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College Sports, Education

NCAA Enforcement Investigation of the University of Miami: Some Recommendations on Preventing Similar Allegations

Yahoo! Sports, as everyone now knows, reported earlier this week that Nevin Shapiro, a former Miami booster who is serving a 20-year prison sentence for operating a $930 million Ponzi scheme, allegedly provided impermissible benefits to approximately 72 UM football student-athletes and other student-athletes between 2002 and 2010. According to Yahoo! Sports and ESPN.com, Shapiro contends “he gave money, cars, yacht trips, jewelry, televisions and other gifts to a list of players including Vince Wilfork, Jon Beason, Antrel Rolle, Devin Hester, Willis McGahee and the late Sean Taylor of the Washington Redskins. Shapiro also claimed he paid for nightclub outings, sex parties, 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 at about the time he was entering college.”

The NCAA investigation at UM involving high-profile student-athletes and Shaprio underscore the hidden dangers of colleges and universities failing to adhere to the standards imposed by the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions in the USC (Reggie Bush and OJ Mayo) case. In fact, the Yahoo! Sports article provide further proof that an institution is only one Facebook entry, blog post or Internet rumor away from intense scrutiny. The difficult task facing institutions is how to get a handle on illicit benefits high-profile athletes receive from boosters, sports agents, runners, sports marketers, financial planners and investment advisers. An institution cannot afford to treat the UM enforcement case as an once-in-a-lifetime event or to be reactive or programmatic. The solution requires an institution to transform its rules-compliance program. Moreover, an institution should constantly adjust and manage for ongoing changes in this area.

The Michael L. Buckner Law Firm re-publishes below recommendations institutions should implement to assist administrators with: identifying high-profile athletes (prospective and enrolled); collecting pertinent rules-compliance data and information; discovering “red flags” of possible illicit activity involving high-profile athletes; and developing solutions to minimize major amateurism and extra-benefit rules-violations. The following checklist includes the minimum elements of a “transformative due-diligence program”:

1. Develop (for adoption by the institution’s governing board) a high-profile student-athlete due-diligence policy.
2. Create an objective (non-discriminatory) set of criteria to identify high-profile student-athletes(prospective and enrolled).
3. Implement the following registration and monitoring activities: a) sports agent/sports marketer/financial planner/investment advisor program; b) student-athlete vehicle registration program; c) student-athlete and parental housing registration program; and d) student-athlete employment program.
4. Increase monitoring activities of (and limit access to) the following areas: a) athletics facilities (including locker-rooms and practice areas); b) sidelines or other limited-access areas during athletics contests; and c) team-chartered transportation.
5. Monitor social-network and other Internet sites (including, but not limited to, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, blogs and sports media websites).
6. Create a daily Google search/alert for compliance-related news on identified high-profile student-athletes.
7. Follow-up reports of high-profile student-athletes attending parties or other social gatherings hosted or organized by professional athletes, corporations, sports agents, runners, sports marketers, financial planners or investment advisers.
8. Require student-athletes to read and sign a statement acknowledging receipt and understanding of legislation and  institutional policy concerning sports agents (as well as runners, sports marketers, financial planners and investment advisers), amateurism and extra-benefits.
9. Schedule mandatory rules-education sessions for student-athlete, coaches and staff on issues relating to sports agents (as well as runners, sports marketers, financial planners and investment advisers), amateurism and extra-benefits. [Note: Maintain attendance sheets, agendas and handouts.]
10. Address issues relating to sports agents (as well as runners, sports marketers, financial planners and investment advisers), amateurism and extra-benefits during at least one student-athlete advisory committee (SAAC) meeting each academic year.
11. Include questions relating to sports agents, runners, sports marketers, financial planners and investment advisers in student-athlete exit interviews (for seniors, transferring student-athletes or student-athletes without eligibility) and the annual student-athlete surveys (for returning student-athletes).

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About Michael L. Buckner, Esquire

An attorney who provides clients with internal investigation, civil litigation, estate planning and compliance services.

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