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Can NCAA really police college football? Miami emerges as test case.

NCAA critics were growing more vocal even before new allegations that University of Miami football players accepted gifts and prostitutes from a booster. Now, the NCAA faces a test of its credibility.

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In discussing the NCAA's attempts to crack down on rules violators at last week's conference, Mr. Emmert said everything needs to be on the table. "If that includes the death penalty, I'm fine with that," he said, according to USA Today.

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Others have argued that Shapiro's actions, if true, would appear to be among the worst in the sport's history. "The Yahoo! story that broke – erupted, really – on Tuesday covers nearly everything on the Whopper Allegation Checklist. Payoffs to current and former Hurricanes, improper benefits for recruits, coaches in the know and on the take, willfully ignorant administrators," wrote Pat Forde on ESPN.com.

In the Yahoo! Sports article, Shapiro alleged that nobody at Miami or the NCAA lifted a finger to put an end to weekend parties, illegal gifts, and even an alleged practice of promising Miami players secret bonuses for putting big hits on players, like former University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.

"I did it because I could," Shapiro, who was convicted in June for running a $930 million real-estate Ponzi scheme, said of his spending. "And because nobody stepped in to stop me."

The NCAA said Wednesday it has spent five months investigating the report.

"If the assertions are true, the alleged conduct at the University of Miami is an illustration of the need for serious and fundamental change in many critical aspects of college sports," said Emmert in a statement.

Complicating matters for the NCAA is the fact that University of Miami President Donna Shalala and former Miami Athletic Director Paul Dee both have had prominent positions in the NCAA's reform movement.

Ms. Shalala, the former Clinton administration Health and Human Services secretary, is a member of a new NCAA rules-writing committee and recently lauded her own efforts to police the Hurricanes sideline for suspicious guests. Mr. Dee was recently the NCAA's infractions chief and last year docked USC two bowl games for inappropriate gifts given to former standout Reggie Bush, chiding the university for failing to police its players off the field.

"Once again, the NCAA's entire enforcement process is under the microscope," writes Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel.

Neither Shalala nor Dee has been directly implicated in any improprieties, but their close ties to the Hurricanes football program has given critics of the NCAA added ammunition. NCAA investigators interviewed Shalala this week as part of its probe of Shapiro's allegations.

"I am upset, disheartened, and saddened by the recent allegations leveled against some current and past student-athletes and members of our Athletic Department," said Shalala in a statement. " We will vigorously pursue the truth, wherever that path may lead, and I have insisted upon complete, honest, and transparent cooperation with the NCAA from our staff and students."

Added Dee, who is no longer affiliated with the NCAA: "We didn't have any suspicion that [Shapiro] was doing anything like this," he recently told a Florida newspaper. "He didn't do anything to cause concern."

The NCAA's investigations are ongoing.

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