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CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — The Miami Hurricanes’ entire football team took the practice field Wednesday amid mounting allegations by a former booster and convicted Ponzi schemer who claimed he treated players with sex parties, nightclub outings, cars and other gifts.
Nevin Shapiro told Yahoo! Sports he provided extra benefits to 72 football players and other athletes at Miami from 2002 to 2010. His claims involve several current players, but coach Al Golden said it was too soon to take disciplinary action.
The Hurricanes open their season Sept. 5 against Maryland.
“Everybody is practicing,” Golden said as his team took the field for a morning workout. “If it is determined somebody broke rules, then certainly they’ll be first dealt with. ... As we get ready for Maryland, hopefully we’ll swiftly learn if errors were made.”
Players weren’t permitted to speak with the media.
NCAA investigators were on campus this week to address Shapiro’s allegations. Golden, who is in his first season as coach, said he’s eager to obtain answers quickly, in part so his players don’t repeat past mistakes.
Shapiro was sentenced in June to 20 years in prison for masterminding a $930 million Ponzi scheme, plus ordered to pay more than $82 million in restitution.
“If they were exposed to Mr. Shapiro, clearly we have to make sure we prevent that going forward,” Golden said. “You do that by getting to the facts. How did this guy, if he did, get around our players like that? As a head coach, I want to know. I know our assistant coaches want to know. We want to make sure it never happens again. It shouldn’t happen.”
Shapiro’s allegations threaten to bring down a program with a legacy dotted by scandals — but none quite like this. Yahoo! Sports published its story Tuesday afternoon, saying it spent 100 hours interviewing Shapiro over the span of 11 months and audited thousands of pages of financial and business records to examine his claims.
“I did it because I could,” Shapiro said of his spending. “And because nobody stepped in to stop me.”
Former Nebraska defensive end Benard Thomas told The Associated Press he was on Shapiro’s yacht with two former Hurricanes players, Kellen Winslow Jr. and D.J. Williams, in 2005 when they had finished college.
“We all had money ourselves,” Thomas said. “We didn’t need anything from him.”
Thomas described Shapiro as “cool.”
“He was a nice guy,” Thomas said. “I’ve got nothing bad to say about him.”
Former Hurricanes in the NFL were reluctant to discuss the case. Said Devin Hester when approached at a Chicago Bears practice: “If this is about the Miami thing, I ain’t got nothing.”
Tennessee Titans rookie Colin McCarthy, who played at Miami, wore an orange Hurricanes’ T-shirt when reporters talked to him after practice Tuesday night. He responded “no comment” to four questions.
Shapiro began making his allegations about a year ago. Golden joined the Hurricanes in December after Randy Shannon was fired. Shawn Eichorst was hired as athletic director in April to replace Kirby Hocutt, who resigned to become athletic director at Texas Tech.
Golden said when he interviewed for the job, Miami officials did not tell him about Shapiro’s allegations.
“If they knew this was percolating, I believe they did have a responsibility to tell me,” Golden said. “I believe they have a responsibility to tell Shawn. But look, I’m happy here. My wife is happy here. We have great kids on this team. ...
“I want to make sure we get it right. As quickly as we can get to the bottom of whatever happened, then we can move forward. The only way to do that is to cooperate with the NCAA and get the truth.”