Miami president addresses football scandal

Aug. 17, 2011 at 4:29 PM   |   Comments

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MIAMI, Aug. 17 (UPI) -- The University of Miami's president Wednesday spoke out publicly for the first time about a player perks scandal clouding the school's football program.

President Donna Shalala vowed the school will "vigorously pursue the truth, wherever that path may lead."

The Hurricanes' football program was rocked last year by reports by The Miami Herald that booster Nevin Shapiro gave numerous players jewelry, clothing, entertainment and other gifts, including use of a yacht. On Tuesday, Yahoo! Sports indicated Shapiro furnished players with thousands of dollars in impermissible benefits from 2002-10.

Among the more than a dozen players whose names have surfaced in the gifts scandal are former Hurricane stars Devin Hester, Antrel Rolle and Jon Beason. Yahoo! Sports also said some former coaches allegedly knew of the players' involvement, including former men's basketball coach Frank Haith.

New Miami football Coach Al Golden said Tuesday NCAA investigators were on campus. Shalala followed Wednesday with a letter to the university community.

"As a member of the university family, I am upset, disheartened and saddened by the recent allegations leveled against some current and past student-athletes and members of our athletic department," Shalala wrote. "Make no mistake -- I regard these allegations with the utmost of seriousness and understand the concern of so many of you.

"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."

She went on to say the school's attorneys are working with the NCAA Enforcement Division "in a thorough and meticulous investigation."

Shapiro is in prison, serving a 20-year term for a Ponzi scheme that defrauded more than 50 investors out of up to $100 million.

Larry Coker was the Hurricanes' coach from 2001-06 and Randy Shanon from 2007-10. Both were fired for other reasons.

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