- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 17, 2011

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. If there are guys that are going to have to sit out games, we’ll adjust our practice accordingly.”

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 to investors.

“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.”

Current Miami players named by Shapiro as receiving benefits included quarterback Jacory Harris, Ray Ray Armstrong, Travis Benjamin, Sean Spence, Marcus Forston, Vaughn Telemaque, Dyron Dye, Aldarius Johnson and Olivier Vernon. Former Hurricanes quarterback Robert Marve, now at Purdue, also was named by Shapiro, Yahoo! Sports said.

Shapiro said he gave money, cars, yacht trips, jewelry, televisions and other gifts to a list of players including Hester, Vince Wilfork, Jon Beason, Antrel Rolle, Willis McGahee and the late Sean Taylor.

Shapiro also claimed he paid for 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 around the time he was entering college.

“Hell yeah, I recruited a lot of kids for Miami,” Shapiro told Yahoo! Sports. “With access to the clubs, access to the strip joints. My house. My boat. We’re talking about high school football players. Not anybody can just get into the clubs or strip joints. Who is going to pay for it and make it happen? That was me.”

Shapiro has said multiple times in the past year, including in the Yahoo! Sports story posted Tuesday, that he is angry with several of the players he claims to have helped when they were Hurricanes _ only to be “abandoned” when he sought their help years later.

Miami officials began cooperating with NCAA investigators not long after Shapiro made claims about his involvement with players last year. Eichorst and university president Donna Shalala were questioned by the NCAA this week. The school reiterated Tuesday it takes the allegations seriously.

Shapiro dubbed himself “Little Luke” in reference to Luther Campbell _ aka Luke Skyywalker, the rapper who was a constant presence on the Hurricanes’ sideline during their 1980s glory days.

Campbell took exception to any comparisons.

Nevin Shapiro wishes he could wear my shorts for one day,” Campbell wrote in a blog post. “That punk could never be me. First of all, I have never been a UM booster. I have never given a dime to the school. I have and always will support the players and the program out of civic pride, but I never violated any NCAA rules when I was the team’s biggest fan in the 1980s.”

The allegations against Miami _ which dealt with a massive Pell Grant scandal in the 1990s, along with other controversies _ have sparked what is just the latest in a string of NCAA investigations involving some of college football’s most high-profile and successful programs.

In the past 18 months, the football teams at Southern California, Ohio State, Auburn, Oregon, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and LSU all have either been investigated or sanctioned by the NCAA.

The litany of scandals has led to calls for major reforms in the way the NCAA regulates and polices big-time college athletics. Commissioners of the major conferences, including Mike Slive from the Southeastern Conference and Jim Delany from the Big Ten, have called for major changes and increased penalties for rule-breakers.

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AP Sports Writers Tim Reynolds, Eric Olson, Teresa M. Walker, Cliff Brunt and RB Fallstrom contributed to this story.

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