Reporting Tim Kephart
MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – Former University of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro estimated that he spent around $2 million on gifts to at least 72 UM players. The news comes as two NCAA investigators left campus Thursday night.
For the first time Friday, two members of the Miami Hurricanes talked to the media and said that despite the scandal enveloping the UM program; they are trying to keep their attention on the first game of the season.
Center Tyler Horn and running back Mike James met the press Friday. They are the first Hurricane players the University has allowed to talk about the Nevin Shapiro-scandal, since Yahoo! Sports published their detailed account of Shapiro’s actions.
UM President Donna Shalala broke her silence late Friday, telling the campus newspaper The Miami Hurricane, ““I’ll be here for a long time. Officially I’m here and I’ll be here as long as you all here and as long as I feel healthy and energetic, and I can still make contributions. So you should not be thinking there’s some end out there.”
“Well, of course, it was a shock to hear those allegations,” Horn said. “But we’re, focused on football. That’s all we can focus on. That’s all we can control.”
Neither Horn, nor James, was implicated in the Shapiro-scandal. There were 12 players implicated in Shapiro’s allegations, including: quarterback Jacory Harris, safeties Vaughn Telemaque and Ray Ray Armstrong, receivers Travis Benjamin and Aldarius Johnson, defensive linemen Marcus Forston, Olivier Vernon, Marcus Robinson and Adewale Ojomo, tight end Dyron Dye, defensive back JoJo Nicholas and linebacker Sean Spence.
“That’s something I don’t speak on,” James said. “I just worry about football and let coach and the NCAA handle that.”
So far, several players who were named by Shapiro at other institutions have been cleared to play. But, typically in NCAA violations, the scandal doesn’t follow players who go to other institution.
As for the current UM players named in the allegations, they currently are allowed to practice and head coach Al Golden said earlier this week that until either the NCAA or the school tells him otherwise that’s how things will say.
“Life is easy regardless,” James said. “We just know we don’t pay attention to outside things. We just focus on us, and that’s about it.”
“Stuff that’s off the field we can’t control, so we won’t worry about it,” Tyler said. “All we can focus on is getting better every single day.”
James summed up his feelings saying all that matters is Maryland.
“We don’t even think about that (the scandal),” James said. “We just game plan for Maryland and get ready to come to practice every day; do what we have to do to get ready for September 5th.”
Much of the talk with the allegations is whether the school can be given the ultimate NCAA punishment, the death penalty. Shapiro’s attorney, Maria Elena Perez, said the program will survive after the NCAA’s investigation and possible penalties are handed down.
“I think there will be a football program after this,” Perez said. “If they shut down this football program, too many people will lose too much money.”
Perez’s point is not lost on the NCAA. Giving a school the death penalty has long been the nuclear option for the NCAA. But suspending the program with the death penalty would affect television contracts, league revenue, and every school on the Canes’ schedule.
Perez also said Shapiro’s claims may be the opening of Pandora’s box.
“I believe inevitably there will be more,” Perez said. “Whether that comes from Nevin or from outside sources who have additional information about this, I can’t tell you. But I believe that there will be more.”
When it comes to former UM head coach Jimmy Johnson, he pulled no punches with his feelings about Shapiro.
“The little parasite. His entire lifestyle was a lie,” Johnson told ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike show. “I’m sure some of the allegations are embellished. I’m sure some of them are lies. So let’s wait and get the facts before we start convicting everyone.”
Patience is what everyone involved with the UM program will need because NCAA investigations can take anywhere from months to years depending on the complexity of the case.
Perez told CBS4′s Peter D’Oench that Shapiro is writing a book about the scandal and said proceeds from it will be used to help repay victims of his Ponzi scheme.
“We have been able to recoup about $30 million of the $82 million that the federal court said he has to repay,” Perez said. “Mr. Shapiro is legally allowed to write this book and we hope the proceeds from it will help people.”
Even politicians are weighing in on the scandal.
At an event in Miami on Friday, Senator Marco Rubio says the NCAA need to implement fundamental changes.
“It’s very sad to see what is happening with the young athletes at the University of Miami. The NCAA is a multi-hundred-million dollar industry and their employees, the players, are playing for free. I think the kids are responsible for the mistakes they made, but I think the NCAA is being hypocritical as well in its approach to this and needs to look at some changes to their rules.”