Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Miamigate: Easy Come, Easy Go

The University of Miami is giving back $83,000 it says it received "directly and indirectly" from Nevin Shapiro, the former Hurricanes booster and convicted Ponzi scheme architect whose claims of giving athletes and recruits extra benefits for nearly a decade sparked an NCAA investigation.

Court records show the agreement between the school and bankruptcy trustee Joel Tabas was filed last week. Once the agreement becomes finalized, Miami would have 14 days to make payment to Tabas, who is overseeing the effort to recoup money that Shapiro's investors lost.

The NCAA said in August that eight players would be suspended for either one, four or six games -- most got only one-game bans -- and that they and four others would have to pay back what they received from Shapiro, who claimed to give extra benefits to 72 players and football recruits during his time as a booster, along with contributions to the university's athletic department.

As a condition of the agreement, once it becomes final, the trustee "releases the University and the Athletes from any and all claims, counterclaims ... whether liability be direct or indirect." In short, that means the value of the gifts past and present players received from Shapiro will likely not be pursued by the trustee.

Shapiro said he gave athletes money, cars, yacht rides and other benefits from 2002 through 2010. He is serving a 20-year prison term for overseeing a $930 million Ponzi scheme, and involuntary bankruptcy proceedings to recover at least some of the money his investors lost were initiated in 2009. When he was sentenced, federal officials said his grocery-distribution scam led to investor losses of at least $80 million.

The NCAA is expected to levy sanctions against Miami when its inquiry into the school's compliance practices concludes. Miami's football team did not make itself eligible for selection to a bowl game this season, a self-imposed penalty related to the NCAA investigation.

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