Corruption within Division I Sports: The University of Miami
On October 22, 2013 the National Collegiate Athletic Association released its final report surrounding an investigation into the University of Miami’s athletic programs, focusing on the football and basketball programs. The investigation lasted for an unprecedented 3 years. The case focused on the involvement of the men’s basketball and football programs with University of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro, a man currently serving a 20-year term in federal prison for heading a $900 million ponzi scheme (Navarro, 2013). Over a 10- year period, multiple players, recruits, coaches, including both head and assistants, engaged in illegal interactions with Shapiro, breaking multiple NCAA rules (Navarro, 2013). The United State’s is a sport’s crazed nation, placing great economic and social value into the nation’s collegiate sports teams, especially large division I programs. The role of the coach in some scenarios has seemingly turned from being a leader, teacher, and role model to his/her athletes, to a purely recruiting coach who gets the best players at whatever the cost, because that is what it takes to win, and winning is everything. The attitude of winning at all costs has led to unethical behavior by coaches and players, leading to cases such as the recent University of Miami scandal. Looking through the perspective of virtue ethics, Miami was not the only party who behaved unethically during the investigation.
The University of Miami saga began in November 2009 when the school notified the NCAA it would be conducting an internal investigation into alleged violations with the booster involvement of Nevin Shapiro (NCAA, 2013). After their internal investigation, during March 2010, Miami initially submitted several reports of violations including phone calls and text messages in violation with the NCAA recruiting rules. A couple of months later in May, the university added more violations to the report. This sparked the joint effort of the NCAA and the University of Miami to conduct interviews, leading to the NCAA beginning its own investigation into the University of Miami’s athletic programs and staff beginning the fall of 2010 (NCAA, 2013). Overall the investigation contained 18 allegations with 79 subparts (Eder, 2013), with 118 interviews conducted with 81 people (NCAA, 2013).
At the beginning of the investigation, Shapiro provided the NCAA information of his involvement with the programs. Shapiro claimed to have provided memorabilia, cash, dinners, strip-club visits, prostitutes, payment for an abortion to the girlfriend of a player, providing access to his Miami mansion and jet skis, making personal loans to coaches, and helping to secure recruits (Sports Illustrated. CNN, 2013) With these allegations, the NCAA took a close look into the football and basketball programs, finding illegal behavior by the former men’s basketball coach Frank Haith, former basketball assistants Jake Morton and Jorge Fernandez, and former football assistants Clint Hurtt and Aubrey Hill (Navarro, 2013).
In the final NCAA report, the University of Miami was cited for having a “lack of institutional control over programs as it failed to monitor a major booster, coaches, and student-athletes” (Eder, 2013). The NCAA found that over his period of involvement, Shapiro donated and pledged around $500,000 to the basketball and football programs. Shapiro hosted a bowling tournament that raised $50,000 for the men’s basketball team. He also entertained and housed athletes and coaches in his home, providing them access to his yacht and jet skis. Money was dispersed to athletes and their families in various ways. Meals were bought for athletes, recruits, and recruits’ families in public at well -known Miami restaurants. Athletes were brought to clubs, including strip clubs. Items such as clothing, televisions and other gifts were given to athletes and their families. To aid recruiting Shapiro paid for airline tickets and hotel accommodations for recruits and their families in addition to providing access to a suite during football games. Football assistants explicitly requested his help in recruiting players. They also borrowed personal loans from Shapiro. Football assistants were also found guilty of providing free food and hotel stays during unofficial visits. These visits would often include planned outings with Shapiro. Lastly, basketball assistants relied on Shapiro to host and entertain high school and AAU coaches to gain an edge on recruiting their players (NCAA, 2013).
Unfortunately, the University of Miami and its officials were not the only ones who were subject to investigation during the process. In January 2013, NCAA president John Emmert made a public statement admitting that the NCAA enforcement staff engaged in illegal practices while conducting the investigation. In order to gain information that they believed they were incapable of gathering on their own, the NCAA enforcement staff enlisted the help of Shapiro’s attorney Maria Elena Perez. Through the bankruptcy case she was building for Shapiro, Perez used her subpoena power to question several witnesses relating to the University of Miami case. Feeding her questions, the enforcement staff used the information in Perez’s depositions to supplement their investigation into Miami’s violations. On record, Perez was paid $19,000, even though she billed them for approximately three times that amount (SI, 2013). Perez claimed she was paid as a third-party, but emails from former NCAA investigators suggest otherwise (SI, 2013). The internal investigation of the NCAA’s enforcement staff further prolonged the original investigation at hand, infuriating the University of Miami. Knowing part of the investigation’s information was obtained illegally, the university motioned to have the case dropped and not brought to hearing, citing various damages such as excessive resources provided by the school during the investigation, uncertainty surrounding their basketball and football programs, while stating the NCAA ignored its promise to remain honest throughout the process (SI, 2013). As a result of the NCAA’s own unethical behavior, the employees involved were fired, and further damage was incurred on the already struggling reputation of the NCAA.
