BY: LAURA STRAUB
University of Miami fans might be content with the team’s 4-4 start this season, but problems off the field, in particular scandals within the booster program in the past two years, have the potential to plague the success of the program. As with most private universities, Miami’s sports programs are supported through financial support from alumni, professional players, professional businesses and fans, but this system of funding was rocked in the wake of the Nevin Shapiro scandal.
The scandal, which broke during 2010 and 2011, came in the form of a Yahoo Sports Report. The report, complied and written by Charles Robinson implicated over 70 current and former Hurricanes players and coaches for numerous NCAA violations including illegal recruitment tactics such as prostitutes, strip clubs and expensive dinners.
The epicenter of the scandal fell on former Miami University booster Nevin Shapiro and his Ponzi scheme. Through his Ponzi scam, he swindled investors out of over $900 million. Shapiro is now imprisoned and out of the picture; however, this situation has left many questioning whether Miami University will still be able to raise as much money for their athletic programs as they had prior to the scandal.
The University of Miami booster program, The Hurricane Club, has rallied in the face of this scandal and has not only surpassed the 2011 membership mark, but has reached its membership goal of 5,500. The Hurricane Club is celebrating its 40th anniversary with the additional goals of raising scholarship support to $10.1 million and upping participation in their 40/40 program to 40 percent.
Membership in the Hurricane Club can be attained through the purchase of priority seating for either the University of Miami football or basketball games or by an outright annual donation. The annual donation can be made at six different levels with dollar amounts ranging from $40 to $30,000. Annual donations come with an assortment of perks, including lapel pins and car decals, priority to purchase tickets for rivalry and bowl games, and priority seating.
Although Shaprio is currently in prison over his unethical involvement with Hurricane Club funds, the program has had a successful year in reaching their funding goals, evidently showing the significant impact a winning record has in terms of fundraising.
However, attendance at Hurricane’s home football games does not seem to compliment the team’s nor the booster program’s recent success. According to CBS Sports, attendance at the Hurricane’s home opener was 39,345 fans. Yet, a picture taken by Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press from the press box in the second quarter shows an unsettling ratio of empty orange seats to excited fans.
It seems only logical that the success of an athletic program could impact fundraising efforts. This money would go towards more program improvements. Nevertheless, the question of whether or not the fans are overlooking the success of the team because they are disenchanted by the Nevin Shapiro scandal remains to be answered.