Shannon and Larry Coker, who were at the helm during the time of the violations, are not connected to the violations. Shannon was relieved of his duties this off-season and replaced by former Temple coach Al Golden. Golden, who has yet to coach a game at Miami, is already finding himself answering questions about off-field distractions that could hurt his new program in a harsh way. Coker, who coached Miami to the 2001 BCS Championship on his first year on the job (replaced Butch Davis), has been hired to be the head coach of the University of Texas – San Antonio football program, which starts up this season and will become a member of the WAC in 2012.

The allegations are serious, and the school has said they are cooperating with the NCAA on a probe that is ongoing. Because of the NCAA investigation school officials and those connected to the violations are not available for comment. The NCAA will have to give a call to a former NCAA Infractions Committee chair, Paul Dee. Dee served as the University of Miami’s athletic director until 2008, and will be questioned about how Shapiro was able to gain so much access to the football program. Shapiro made a number of donations to the school in addition to his infractions, which just adds even more to the case for severe punishment to Miami.

The NCAA will likely hand Miami a sentence that far exceeds that which was handed to USC in the wake of the Reggie Bush violations (two years probation, postseason ban, expires this season), Ohio State (five suspended players for free tattoos) and North Carolina (suspended players for violations related to a party, ironically in Miami) just to name a few. As bad as these violations are, and considering the role the school played in it and the amount of money involved, Miami could be on the receiving end of the most severe penalty given by the NCAA since suspending SMU from participation in the 1987 and 1988 seasons as far as football is concerned. Miami may not get the death penalty, but no school has flirted with it this much since SMU.

The NCAA has issued the death penalty five times, and only once in football. Kentucky’s basketball program was the first to receive a death penalty for the 1952-53 season as a result of a point shaving scandal. Three players took bribes of $1,500 for controlling the point outcome during the 1958-49 season. The SEC and NCAA each opened an investigation at the school’s request, and that led to the SEC removing Kentucky from the conference schedule and the NCAA placed the entire athletic program on probation and pressured Kentucky’s opponents to remove the Wildcats from their schedules in 1952. This effectively killed the season without having technically issued a death penalty.

The University of Louisiana-Lafayette basketball program was banned from the 1973-74 and 1974-75 seasons for academic fraud, recruiting violations and impermissible benefits. The major violation committed was allowing players to compete with GPAs lower than the minimum of 1.6 at the time.

Morehouse College’s Division II men’s soccer program was placed on the death sentence for the 2004 and 2005 seasons after recruiting and giving scholarships to two players who played professionally in Nigeria. MacMurry College’s Division III men’s tennis program was banned from the 2005-06 and 206-07 seasons for offering scholarships to ten athletes. Division III schools are not allowed to offer scholarships.

The SMU death penalty will be the most suitable comparison for Miami. Like Miami, SMU was a program that was no stranger to NCAA probation. While on probation, SMU players were accepting payments amounting $61,000 through a slush fund organized by a booster and with the assistance of athletic department staff. SMU also lied to the NCAA about ending the payment schemes. At the time, the NCAA infractions committee cited a need to “eliminate a program that was built on a legacy of wrongdoing, deceit and rule violations.”

We will have to wait and see just where this leads Miami, but they no doubt are speeding in to a brick wall.


Given what you now know (be sure to read the full story from Yahoo! Sports) and now that you can compare it to past NCAA death penalties, do you think Miami should receive the death penalty for these reported violations? Cast your vote below, and then leave a comment to share your thoughts.

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About the Author

Kevin McGuire
Contributor to College Football Talk on Also a contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.