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By Shawn Muller-
(CBS) Devin Hester’s accomplishments in a Chicago Bears uniform are well documented.
He is a 3-time Pro Bowler, 3-time All-Pro selection, a member of the NFL’s 2000’s All-Decade Team, is tied with Eric Metcalf (10) as the NFL’s All-Time Punt Return Touchdown Leader (and should be all alone at the top after this season), and is the NFL’s All-Time Leader in combined Kick/Punt return touchdowns with 14.
He is a highlight reel waiting to happen anytime he touches the ball and I can say with all honesty, that it has been a privilege watching him don a Bears jersey since he joined the league as a rookie back in 2006.
But for as elusive as Hester has been on the football field, former Miami Hurricane booster, Nevin Shapiro, is trying to do his best to tarnish Hester’s name off of it.
According to Shapiro—who is serving a 20-year prison sentence for his role in a $930 million dollar Ponzi Scheme—he provided Devin Hester—and numerous other Hurricane athletes– with a multitude of illegal benefits during his time on the University of Miami campus.
Shapiro supposedly gave Hester cash gifts to cover the cost of new rims for his SUV and an engagement ring, Miami Heat playoff tickets, VIP treatment at Miami nightclubs and restaurants, access to Shapiro’s $2.7 million mansion and $1.7 million yacht, clothing, and $7,500 in “bounties” during Hurricane games.
While Hester has come out and denied any wrong-doing or association with Mr. Shapiro, multiple sources have corroborated Shapiro’s accounts of his dealings with Hester and pictures have surfaced that placed the two together on multiple occasions. I, myself, have a hard time believing Hester’s side of the story on this one because Shapiro is on record as saying he had a relationship with the Bears star, and he is in prison, so what does he have to lose by naming names?
Regardless of whether or not you believe Hester was or was not involved with Nevin Shapiro is neither here nor there.
The issue at hand is the blatant corruption of college athletics and whether or not the athletes should bear the brunt of the troubles plaguing NCAA sports.
While it would be easy for someone to blame the college athletes in these types of situations (I know I have many times during the past), I ask you this: If you were Devin Hester—or any of the other Hurricane players supposedly involved with Nevin Shapiro—and he was willing to shell out cash and gifts just because you were a member of the football team, would you take them?
The politically correct answer would be, “Absolutely not. These players are knowingly breaking the rules and they are putting the future of the football program at risk for short-term personal benefits.”
Yes, it is true that no kid is bigger than any athletic program, but how can one really place the onus of these transgressions on the shoulders of college kids? I am fully aware that we are talking about 18-22 year-old “adults”, and they are supposed to know right from wrong, but come on.
The problem with college athletics are the boosters and their ease of access to athletes. The boosters are the “adults” funneling the cash and illegal benefits to the student-athletes, and they are the saddest part of every one of these situations. What kind of a pathetic human-being thinks that in order to make himself feel important, he needs to buy the “love” of a college athlete? The kids are obviously breaking NCAA rules by accepting “gifts”, but they actually think the “adults” are truly looking out for their best interests.
What’s actually worst between the two situations?
Once the kids make it to the professional ranks, they are in the pockets of the boosters that “showed them love”. Piss the boosters off, and the “adults” who “cared” about the welfare of the student-athletes they were so willing to help, run and tell the authorities about the big, mean athletes that took all the stuff that was offered to them.
I have been pretty hard on the NCAA and the way they have been dealing with “rogue” programs as of late, but the kids—while guilty of breaking NCAA rules–are not the problem.
It is sleazy pimps like Nevin Shapiro—masquerading themselves as boosters—that need to be banned from any interaction with NCAA programs. And if coaches turn a blind eye to possible infractions, they need to be shone the door as well.
No matter what, gifts, cash, parties, women, and clothes will be offered to players, boosters or not, Devin Hester—if the allegations against him are true–is not the guilty party in the University of Miami NCAA probe. Nevin Shapiro, Larry Coker and his staff, and the University of Miami Administration are.
Shawn Muller has lived in the great city of Chicago for 7 years. He is a 2002 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and, in October of 2010, Shawn received his certificate in radio broadcasting. In his free time, Shawn enjoys spending time with his wife Melissa and 3 year old daughter Ava, catching any live sporting event, and traveling. Check out his radio show, Grab Some Bench with Muller and Bangser” every Thursday night at 8:30 P.M., at www.blogtalkradio.com/spmuller24. Read more of his blogs here.