TAMPA — Twenty years before he got the University of Miami into hot water with the NCAA, Hurricanes booster Nevin Shapiro had a different scandal with a different football team on the campus of a different Florida school.
As news came of Shapiro telling Yahoo Sports he supplied Hurricanes players with "thousands" of impermissible benefits, the conversation started up among a group of USF alumni: Was that the same guy who played intramural flag football back when they were in school?
"When the story broke, for that whole week and ever since then, there's been like 30 of us from back in school (talking about it) between phone calls and texts," said Don Lamison, a quarterback who threw passes to the speedy Shapiro and is now a middle school English teacher in Hillsborough County.
"It all makes such perfect sense, but it's still kind of shocking."
Shapiro took classes at USF from the summer of 1986 to the fall of 1990, but his time there apparently ended soon after a flag football game in October 1990. It came long before he would be sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for his involvement in a $980 million Ponzi scheme.
Remember, USF didn't have a football team until 1997.
So in 1990, flag football was a big deal on campus, especially a tournament that sent the champ to a national tournament in New Orleans.
Shapiro, a 5-foot-6 receiver playing for a team called "Public Enemy," cared so much about flag football, he had jerseys made for the team, complete with logos and names and numbers on the back.
In this particular game in October 1990, Public Enemy lost 15-14 on five field goals to a fraternity team, Sigma Nu. Shapiro was so upset at the officiating, he punched the referee, a student, in the face, prompting his arrest on a misdemeanor count of battery.
"He just walked up and decked one of the referees; just coldcocked him," Lamison said. "It was a big scene."
Two days later, the punch was a front-page story in USF's student paper, the Oracle, with the headline, "Player hits referee." Shapiro wasn't named in the story — it referenced an "unidentified student" who struck Rick Aponte in the face. Shapiro was asked to leave the field, police were called, and Aponte requested charges be filed.
Eric Hunter, then the assistant director of campus recreation and now director of the department, told the Oracle that Shapiro would not be involved in intramurals for at least a year.
USF cannot divulge the circumstances of a student's departure, but it confirmed Shapiro stopped attending classes in the fall of 1990 and did not graduate despite attending classes for more than four years.
USF's current Student Code of Conduct has specific provisions addressing "injurious behavior" when a student "intentionally causes bodily harm" to another person; expulsion is among the sanctions that can be levied.
Lamison said he never saw Shapiro at USF again after his arrest.
The arrest report has been destroyed because of the time elapsed, according to the University Police Department.
But according to the Hillsborough County Clerk's Office, Shapiro entered into a pretrial misdemeanor intervention program, which typically involves probation and community service. The following August, he was ejected from the program and a $1,000 warrant was issued for his arrest. In October, he fulfilled the obligations of the program, the warrant was rescinded and the charge dropped.
Lamison said Shapiro was "obsessed" with the University of Miami, even during his USF days, with Hurricanes logos on his decked-out Ford Bronco.
"The kid was a phenomenal athlete," Lamison said. "I can remember throwing the ball as far as I could, and he would just run under it."
A call to Shapiro's Miami attorney, Maria Elena Perez, seeking comment was not returned Wednesday.
Greg Auman can be reached at email@example.com and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bulls and follow him at Twitter.com/gregauman.