(CNN) — The University of Miami says it is cooperating with an investigation into claims by an imprisoned former booster that he spent millions on gifts, entertainment and travel for Hurricanes athletes.
“We will vigorously pursue the truth, wherever that path may lead, and I have insisted upon complete, honest, and transparent cooperation with the NCAA from our staff and students,” the school’s president, Donna Shalala wrote in an open letter Wednesday.
Shalala said she was “upset, disheartened and saddened” by the allegations leveled by Nevin Shapiro, a onetime Miami businessman now serving a 20-year federal prison term for fraud. Shapiro told Yahoo! Sports that he showered dozens of Miami players with cash and jewelry, paid restaurant and nightclub tabs and supplied prostitutes over an 8-year period — and that several coaches were aware of the activity.
Shapiro was arrested in 2010 on charges of overseeing a Ponzi scheme that prosecutors eventually determined had totaled $930 million. He pleaded guilty to securities fraud and money laundering that September and told Yahoo! that his accusations against Miami were part of his agreement to cooperate with prosecutors.
The NCAA, which regulates college sports, said it has been investigating Shapiro’s claims for five months. NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a written statement that if true, the allegations show the need for “serious and fundamental change” in college sports, especially regarding the conduct of boosters and agents.
The Hurricanes open their football season September 5 against Maryland. Head Coach Al Golden, who was picked to lead the team in December, told reporters before practice Wednesday that he wanted to clear up the matter “as quickly as we can.”
“This is a very complicated issue obviously, because of the source and because of the allegations,” Golden said. “But again, I’m here to get to the bottom of it.”
“It’s really important to understand that we have a lot of guys in that locker room that do things the right way, that come from great families and have made good decisions,” he added.