Lynne Sladky, File, Associated Press
CORAL GABLES, Fla. — The NCAA said Wednesday it has been investigating the relationship between a convicted Ponzi scheme artist and the University of Miami for five months, and the allegations — if true — show the need for "serious and fundamental change" in college sports.
Former booster Nevin Shapiro, now serving 20 years in federal prison, claims he treated players with sex parties, nightclub outings, cars and other gifts. Shapiro told Yahoo Sports he provided improper benefits to 72 football players and other athletes at Miami from 2002 to 2010.
"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 took the practice field Wednesday, even though Shapiro's claims involve several current players. Coach Al Golden said it was too soon to take disciplinary action.
The Hurricanes open their season Sept. 5 against Maryland.
"Everybody is practicing," said Golden, who is in his first season as Miami's coach. "If it is determined somebody broke rules, then certainly they'll be first dealt with. ... As we get ready for Maryland, hopefully we'll swiftly learn if errors were made. If there are guys that are going to have to sit out games, we'll adjust our practice accordingly."
Players weren't permitted to speak with the media.
Last week, Emmert led a group of university presidents in drafting an outline for change in college sports, including higher academic standards, a streamlined rule book and new parameters for athletic scholarships. 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 Wednesday.
The allegations against Miami — a program that once reveled in an outlaw image and dealt with a massive Pell Grant scandal in the 1990s — have sparked the latest in a string of NCAA investigations involving some of college football's most high-profile and successful programs.
In the past 18 months, football teams at Southern California, Ohio State, Auburn, Oregon, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and LSU all have been investigated or sanctioned by the NCAA.
NCAA investigators were on the Miami campus this week in the wake of the allegations by Shapiro, and have interviewed Shalala and athletic director Shawn Eichorst. He 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.
Shalala said she was "upset, disheartened, and saddened by the recent 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. "Our counsel is working jointly with the NCAA enforcement division in a thorough and meticulous investigation."
Most cases are resolved in six to seven months, but more complex investigations take longer, an NCAA official said.
Golden 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. "You do that by getting to the facts. How did this guy, if he did, get around our players like that? As a head coach, I want to know. I know our assistant coaches want to know. We want to make sure it never happens again. It shouldn't happen."
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