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College football notebook

Miami scandal may force change

Associated Press / August 18, 2011

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With investigators five months into checking allegations that a Ponzi scheme artist spent freely on University of Miami athletes, the NCAA president said yesterday that if the claims are confirmed they show the need for “fundamental change’’ in college sports.

Former Hurricanes booster Nevin Shapiro, 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’ football team practiced yesterday, 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.

“The serious threats to the integrity of college sports are one of the key reasons why I called together more than 50 presidents and chancellors last week to drive substantive changes to Division I intercollegiate athletics,’’ Emmert said in his statement.

In the past 18 months, the football teams at Southern California, Ohio State, Auburn, Oregon, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and LSU each have been investigated or sanctioned by the NCAA.

Shalala said she was upset, disheartened and saddened by Shapiro’s allegations.

“We will vigorously pursue the truth, wherever that path may lead, and I have insisted upon complete, honest and transparent cooperation with the NCAA from our staff and students,’’ Shalala said in a statement.

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 Miami campus this week and have interviewed Shalala and Shawn Eichorst, who was hired as athletic director in April to replace Kirby Hocutt. Golden, who is in his first year as Miami’s coach after Randy Shannon was fired, said he’s eager to obtain answers quickly.

“If they were exposed to Mr. Shapiro, clearly we have to make sure we prevent that going forward,’’ Golden said. “We want to make sure it never happens again. It shouldn’t happen.’’

Central Florida probed Central Florida received a letter of inquiry from the NCAA, alerting it to an investigation into its football and men’s basketball programs. The letter came after an article in The New York Times in April detailed how Ken Caldwell, a convicted felon with ties to a sports agency, helped recruit players to the university . . . Several Southeastern Athletic Conference athletic directors declined any comment about possible expansion of the league. Reports continue to swirl this week about Texas A&M possibly becoming the conference’s 13th member.