Posted by Adam Jacobi
The college football world is rightly reeling from the Yahoo! Sports report in which disgraced former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro detailed a litany of impermissible benefits he provided to dozens of Miami Hurricanes, both past and present. One more time through, for good old times' sake:
In 100 hours of jailhouse interviews during Yahoo! Sports’ 11-month investigation, former Hurricanes booster Nevin Shapiro described a sustained, eight-year run of rampant NCAA rule-breaking, some of it with the knowledge or direct participation of at least seven coaches from the Miami football and basketball programs. At a cost that Shapiro estimates in the millions of dollars, he said his benefits to athletes included but were not limited to: cash, 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.
Now, there appear to be a few main areas of objection to Shapiro's actions here.
1) The massive violations of NCAA rules.
2) The bounties on other quarterbacks' heads.
3) The prostitutes.
4) The money all being derived from a Ponzi scheme.
The last three objections are abhorrent and indefensible. Plain and simple. The second has no place in sport, the third has no place in society, and the fourth is landing Shapiro in federal prison until he's an old man. They are all stains on Miami's legacy.
The NCAA violations, however, appear to be "illegal generosity" on a scale the likes of which the NCAA has seen maybe once before. Obviously, that kind of flagrant disregard for NCAA rules and Miami's subsequent standing is also a major problem and something Shapiro had no business doing. But that said, what's wrong about his violations of NCAA rules other than the fact they were violations?
|Miami report fallout|
Put it another way: if the NCAA's amateurism rules were such that student-athletes were permitted to receive gifts without condition (i.e. no contracts, no game-fixing, no other quid pro quo legal or otherwise, only charity), then what would be untoward about Shapiro's actions? He gave $1,000 to Tyrone Moss (pictured above) when Moss was struggling with money and had a baby to keep fed. He took players to expensive restaurants and nightclubs. He gave potential recruits money, including some young men who either transferred or never went to Miami in the first place. Presumably, Shapiro did not ask for this money back.
What, other than the impermissible nature of those interactions, is so upsetting about any of that? It's certainly not criminal activity -- or at least it wouldn't be if Shapiro's money was clean. It's showing some athletes -- including 12 current 'Canes -- a good time. It's giving them a taste (or two) (or 20) of the kind of life professional athletes enjoy on a routine basis. And yes, the money to potential recruits might have influenced some college choices, but if Shapiro had just given that money to the school's athletic department, it would have likely gone to facilities or other upgrades... that would have been helpful in recruiting.
And best of all for Miami (or any other potential athletic department), it wasn't costing the school one red cent.
I would like to see a world of college athletics where people wouldn't be aghast at student-athletes receiving gifts from boosters, but at a by-the-book exploitative relationship between athletic department and student-athlete where only the department is allowed to reap the fruits of the student-athletes' labor. That day's probably a long, long way off, though. And that's too bad for anyone who sees a team full of broke young men and has the ways and means to do just a little something about it.