The University of Miami "lacked institutional control" and didn't notice multiple violations by a booster who for years gave cash and gifts to athletes, the NCAA said. But the organization says the school's football team can play in the postseason, stopping short of the harshest punishment available.
The Miami Hurricanes football program will be stripped of three scholarships a year for three years, the NCAA said Tuesday. The men's basketball team will also lose one scholarship a year during that probationary time. Describing the NCAA's decision Tuesday, The Miami Herald called it "a gift."
Other penalties include a five-game suspension for the school's former head basketball coach, Frank Haith, who is now at the University of Missouri. Several assistant coaches from the football and basketball teams are also being punished.
The forbidden activities involved members of several divisions of the school, from the football and basketball programs to the athletics department itself. The school's failings "enabled a culture of noncompliance," the NCAA said Tuesday.
"These staff members had a poor understanding of NCAA rules or felt comfortable breaking them," the NCAA said in a news release announcing the penalty. "Furthermore, some of the coaches provided false information during the enforcement staff and university's investigation."
The NCAA's Committee on Infractions held a hearing this past summer with the university, which had imposed its own punishments on the football program, including a two-year ban on postseason play.
"The case involved numerous, serious violations of NCAA rules, many of which were not disputed by the university," the NCAA says. "Overall, it involved 18 general allegations of misconduct with 79 issues within those allegations."
The case included revelations made by Nevin Shapiro, a disgraced financier who is currently serving a prison sentence for running a $930 million Ponzi scheme. Two summers ago, Shapiro told Yahoo Sports that he had entertained or helped school athletes and potential recruits for years.
"At a cost that Shapiro estimates in the millions of dollars, he said his benefits to athletes included but were not limited to cash, prostitutes, entertainment in his multimillion-dollar homes and yacht, paid trips to high-end restaurants and nightclubs, jewelry, bounties for on-field play (including bounties for injuring opposing players), travel and, on one occasion, an abortion," Yahoo Sports reported.
Shapiro has been called a "rogue" booster. But the committee, which refers to Shapiro not by name, but only as "the booster," says that he also had a public involvement with the school, from donating $500,000 to the athletic program over several years to hosting a fundraiser to benefit the men's basketball program. A student athletes' lounge was also named after Shapiro — a detail mentioned in the report that helps remove any lingering doubt about "the booster's" identity.
It seems that when Shapiro began to fall on hard times, he sought help from school officials — including the return of a $50,000 gift. And the NCAA found that matters seemed to escalate along with Shapiro's legal troubles.
"After the booster was incarcerated in 2010, he began to threaten the former head men's basketball coach and assistant coach and demand money," according to the NCAA report. "The committee determined the former head men's basketball coach and the former assistant men's basketball coach worked together to make sure the booster received $10,000 to end the booster's threats."