With investigators five months into checking allegations that a Ponzi scheme artist spent freely on University of Miami athletes, the NCAA president said Wednesday that if the claims are confirmed they show the need for "fundamental change" in college sports.
Former Hurricanes booster Nevin Shapiro, now serving 20 years in federal prison, claims he provided players with cash, prostitutes, cars and other gifts from 2002 to 2010. Shapiro told Yahoo! Sports that 72 football players and other athletes at Miami received improper benefits from him in the past decade.
"If the assertions are true, the alleged conduct at the University of Miami is an illustration of the need for serious and fundamental change in many critical aspects of college sports," NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement.
The Hurricanes' entire football team practiced Wednesday, even though Shapiro's claims involve several current players. Coach Al Golden said it was too soon to take disciplinary action. His team opens the season Sept. 5 against Maryland.
Last week, Emmert led a group of university presidents in drafting an outline for change in college sports. The group included Miami president Donna Shalala.
In the past 18 months, the football teams at Southern California, Ohio State, Auburn, Oregon, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and LSU have been investigated or sanctioned by the NCAA.
Shalala said she was upset, disheartened and saddened by Shapiro's allegations.
Most cases are resolved in six to seven months, but more complex investigations often take longer.
Shapiro was sentenced to prison in June for masterminding a $930 million Ponzi scheme, plus ordered to pay more than $82 million in restitution to investors. He gave 100 hours of jailhouse interviews to Yahoo! Sports, the website reported.
NCAA investigators were on the UM campus this week and have interviewed Shalala and Shawn Eichorst, who was hired as athletic director in April to replace Kirby Hocutt. Golden, in his first year as Miami's coach after Randy Shannon was fired, said he's eager to obtain answers quickly, in part so his players don't repeat past mistakes.
"If they were exposed to Mr. Shapiro, clearly we have to make sure we prevent that going forward," Golden said. "How did this guy, if he did, get around our players like that? … We want to make sure it never happens again."
Yahoo! Sports published its story Tuesday, saying in addition to the Shapiro interviews conducted over 11 months, it audited thousands of pages of financial and business records to examine his claims, some involving events nearly a decade ago. The NCAA's four-year statute of limitations doesn't apply when there is a pattern of willful violations that continues into the past four years.