By Phil Clark

miami

Usually a scandal in college sports is seen and described as a “black eye” to the school and sports program that is hit by it. But what if a scandal’s details made sense considering what offending school’s program is implicated? Granted, almost every college university with a football, basketball, or baseball program would probably fit the profile of an offender when it comes to providing “illegal or impermissible benefits” at one point or another. In the case of this article I’ll be a bit more specific: the Nevin Shapiro scandal involving the University of Miami (FL) Hurricanes‘ football program is one that is makes perfect sense when considering the football program’s history over the past 35 years.

The U has gained a reputation over the years for not only putting together a winning football program with several national championships won, but also for being a program seen as renegade in comparison to how a college football team supposedly should conduct themselves. This didn’t happen by accident as the influx of local talent through the 80’s helped create the culture and behavior both on and off the field that became synonymous with the program. The culture and behavior of the football team didn’t change during the 90’s until the program got put on probation. And, as the Nevin Shapiro scandal indicates, the program went right back to doing things the way they had done during the days of Howard Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson right after they got off probation.

One of the biggest highlights for The U’s image as renegade program was a 1986 piece in Sports Illustrated that featured a long listing of the off-the-field transgressions of players that played for the Hurricanes at the time. And there was a lot to list in that case. The piece came during one of the best seasons in Hurricanes’ history, a season that set the precedent for similar seasons to come: winning all of the time while dodging controversy the whole way.

Easily the most memorable memory of the 80’s concerning The U was The Fatigues Game. I’m referring to the 1987 Fiesta Bowl where the Hurricanes dominated the Penn St. Nittany Lions only to lose 14-10 thanks to five interceptions from the Heisman Trophy winner in ’86 and recent college football hall of fame inductee Vinnie Testaverde. The Hurricanes came off the plane in Arizona wearing military fatigues. The majority of the team continued to wear the fatigues all the way to the day of the game. Another memorable moment featured the Hurricanes’ best defensive player that year, Jerome Brown, leading a walkout at a steak dinner leading up to the game with himself and teammates once again showing off the fatigues.

One of the most historically significant moments for the Hurricanes’ football program is one that most people don’t even know about unless they saw Billy Corben‘s documentary on the program.

When college football increased their rules concerning sportsmanship, they had the Hurricanes in mind. In particular, the Hurricanes conduct during the 1991 Cotton Bowl. The Hurricanes gave more prudish football fans and followers many reasons to complain during their 46-3 whipping of the Texas Longhorns. In all seriousness, I have always enjoyed the kind of football that the Hurricanes have put out there since the early 1980’s and this game in particular is a guilty pleasure every time I look at highlights from this game or the game’s broadcast.

The sportsmanship rules are something I’ve been against at any level because it robs fans of entertainment within the game, and all in the name of sportsmanship. My problem here is that sportsmanship is best saved for after the game, not before or during it. It seems absurd to me because the fans, coaches and players are all expected to possess a bloodlust in preparation for the game, especially in football, and are all then expected to continue to possess that bloodlust all game in the name of winning. But they also apparently have to be sophisticated while still possessing that bloodlust. The two things don’t mix.

To me, sport is about the highest level and intensity of athletic competition. This will create animosity and hatred between players of opposing teams, and in a way it should because the core thoughts in any sport are to win and better one’s self & team. All of that hatred and animosity should go out the window long enough after the game is completed for players and coaches to shake hands for a good game and then move on. But I digress.

Many people were of the opinion that The U’s image had finally caught up with them when they went on probation and a famous Sports Illustrated cover suggested that the university get rid of the football program altogether. The scandal at that time involved payments to players mainly from Luther Campbell of Miami-based rap group 2 Live Crew.

This is the scandal in the Hurricanes’ football history that best matches the Nevin Shapiro scandal because it involved a fan of the football program using his fame and the wealth that came with it to help out players who needed or wanted spare cash. The main differences between this scandal and the one involving Shapiro was that Campbell actually lived in Miami, Campbell had a closer relationship to the team on an emotional level than Shapiro could have ever had, and Shapiro’s money was fraudulently obtained while Campbell earned his money legally through his music.

It almost makes too much sense that the years of Hurricanes football where Butch Davis and Larry Coker coached winning teams with players such as Ken Dorsey, Willis McGahee, Jeremy Shockey, Jonathan Vilma and Ed Reed. Like the 80’s and early 90’s, this major scandal for the Hurricanes surrounds events that transpired during a time that saw the Hurricanes win a national championship in college football (2001). The details of the scandal may seem shocking to people, though it shouldn’t. The kind of stuff Shapiro was doing is very common in today’s society, both how he obtained his money and how he spent it. The fact that he is tied to a football team synonymous with illegal actions is one of those weird coincidences that makes more sense than it should.

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Phil Clark

Born in Muskego, Wisconsin, Phil attended UWM and graduated with a bachelor's degree in Creative Writing. A fan of football his entire life, he began writing about football for Inside Pulse in 2007. Since then, he has written for several different sites while writing about football, mixed martial arts, boxing, basketball, and pro wrestling.

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