The Miami Hurricanes football program came under scrutiny Tuesday after Yahoo! Sports published an investigation alleging improper conduct between several players and a prominent booster. Nevin Shapiro, who is currently in jail for his role in a $930 million Ponzi scheme, says he provided 72 players with thousands of impermissible benefits from 2002-2010. Amongst the benefits Shapiro says he provided were “bounties” on opposing players. Specifically, Shapiro says Hurricanes players were offered $5,000 to knock former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow or former Florida State quarterback Chris Rix out of games.
Larry Brown Sports spoke with Rix Tuesday evening to hear his thoughts on the bounties.
“My first reaction was ‘wow,’ the former Seminoles quarterback told LBS. “It’s just sad to see.”
Rix, who currently runs the Champion Training Academy that mentors young quarterbacks, says he remembers Miami players coming after him hard but he thought it was due to the rivalry between the teams.
“I think every team is gunning for you especially when you’re Florida State and you have a big target on your back,” Rix pointed out. “Especially in a rivalry game like that, I just thought that was part of the Miami-Florida State rivalry. It was hardly surprising because I know how intense those rivalries can be.”
Rix did recall a few notable hits from the Miami players.
“I do remember a few late hits — some of them were called, some of them weren’t,” Rix says. “I remember one specifically in the 2003 BCS Orange Bowl game, after I had thrown a pass [Jonathan Vilma] came in and led with his hand. He got it inside my face mask and gave me a black eye. I don’t remember that being called as a late hit.
“Other ones were at the bottom of piles, yelling expletives at you and trying to get their hands in your face mask — get your eye. I’m not the first football player that’s happened to and I’m not the last. That happens a lot in those rivalry games.”
Asked if he’d ever heard of his Florida State teammates being offered bounties for injuring opponents, Rix says “No, never.”
Rix, still somewhat surprised by the news of the bounties, is proud that the Hurricanes players never accomplished their monetary goal. At least that’s the message he’d tell former Canes linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who reportedly made $2,000 from hard hits on the quarterback.
“If I saw him, I really don’t know what I’d say. I’d say ‘I know you got offered $5,000 to take me out of the game. While you got a lot of good hits on me, you notice you never took me out of the game — I always finished. So I’m sorry you never got the full $5,000 check for taking me out of the game.'”
Rix added that he was not too surprised by the violations allegedly committed by the Canes, but he does feel badly for the program.
“On one end, it doesn’t surprise me because of how intense college football is and what a business it’s become. This Miami scandal could be as big as the SMU scandal of the 80s. It’s sad for their program because their new coach and their players are probably going to suffer.
“It’s just sad to see that young men are put into the situation where they had to make such tough decisions,” Rix reflected. “I think we’re hearing so much about players getting paid more because they’re put in situations like this and a lot of them make the wrong the decisions because they may not have a lot of money or they may not come from a lot of money. It’s just sad.”
The current high school football analyst for FOX Sports Prime Ticket and college football analyst for FOX Sports Radio thinks there might be fewer problems if players were given more money.
“If they increase the scholarship check it would weed out some of [the problems],” Rix believes. “You have to find a fine line between increasing [the money players receive] and getting towards what pro players are making. They’re almost doing the same thing except pro players aren’t going to class. I think a significant increase — maybe a few thousand dollars a month — might give a good chance for some guys who are put in this situation. Guys might say ‘It’s not worth it’ to go down this route of accepting unethical offers from boosters, or any individual.”
Because players don’t receive too much money through their scholarship, Rix would not be surprised if similar violations were going on elsewhere. He explained the thinking behind the players’ decisions.
“You can’t presume that [there are violations elsewhere], but I wouldn’t be surprised with the economy and what people will do to get close to players for the big money in the NFL. For the players, it’s a chance to fatten their pockets while they’re in college. Some players want to be like professional athletes they’re aspiring to be, and they want to be like them now. Some players might be smart enough to know they’re not going to make it in the NFL so they want to make their money now.”
Both types of players are likely to commit violations and that’s why they are so prevalent. Regardless, if players are offered a few thousand dollars to try and take an opposing player out of a game, they’re going to do it. At that point it’s up to someone like Rix to hold his own on the field.Google+