University of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez has a costly, painful and coinci dental link to the massive scandal unfolding at Miami (Fla.).
Alvarez acknowledged Thursday he invested in the company once owned by Nevin Shapiro, the jailed Ponzi schemer who’s at the epicenter of the impermissible benefits case at the school.
“A friend that I trusted guided me toward the investment and I feel violated,” Alvarez said. “It’s no different than those who invested in Bernie Madoff. It just so happens to be coincidentally that this is the guy blowing the whistle on Miami from jail.”
Alvarez said his investment took place “a couple years ago” and that he was part of a lawsuit filed more than a year ago against Shapiro seeking to recover at least $1 million. The suit also includes Alvarez’s wife, Cindy, and son, Chad.
“This didn’t just happen,” he said.
Asked how much he lost, Alvarez said: “That’s none of your business.”
Shapiro is currently serving 20 years in a New Jersey prison for his role in a $930 million Ponzi scheme. Alvarez, who has a second home in Naples, Fla., said he met Shapiro once at a dinner arranged through the aforementioned friend, Jack Williams, during the Orange Bowl. Alvarez said Williams worked for Shapiro.
“I was told everything was on the up-and-up,” Alvarez said. “Then, all of a sudden, the payments got late. Then they didn’t come at all and there were a lot of excuses. I knew we were in trouble.
“If you invest money in the stock market and it doesn’t go well, you bite the bullet and go on. If you invest money and somebody’s just stealing your money, you feel violated. That’s how I feel.”
Alvarez reached across his desk and showed a reporter a list of investors who filed suit against Shapiro. He doesn’t expect to get any money back.
“He spent it all,” Alvarez said. “It is what it is.”
A story by Yahoo! Sports earlier this week, built on more than 100 hours of jailhouse interviews with Shapiro and 11 months of investigation, indicates he spent investors’ money on providing a variety of extravagances for 72 football and men’s basketball players at Miami between 2002 and 2010.
In addition to parties and access to his homes and yacht in Miami Beach, Shapiro said he provided the athletes prostitutes and claimed he paid for at least one abortion. He said he blew the whistle on the private Atlantic Coast Conference institution because he said the athletes he befriended abandoned him when he was arrested.
Alvarez has more than just a casual interest in the case and it goes beyond Shapiro. Donna Shalala, who was the UW chancellor when Alvarez began his 16-season run as Badgers football coach in 1990, is the Miami president. Two former UW administrators, Shawn Eichorst and Steve Waterfield, took high-profile jobs in the Miami athletic department this spring.
Coincidentally, Alvarez backed away from opportunities to become football coach of the Hurricanes in 1995 and 2001.
Alvarez said “no one told” Eichorst, his former executive associate athletic director, an NCAA investigation was under way when Eichorst accepted the job of athletic director in April. The NCAA reportedly began looking into the case five months ago.
“He did not know about them being investigated,” Alvarez said of Eichorst, a Lone Rock native who has degrees from UW-Whitewater and Marquette.
Waterfield left UW, where he spent seven years and was the associate AD for student services, to serve as Eichorst’s top lieutenant at Miami.
“He’s going to have to make some tough decisions,” Alvarez said of Eichorst, who sent an email to his former boss when the news broke Wednesday.
Eichorst made his first public comment on the scandal Thursday, releasing a statement that said “these are not times for pity and reflection” and that “there will be a better day.”
Some are calling for Miami’s football program to get the death penalty from the NCAA, which would suspend competition for at least a year.
“He’s saying the right things, trying to be positive about it, saying they’ll come out of it stronger,” Alvarez said of Eichorst. “But he’s going to have to make some decisions, decisions that some people aren’t going to like.”
In the meantime, Alvarez said the pain from his involvement with Shapiro is subsiding.
“I’ve moved on,” Alvarez said.