Hurricanes And Hookers And Jet Skis: Miami Football, Stranded On Death Row

Thanks to Nevin Shapiro and Yahoo! Sports, Miami football is engulfed in the worst college football scandal since SMU got the death penalty, and the devil's in the details. With that in mind, let's take a closer look at the craziest scandal in NCAA history.

Even on the sliding scale of absurdity that's come to define college sports in the 21st century, the earthquake that hit the University of Miami on Wednesday grades out to a perfect 10. Charles Robinson wasn't lying when he teased this story way back in March.

The epicenter of the anarchy is over here, at Yahoo! Sports, and you bookmark it immediately because it's A) immensely entertaining even after reading it two, three, and four times over and B) it's the standard by which all future scandals will be judged for the foreseeable future, or at least until Yahoo! Sports turns its crosshairs on John Calipari.

Spencer has a rundown of the implications in all this over here, and you can keep up with the developing story in SB Nation's StoryStream here. But that's all dedicated to the news-ish aspects in all this. On some level, the spectacle should be the story here. It's one of those moments that sports fans will remember for 50 years, just because the level of corruption is that baffling. 

So in the spirit of commemorating the shock and awe, in no particular order, here are some scattered highlights from the college football scandal that puts all other college football scandals to shame.

1. This Scandal Needs A Name. And as usual, Spencer Hall's way ahead of everyone. From now on, we should refer to what happened on August 16, 2011, as "YachthookerGate".

2. Yahoo! Sports Kept This Quiet For Six Months. Everyone agrees that Yahoo! Sports, and specifically Charles Robinson, are the most dangerous people in college sports. We knew that before this, when Charles Robinson was something like the Omar Little of investigative reporting, whistling his way around the country and scaring the shit out of everyone with even the rumor that he might be investigating. But now he's reached Keyser Soze status.

Not only because of the mind-blowing levels of carnage in South Beach, but as Grantland's Bill Barnwell pointed out on Twitter Tuesday night, he and the Yahoo! team managed to keep this quiet for almost an entire year.

It's not like nobody else knew about Shapiro's claims, either. He'd gone running to the Miami Herald as early as 2010. The genius of Yahoo! wasn't just investigating, but investigating without ever giving so much of a hint that Shapiro was credible. Then, just to make sure the case was airtight, he went and used thousands of Federal Court documents to corroborate Shapiro's claims--documents that would've been available to anyone who had the sense to ask. This was a cold-blooded, tactical strike. And in 2011, it doesn't seem like it should be possible to all that in stealth mode.

3. The Highlight Of The Story. With a story like this, there are a thousand highlights to choose from, but for my money, the best detail in the entire million-word opus came here. As the narrative builds and the drama mounts, this just made me laugh out loud, and remember that no matter what happens, athletes will always be hilarious.

"Everything started when I gave some Miami Heat basketball tickets to Andrew Williams," Shapiro said. "I had given some guys my business card at the [2001] awards banquet, including Andrew. We kept in touch after the season ended, and I ended up giving him the tickets. It was like nothing. I didn’t even think about it."

Williams denied receiving any gifts from Shapiro.

"Who, me?" Williams said. "Man, naw."

If the whole story comes off like Oliver Stone's rendition of college football, then this was more like The Program, when you're reminded that this is all a caricature. After getting caught red-handed, there's no way athletes could possibly respond this predictably.

"Who, me?" shrugged the innocent athlete. "Man, naw."

Nothing to see here!

4. The Lowlight Of The Story. Ah, yes. The abortion anecdote.

Shapiro described taking a player to the Pink Pony strip club and paying for a dancer to engage in sex with the athlete. In the ensuing weeks, Shapiro said the dancer called one of his security providers and informed him that the player had gotten her pregnant during the incident. Shapiro said he gave the dancer $500 to have an abortion performed, without notifying the player of the incident.

"I was doing him a favor," the booster said. "That idiot might have wanted to keep [the baby]."

This was everyone's reminder that in addition to being a completely pathetic dweeb who spent millions of dollars to buddy up to 19 year-old athletes, Nevin Shapiro is a terrible, terrible person.

5. The Best "Nevin Shapiro Is A Scumbag" Quote.

"In 2002 and 2003 we were really rocking it for a while and it was just out of control. But I decided to get away from the regular Mercury Hotel situations. I was getting too old for that kind of thing, and I had the boat for prostitution situations. I still set up guys at hotels with individual-type things, but I never really used the Mercury after getting the boat."

In fairness, isn't that why anyone in South Florida owns a boat?

(Related: We all need to buy this t-shirt immediately.)

6. And The Player Pages! Almost like an aftershock, an hour or two after blowing everyone's mind with Charles Robinson's initial report, Yahoo! went out and dropped the player pages, where Shapiro recounts specific transgressions with each player. Like Antrell Rolle, for instance, of whom who Shapiro said, "...he was about as bad as it gets. For starters, I bought him a $7,500 Jacob the Jeweler watch from Buchwald Jewelers in the Seybold Building. I supplied cash, strip joints. …. Probably the most significant violation would be Michael Huyghue financed Antrel to the tune of about $40,000 in cash while he was at the University of Miami."

