Well Yahoo! Sports did the Yahoo! Sports thing on the University of Miami yesterday and it’s pretty safe to say if they don’t get the death penalty, it will be a major shock. Former booster and current felon Nevin Shapiro detailed in a long series of interviews how he ran the best “you can’t make this stuff up” impermissible benefits scheme in the country over the last decade. Among the not so glorious highlights: alcohol for minors, parties at yachts and strip clubs, a bounty system for hurting opposing players, prostitutes, and an abortion. Pretty much anything you could dream up and write in a bad script for a college football movie was alleged by Shapiro and the investigators for Yahoo were pretty much able to substantiate all of his claims through receipts and conversations with former players.
I have a couple of problems with all of this. First up is that the last two major stories Yahoo has broken about college football scandals both involved a rogue informant who was seemingly trying to get back at the school that shunned him. There was of course Shapiro here in the Miami case and before him, Will Lyles with Oregon. I’m not faulting Yahoo for running the story in either case. They’re going where no other sports reporters in the country are currently going in order to shed light on facts that have been protected and covered up over the years. In that respect it’s good for college football. My problem is that I see this as a kind of reactionary journalism though whereas my own opinion is that reporters should be proactive in getting these kind of stories. My view: we all basically agree this is going on at every school in the country, right? So why can’t Yahoo go dig up some facts on a school currently doing this and catch someone in the act? I’m not saying what Shapiro said about his relationship with Miami is false, but it always diminishes the credibility of a source when it looks like he just has sour grapes over how his relationship ended. Can we not send Dan Wetzel and Charles Robinson down to Austin, Texas right now and uncover something? Colt McCoy’s freaking wife blabbed on a recent interview that she even knew of players there taking money! You’re telling me you couldn’t uncover, well, anything after that? Find me a story where there’s not a guy snitching, that’s where the ultimate gold mine lies in college football.
My other problem with all of this is that I could honestly give two craps about the fact that this was going on at the U. My take: let these schools pay whatever they want to these players and let the athletes take whatever they can get. I feel like college football is a market just like any other business and although they’ll experience some difficult growing pains in the first couple of years, the market will eventually find an equilibrium where a pay-to-play format can exist. Do you really think a program can sustain success handing out tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to 18-year old boys going away from home for the first time? Do you not see that that kind of model would not be very profitable for the parties involved and that they’d learn to develop a system that refused to award kids too soon, and encouraged a higher level of play? There’s realistically no way that the NCAA can police every program in every sport in the country. It’s sad but it’s true. Let’s remove all of the hypocrisy and just let it happen. Like I said, it’s going on anyway. If you don’t believe that, you’re incredibly naive.
So what’s the immediate fallout on all of this? Well, first of all I feel incredibly bad for their new head football coach Al Golden who likely just inherited a program that won’t exist for a year and will have to rebuild from nothing. He has a definite case to sue the University if they knew that there was a possibility this could happen and chose to withhold that information from him. And it sure does look like they knew. Read this last story from the Yahoo! piece which perfectly sums up why all of this happens:
But Shapiro says therein lies the twist. He believes the University of Miami didn’t want to know what he was doing – that the school looked the other way because it was desperate to retain a booster who had donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the program. Indeed, by the time his investment business began to fail and the federal authorities were closing in, Shapiro had committed to a $250,000 pledge that led to an athlete lounge on the Miami campus being named in his honor.
He had also donated $50,000 to the basketball program in 2008, complete with a photo that Shapiro says summed up the entire problem at the university. In a snapshot from that day, Shapiro is talking into a microphone, with Haith – a coach the booster allegedly helped to buy a recruit – looking on and smiling. In the background, University of Miami president Donna Shalala is grinning at the check Shapiro had just donated, a $50,000 contribution that he now admits was Ponzi money.
It’s also poetic because the athletic director at the time is a guy by the name of Paul Dee who was the head of the NCAA infractions committee that came down hard on USC in the last year or so. Dee is best remembered for his overzealous stance towards giving away improper benefits and for famously wagging his finger at USC during the hearings because he was so aghast at what had taken place during the Reggie Bush years. It looks like he was just as, if not 482 times more guilty than the Trojans. Like the congressman or the preacher that decries homosexuality only to get caught in a hotel room with a male prostitute, Paul Dee is an unbelievable hypocrite and should never work in the college ranks again.
With all this aside though I can’t wait for college football to start. It’s the Jersey Shore of American sports, an absolute train wreck that you can’t help but watch and marvel at. We’re all emotionally invested in some respect and nothing will ever pull us away.
Generation Y, where it’s not too late for Terrelle Pryor to commit to Miami.