CORAL GABLES (CBS4) – “Deeply troubled.”
That’s how University of Miami President Donna Shalala said she feels about allegations raised by an NCAA investigation, the results of which could damage the university’s athletic department for years to come.
The NCAA and the university have been investigating if members of the athletic department, including 15 current student-athletes, broke rules in their dealings with convincted Ponzi scheme architect Nevin Shapiro.
“These past two weeks have been very painful for me,” Shalala wrote in a letter to the editor of CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald which was published in Sunday’s editions.
A person with knowledge of the process told The Associated Press last week that eight football players have been declared ineligible, though the school remains hopeful they will soon be reinstated by the NCAA.
While the university first became aware of some of Shapiro’s allegations about a year ago, the story broke widely Aug. 16 when Yahoo Sports published more claims from the imprisoned former booster. Shapiro said he provided extra benefits — mainly cash, cars, gifts and sex — to 72 football players, some of that coming during recruiting periods. Of those, 65 are former or current Miami players, while seven signed with other schools.
He also implicated 10 coaches, none of whom are still at the school, and one current men’s basketball player.
“Here’s my commitment: I will do, and we will do, everything possible to find the truth, learn from any mistakes and take measures to prevent any such behavior from happening again,” Shalala wrote.
Shalala also said that the NCAA is taking the lead in the joint investigation into the matter. Football coach Al Golden has said that the school asked the NCAA to begin a reinstatement process last week, and university officials expect to hear a decision in the coming days.
Miami opens its season at Maryland on Sept. 5.
“It is way too early to know all of the details … but the allegations alone cause serious concerns,” Shalala wrote.
Shalala said athletic director Shawn Eichorst is reviewing the university’s policies and procedures when it comes to compliance issues, and that changes to them are possible.
The letter marks the third time Shalala has issued a statement about the scandal. Outside of one interview with student media at the university, she has not been available for questions.
“We have committed to the NCAA every possible resource to get to the bottom of all this,” Shalala wrote. “We promised the NCAA we would not comment on any specifics until the investigation runs its course. We continue to honor that commitment.”
Many of the players implicated by Shapiro’s claims addressed the matter for the first time Saturday at the football team’s annual media day. Quarterback Jacory Harris, the marquee name among the 12 known football players involved, said he expects to be able to play in the season opener and described the mess as “just a little bump in the road.”
Neither Harris, nor any of his teammates, would discuss specifics of the investigation.
“If we do all this right — and we will — we will take the necessary actions to make sure we have the most compliant program possible,” Shalala wrote. “If we do this right — and we will — we will move on stronger and be better prepared for the future.”
Shapiro, 42, is serving a 20-year prison sentence for masterminding what federal prosecutors called a $930 million investment scam.
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