There's also D.J. Williams' "naughty high school girl" pose on Shapiro's yacht, Vince Wilfork's $1,500 washer and dryer, the assistant coach who accepted $200,000 in checks over the years, and of course, Sean Taylor's $26,000 dog tags. It's not a strike against those guys, either; if anything, it's too bad every college football player couldn't play at Miami.

7. But Devin Hester Was The Best Of The Best. Not only did he collect two separate cash payments rewarding him for celebration penalties, which might be the most swaggerific NCAA violation of all time, but he also let Shapiro buy him a $3,000 engagement ring. Which... Let's it put it this way: If you're letting someone like Nevin Shapiro be the guy who finances your marriage, it's pretty much a guarantee right out of the gate that you're doomed.** That's like rain on your wedding day multiplied by someone dying during the service.

** (Sure enough... After proposing to fellow UM athlete Tamara James in 2005, the esteemed BallerWives.com confirms that Hester's now married to a woman named Zingha Hester. Yahoo's not the only ones who can investigate around here!)

Then to top it all off, you have the second of two signed pictures by Hester, which reads: "To: LiL Luke, The one that just don’t give a f***!" D Hester #4" College sports are the best.

8. Jet Skis! One more highlight from Hester's file is this quote from Shapiro: "He wrecked one of my jet skis. Cost me 8, 9, 10 thousand. I don’t remember exactly." Both Hester and Kellen Winslow were said to have wrecked jet skis, although Winslow's was definitely the more memorable incident: "Kellen came to the boat [and] went out with us. There was one incident where he was on a jet ski and he hit another boat. Luckily, we were able to get him out of that situation and I didn’t have any problems."

If there's one image to come from this scandal that'll be seared into sports fans minds for years to come, it's that--20 year-old college kids parading around on jet skis in Biscayne Bay, and then crashing said jet skis into a yacht. You just couldn't make that up, ever, and ultimately, that's the biggest theme from Yachthookergate, in general.

9. As Always, Truth Trumps Fiction. If you ever needed proof that the truth is much better than anything anyone could ever make up, I present Nevin Shapiro using "Teddy Dupay" as his alias all over South Florida. In other words, the convicted Ponzi Schemer and the most corrupt booster in America chose one the most corrupt college athletes of the past 20 years as his Doppleganger. That's good, but even better: Dupay's currently running a "marijuana advocacy" business in Utah that sorta seems like a pyramid scheme.

10. Ohio State-Miami On September 17th, And The Ultimate Punchline. The NCAA's amateurism will always be a joke, but never will be it funnier than on September 17th, when the two most recent victims of Charles Robinson's wrath do battle on national TV. People on Twitter are already calling it "The Yahoo Bowl", and in a year when the NCAA's sham of a system has crumbled like never before, the Buckeyes and 'Canes will put the exclamation point on all of it. Here's to hoping ABC makes Craig James announce the game solo, just to heighten the occasion. 

1719215

Whether all this leads to the death of Miami football remains to be seen, but if there's any justice in the world, it will. Not because anything they did was that wrong, but because at this point, rather than wheezing along for the next twenty years, Miami deserves the afterlife.

If the Hurricanes get the death penalty and spiral into obscurity, they'll be like the 2Pac of college football programs. Nevin Shapiro's just the coward that happened to pull the trigger. (And when Miami's skeleton program somehow produces the occasional NFL star, it'll be like new 2Pac songs.)

No matter who emerges over the next century to play renegade, nobody will ever shake up the game quite like The U did, and in a college football universe predicated on feigning piety and worshiping at the altar of the NCAA's inane commandments, Miami's the program we'll always remember for rejecting the model entirely.

As for the NCAA, this will just keep happening. Maybe not on the SMU/Miami scale--only so many American cities are trashy and daring enough to make a scandal like this work--but certainly on the Ohio State scale. All you have to do is talk to a major Divison 1 athlete, or even a regular student, and they'll tell you just as many stories of NCAA violations as Charles Robinson has.

I used to think the NCAA needed a revolution, but this scandal puts things in perspective. It's all a cycle; college players take money and benefits that they probably deserve anyway, people like Yahoo! Sports expose them thanks to one or two shady characters willing to snitch, the NCAA "sends a message" with their punishment, and then somebody like me pops up to point out the hypocrisy of the whole thing. Even when the NCAA starts paying players modest stipends one day, it'll still be well below market value for someone like Cam Newton. The cycle will never change. 

The NCAA is an ecosystem that's existed for 70 years, and we all have our place. And if this is the big bang that spells Miami's extinction? The U gave the rest of us a legend that will last a lifetime.

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