Speaking out for the first time since Miami football players were accused of getting cash, gifts, and prostitutes from an ex-booster, athletic director Shawn Eichorst vowed yesterday that “a better day’’ would be coming for the Hurricanes. Some players also ended their silence to say the team is hurting because of the allegations.
Those messages came as the attorney for Nevin Shapiro, a convicted Ponzi scheme architect, defended her client’s accusations that he bankrolled a wild lifestyle for Hurricane players.
In a statement, Eichorst said the subjects of the NCAA and university investigation have his unconditional support. He urged a skeptical fan base to remain patient with a process that went on quietly for five months, then burst into the public eye Tuesday when Shapiro’s claims were published by
“There are tough times ahead, challenges to overcome and serious decisions to be made, but we will be left standing and we will be stronger as a result,’’ Eichorst wrote.
Even Shapiro’s attorney, Maria Elena Perez - a University of Miami graduate who proudly displays her diploma in her office - said she agrees with Eichorst that the Hurricanes will be “left standing’’ when this process ends.
“I think there will be a football program after this,’’ Perez said. “If they shut down this football program, too many people will lose too much money.’’
But Perez said the allegations were not made up and speculated more could be triggered by Shapiro’s story. The attorney said Shapiro, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence for masterminding a $930 million Ponzi scheme, is aware of the fallout from his claims.
“I believe inevitably there will be more,’’ Perez said. “Whether that comes from Nevin or from outside sources who have additional information about this, I can’t tell you.’’
The Hurricanes went through two practices yesterday, and coach Al Golden said he’s hoping their focus is on football and nothing else.
The NCAA investigation, though, is likely going to stretch for several more weeks, at least.
Shapiro began making his allegations about a year ago. He told Yahoo! Sports that 72 football players and other athletes at Miami received improper benefits from him in the past decade.
Shapiro also said he put a $5,000 bounty on Florida quarterback Tim Tebow prior to a game on Sept. 6, 2008, and had a standing, three-year bounty on Florida State quarterback Chris Rix.
Tebow, now with the Denver Broncos, said he doesn’t remember any unnecessarily rough hits from the Hurricanes. Tebow threw for 256 yards and two touchdowns and ran 13 times for 55 yards in Florida’s 26-3 win.
Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez is among those claiming to have lost money in the Ponzi scheme run by Shapiro. Court records show Alvarez’s family has filed claims against Shapiro’s company for at least $1 million.
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