NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — Claiming he paid for nightclub outings, sex parties, cars and other gifts, former Miami booster and convicted Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro has turned the college football world upside-down.
Shapiro told Yahoo! Sports he provided extra benefits to 72 of Miami’s football players and other athletes between 2002 and 2010. His claims involve several current football players — including Antrel Rolle of the Giants and popular ex-Jets linebacker Jonathan Vilma.
“Right now, to me it doesn’t matter what’s true and what’s not true,” Rolle said after Giants practice Wednesday. “There’s nothing for me to comment on with this guy. Obviously, he’s on a rampage to cause havoc. I’m just gonna let him do his talking because honestly right now it’s really irrelevant. It don’t concern me at this point.”
It was a turnaround from earlier in the afternoon, when Rolle declined to discuss the scandal in an interview with WFAN’s Mike Francesa.
The claims by Shapiro threaten to bring down a program with a legacy dotted by scandals — but none quite like this.
“I’m not gonna comment on him and comment on the things that he may have or may not have tried to do,” said Rolle. “I am concerned (about the college). I think it’s bringing unnecessary drama to the program that doesn’t need to be. There’s a lot of drama going on at that school and it’s all caused by one angry guy.”
Yahoo! Sports published its story Tuesday afternoon, hours after Miami coach Al Golden said he was certain that his team would “stay focused” amid an NCAA investigation into claims Shapiro first began making about a year ago.
The site said it spent 100 hours interviewing Shapiro over the span of 11 months and audited thousands of pages of financial and business records to examine his claims.
“I did it because I could,” Shapiro said of his spending. “And because nobody stepped in to stop me.”
Shapiro was sentenced in June to 20 years in prison for masterminding a $930 million Ponzi scheme, plus ordered to pay more than $82 million in restitution to investors.
“He’s angry,” said Rolle. “If you get 20 years in prison, some things like that happen, you’re gonna find someone to take it out on, right? I guess we got to bite that bullet. We understand our place and we understood our place back then when we were in college. We also understand what he’s trying to do.”
Shapiro said he gave money, cars, yacht trips, jewelry, televisions and other gifts to a list of players including Rolle, Vilma, Vince Wilfork, Jon Beason, Antrel Rolle, Devin Hester, Willis McGahee and the late Sean Taylor.
Shapiro also claimed he paid for restaurant meals and in one case, an abortion for a woman impregnated by a player. One former Miami player, running back Tyrone Moss, told Yahoo! Sports he accepted $1,000 from Shapiro around the time he was entering college.
“Hell yeah, I recruited a lot of kids for Miami,” Shapiro told Yahoo! Sports. “With access to the clubs, access to the strip joints. My house. My boat. We’re talking about high school football players. Not anybody can just get into the clubs or strip joints. Who is going to pay for it and make it happen? That was me.”
Shapiro has said multiple times in the past year, including in the Yahoo! Sports story posted Tuesday, that he is angry with several of the players he claims to have helped when they were Hurricanes — only to be “abandoned” when he sought their help years later.
A published photograph shows Vilma and the imprisoned Miami booster spending time together on what looks like a yacht. Vilma declined to go into details about their relationship or Shapiro’s recent claims.
“I feel it’s unfortunate that things are being brought up right now from a guy who’s in jail,” Vilma, now a defensive captain and linebacker with the New Orleans Saints, said after practice Wednesday night. “You can go back and forth with someone who’s in jail and try to explain yourself. I really don’t want to do that. That’s very unnecessary. I’ll leave it at that.”
Shapiro also claimed that he placed bounties worth thousands of dollars on Miami opponents’ key players, and that Vilma was trying to earn one such payout with vicious hits on then-Florida State quarterback Chris Rix.
Vilma said he was not sure what Shapiro’s motives would be for making such claims, adding, “I don’t care.”
“Right now that’s really not of relevance,” Vilma said. “I have to get ready for what we’re doing right now with the Saints, with my defense, making sure we’re doing the right things to get better. I can’t let any distractions get in the way of that.”
Vilma also balked at giving an opinion on former Miami players who have backed up some of Shapiro’s allegations.
“That’s their business,” Vilma said. “You’re talking about nine years ago, eight years ago. (I’ve) moved on from that. Far removed from that right now, especially with what’s going on with the Saints. I feel like we have a very good team. I feel like we have a very good chance of getting to the playoffs and repeating what we did in ’09,” when New Orleans won its first Super Bowl.
Vilma recently donated $450,000 to Miami to be put toward a new athletic center, and his name was expected to be placed on an athletes’ lounge.
Now, however, Miami could face severe sanctions if an NCAA probe finds substance in Shapiro’s allegations.
“Right now, let the NCAA do what they have to do,” Vilma said. “Of course you know I love Miami. Love it to death. Of course you can see that with my donations out there and I’ll always love Miami.”
Miami officials began cooperating with NCAA investigators not long after Shapiro made claims about his involvement with players last year. University president Donna Shalala and athletic director Shawn Eichorst were questioned by the NCAA this week. The school reiterated it is taking the allegations seriously.
NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement: “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.”
What do you think of the stance Rolle and Vilma are taking on the Miami scandal? Sound off below…
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