Before the NCAA released it’s ruling, the University decided to take action on their own by issuing self imposed sanctions on the football team. The team was not allowed to participate in any post -season play, including two bowl games, and an ACC championship game during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Official visits were reduced by 20%, down to 36, for 2012 and 2013. Fall recruiting evaluations were also decreased by 20% and the available contacts days were reduced, each of these pertaining to the years of 2012 and 2013. Students found guilty of involvement where withheld from competing and paid back the value of their gifts (NCAA, 2013).
Following the conclusion of the investigation, the NCAA imposed sanctions of their own including a $100 fine and 1 week suspension of any coach found guilty of illegal text messages and phone calls to recruits. Former head basketball coach Frank Haith, who is currently the head coach at the University of Missouri, will serve a 5-game suspension at the beginning of the season with his current team, and must attend an NCAA Regional Rules seminar. Haith was guilty of withholding information during the investigation, and gathering money with his assistant Jake Morton to pay back Shapiro. Even though he was involved with Shapiro, Morton did not receive any penalties. Jorge Fernandez, the other basketball assistant was found guilty of allowing a recruit to use his airline flight miles, lying about the situation during the investigation, only to later admit he had given false information. Fernandez received the penalty of a 2-year show cause, meaning that any institution that wished to employ Fernandez would have to present to the NCAA Committee on Infractions and show cause for hiring the coach in addition to stating how his duties would be restricted during the period. Clint Hurtt, the former defensive line coach, currently employed by Louisville, received a 2- year show cause penalty. He was found guilty of involvement with Shapiro, and providing misleading information during the investigation. Louisville announced that they would keep Hurtt on their staff despite the 2-year show cause penalty. The last assistant directly involved was football wide receivers’ coach Aubrey Hill. Also guilty of involvement with Shapiro and giving misleading information during the investigation, Hill received the 2 –year show cause penalty. Football head coach Al Golden received no penalties. Regarding the program penalties decided upon by the NCAA, the football team will lose 9 scholarships over a 3- year period and the program can only provide tickets for one home game to a recruit on an unofficial visit during the 2014-2016 seasons. Finally, the men’s basketball program will lose one scholarship each year for the next three seasons (NCAA, 2013).
Evaluating the University of Miami case from a virtue ethics perspective, we can break down the actions of the main actors involved, including the NCAA. In virtue ethics, the integrity of the actor is more important than the act itself. The intentions of the person is very important, in addition to their motivations and character (Nelson, Trevino, 2010). The character of an individual can be defined by the professional community in which they operate. Each professional community has their own standards and beliefs regarding ethical conduct (Nelson, Trevino, 2010). Rule compliance, acting with integrity, and the desire to be a good person is also extremely important. After researching and analyzing the University of Miami case, I could not find a single party involved acting by any of the requirements of the virtue ethics perspective. The coaches of the basketball and football programs broke multiple rules. It does not appear that any of the coaches’ actions were motivated by the desire to be a better person or a moral agent in the business of college athletics. What I found to be most alarming was the idea of the ethical standards within the professional community, in this case the collegiate athletic community. Miami is not the first to have gross NCAA violations, nor will they be the last. Coaches, players, boosters, and universities routinely perform illegal actions. The frequency of these actions makes it seem as though breaking the rules is deemed acceptable among elite members of the collegiate athletic community. Even more alarming is the fact that the NCAA is supposed to shape and uphold the ethical and moral standards of the college athletics community, but the organization itself is guilty of acting unethically. I have always been a strong supporter of leading by example. How can the NCAA demand its members to behave according to the rules, when they themselves cannot control their own organization to behave accordingly?
In today’s society, NCAA violations have become too commonplace. Coaches, athletes, boosters, and universities are diminishing their character and the spirit of college athletics itself, by behaving immorally in both direct and indirect ways. After the University of Miami case, the NCAA lost a lot of respect. This was a colossal blow to the governing body because coaches and others involved in college athletics view the organization as struggling to remain relevant (Wojciechowski, 2010). The purpose of having rules is irrelevant so long as the body enforcing those rules is not respected or feared. The Miami case can be seen as a red flag regarding the ethics, or lack-there-of, within the collegiate athletic community. Changes must be made if the NCAA wishes to move forward and instill ethical beliefs within the community. Without change, the focus of college athletics will become the business of cutting corners and looking the other way, in order to gain the competitive edge to win. College athletics will no longer be in the business of developing student athletes to achieve both on and off the field.
Eder, S. (2103, October 22). After Long N.C.A.A. Inquiry, Miami Loses 12 Scholarships – NYTimes.com. Retrieved November 10, 2013, from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/23/sports/miami-avoids-further-bowl-ban-in-ncaa-penalties.html?_r=0
Navarro, M. (2013, October 23). The key players involved in the University of Miami Hurricanes NCAA investigation. Retrieved October 12, 2013, from http://www.miamiherald.com
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University of Miami asks for ‘corrupted’ NCAA investigation to end – College Football – SI.com. (2013, April 4). Retrieved October 12, 2013, from http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/college-football/news/20130404/miami-details-damages-caused-by-investigation/
Wojciechowski, G. (2010, July 29). NCAA has lost its way and needs a major overhaul – ESPN.
Retrieved November 10, 2013, from http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/commentary/news/story?id=5420728