Booster says he gave lavish gifts to Miami football players

Posted Aug. 17, 2011 @ 2:26 a.m.
Posted By PFW staff

A University of Miami booster says he provided illegal benefits to a number of Hurricanes players, including several prominent NFL players.

The revelations came to light in an investigative article by Yahoo! Sports posted Tuesday. The website said it conducted 100 hours of jailhouse interviews over 11 months with Nevin Shapiro, a UM booster who was imprisoned for his role in a $930 million Ponzi scheme.

Over an eight-year period, according to Shapiro, he funneled thousands of dollars in benefits to athletes at Miami with the knowledge or direct participation of at least seven football and basketball coaches at the school, in clear violation of NCAA rules. Besides cash, Shapiro says he provided to athletes such things as the services of 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), travel and, on one occasion, an abortion.

Among Shapiro's allegations were that some of the benefits were provided to the players by his partner at Axcess Sports & Entertainment, Michael Huyghue, then a sports agent and now the commissioner of the United Football League. Such benefits were provided as recruiting tools for the sports agency, Shapiro said.

"It's just fantasy," Huyghue told The Associated Press. "He never had any role in my company." Huyghue said he signed three Miami players in seven years. He said Shapiro wasn't a runner and he didn't represent any players but did invest $1.5 million in his agency in 2001, and that the two spoke only occasionally.

"He didn't have the acumen to represent players," Huyghue said.

Among the more prominent NFL players mentioned in the report, and some of the benefits they allegedly received from Shapiro:

A spokesman for the university told Yahoo! Sports that the school is fully cooperating with the NCAA to get to the bottom of Shapiro's allegations.

Some of Shapiro's allegations about the university's athletic program came to light as a result of charges that he misappropriated nearly $83 million in investor funds with a fraudulent grocery distribution business. His guilty plea in that case resulted in a 20-year prison sentence. Shapiro's cooperation with federal prosecutors regarding this Ponzi scheme, which involved fraud and money laundering, opened the door to the revelation of his activities at Miami, according to Yahoo! Sports.