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Miami leadership backs university president despite scandal

By the CNN Wire Staff
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U. Miami players focused on football
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Former booster says he showered dozens of players with cash, jewelry and hookers
  • "Without a doubt these allegations are troubling," the Miami board chairman says
  • The NCAA says it has been investigating the allegations for five months

Miami (CNN) -- The chairman of Miami's board of trustees says he is backing university president Donna Shalala despite recent allegations that a booster showered dozens of players with cash, jewelry and hookers.

"Without a doubt, these allegations are troubling and demand a thorough and honest evaluation of Hurricane Athletics," Leonard Abess, the chairman, said in a letter Friday.

"President Shalala has taken a strong position, insisting on full cooperation with the ongoing NCAA investigation. Rest assured, ultimate responsibility for the conduct of the overall athletics department lies with the UM leadership, which includes President Shalala, the Board of Trustees and the Athletics Director."

The Miami college football community has been rocked by recent allegations leveled by Nevin Shapiro, a one-time Miami businessman serving a 20-year federal prison term for fraud.

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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 eight-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 determined totaled $930 million. He pleaded guilty to securities fraud and money laundering in September, and his accusations against Miami were part of his agreement to cooperate with prosecutors, his lawyer told CNN's "Newsroom" this week.

The NCAA, which regulates college sports, said it has been investigating Shapiro's claims for five months.

NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a 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.