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Mo' Money Mo' Problems: The Real Ugly Truth for Miami


The ugly truth of the Nevin Shaprio allegations is not that they happened. The shocking thing is not that Miami's star players were lavished with gifts and rewarded with cash for their plays on the field. If a genie had appeared in front of me two months ago and said, "Devin Hester and Antrel Rolle and Vince Wilfork and D.J. Williams and Kellen Winslow received a lot of impermissible benefits," I would've said, "Well, it is college football. And Miami is Miami." And as Clay Travis claims (probably rightly), if you delivered a truth serum to every booster at every national title winning program over the past decade or so, the NCAA would end up with a lot of trophies on its hands. No, the shocking thing is that the UM administration was oblivious, partly by nature and partly by choice, to everything that was going on. But really, that isn't that shocking either. Instead, it's the ugliest, saddest and most sinister end to a game that UM has been playing for decades now. Miami was forced to play with the big boys of college football, and it got burned. Badly.

College football is a big money sport. And it's getting more big money by the day. That goes without saying. The University of Miami is not a big money school. That also goes without saying, at least around here. But Miami, thanks to success in the 80s and 90s, was sucked into a world that it was not built to compete in. Largely speaking, almost all of Miami's success as a football program can be traced back to the fact that it sits smack in the middle of the most fertile football area in the entire country. That's pretty much it. Later on, the program was able to ride its cache, but its been brought from the depths of the gutter to the national stage on the backs of homegrown talent. Twice.

But eventually, that stopped being enough. As the college football arms race started to reach Cold War levels, it became clear that it was a world that likely was slowly leaving Miami behind. When Butch Davis bolted for the NFL, the program was as high as it had been in a long time, and continuity made sense. That the leaders of the team famously stormed into Paul Dee's office and demanded that Larry Coker be hired as head coach was the cherry on top of a sundae of convenience ("Did somebody say sundae?" -Paul Dee). When Coker eventually petered out, giving way to Randy Shannon, it became clear that UM had neither the desire nor the resources to pay pirate ransoms for big name coaches. When Kirby Hocutt said last November that money would not "be an issue" in the school's coaching search, he was outright lying, although it did feel nice to be humored. When Miami played seven minutes in heaven with Jon Gruden, and was taken seriously by a lot of people, it felt like an extended Halloween, except where very important people fail to realize that you're not ACTUALLY what you're dressed up as. When the school never bothered with red-hot names like Chris Petersen and Dan Mullen, it felt like a rightful coming back to earth. When Al Golden was hired, it made sense.

But the school, and its fans, wanted Miami to wade into the arms race, even though it couldn't, and can't. The program was not built with money, and never will be. Miami has some things that 95% of football programs would still kill for (location, history), but a large war chest isn't one of them. And that left a big void, one that Nevin Shaprio was more than happy to fill, and one that the school was more than happy to let him fill. He did, of course, have money. If Miami had an inkling that some things were going on with Shaprio that shouldn't have been going on, well, it's hard to alienate an extremely generous donor when you have very few extremely generous donors. As an anonymous source told the AP, speaking of Hocutt:

"His No. 1 job was to raise money and this Nevin Shapiro guy was one of the few people Kirby could get to write checks."

And well, that's true. And while the administration absolutely bears a lot of responsibility for what went on, they were also trapped by a culture, and a society, where money is everything. When you strive to acquire vast quantities of money, you're bound to find yourself in some shit. When you're desperate for that money, you might find yourself drowning in that shit. But by that point, it's probably too late.