NCAA President, Mark Emmert, just last week chaired a meeting of some 50 Presidents of Bowl Championship Series (BCS) universities as they discussed ways to reform the operations and image of big-time college sports. At the end of the two day meeting Dr. Emmert announced the first of what he promised would be sweeping changes to the rules and reputation of college sports.
Less than a week later media outlets are full of reports on the latest scandal to come to light involving a BCS football program. It has been widely reported in the past few days that the University of Miami’s football and basketball programs are being investigated for widespread rule violations involving the provision of improper benefits to student-athletes at that school. These activities are alleged to have gone on from 2002 to 2010. The main booster involved is a person currently serving a 20-year federal prison term for his role in a $930 million Ponzi scheme.
Yahoo Sports first reported the allegations in a 3-part report posted online. The report stated that the scheme involved at least 7 coaches and some 72 current and former football and basketball players who either attended the school or were heavily recruited by its coaches. Two of the coaches are currently working at the University of Alabama and a former basketball coach, Frank Haith, took over after last season at the University of Missouri.
One of the Athletic Directors at the school during the 2002-2010 period, Paul Dee, who left the school in 2008 and then served as head of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions until 2010. Another former AD is now employed at Texas Tech.
The booster named as the person at the center of the affair is a former Miami businessman named Nevin Shapiro. He is alleged to have provided lavish gifts and perks to as many as 72 football and basketball players. He was also a generous donor to the school’s athletic program. All of this activity somehow took place without any school administrator becoming aware of any problems. It also took place during the time his business dealings were coming under federal investigation.
Yahoo Sports even posted a photo of a smiling Mr. Shapiro standing beside school President, Donna Shalala, at a fundraising activity. She is holding what is described as a check representing a $50,000 donation from Mr. Shapiro. The school’s official response so far has indicated that school officials only became aware of potential problems a few months ago and that they then notified the NCAA’s enforcement staff. The NCAA has acknowledged that it has been investigating the charges for five months.
What is certain is that school officials did know who Shapiro was, even if they did not know details of his activities. Yahoo Sports reported that on two different occasions he led the football team out of the tunnel onto the field in pre-game festivities. He also flew on the team plane to at least one road game and had sideline access during football games.
Reporters on August 17 questioned Dr. Emmert extensively about whether or not the so-called “death penalty” could be used against Miami. This penalty has only been invoked one time in 1987 against Southern Methodist University. Its program wound up shutting down for two years and is still trying to recover over 20 years later.
In the past 12 months programs at the University of Southern California, Oregon, Auburn, LSU, Michigan, Ohio State, Georgia Tech, Boise State, Tennessee and North Carolina have either been penalized by the NCAA, imposed their own penalties prior to NCAA action, or are currently under NCAA investigation.
These schools were investigated for major rules violations. Other schools such as Oklahoma State, Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, and South Carolina have had well publicized investigations of minor or “secondary” violations. In addition, Connecticut’s national championship men’s basketball program was hit with penalties this past spring for major violations.
School presidents approved at their recent meeting a strengthening of penalties for failure to meet the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate scores and also announced plans to raise the score needed to be in compliance. Other reforms such as strengthening initial eligibility requirements for first time student-athletes were discussed. President Emmert has been promising major changes to be put in place over the next few months.
Your mother told you to watch what people do and not what they say as a means to judge character. The portion of the world interested in sports is carefully watching the NCAA to see how they deal with the current crisis. The troubles at Miami are only the latest is a seemingly never-ending whirl of revelations of wrong doing in college athletics. Many are beginning to wonder if the system itself is simply broken beyond repair. Maybe it’s true that everyone cheats in today’s climate that surrounds college athletics.