Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer
The evolving athletics scandal at the University of Miami has ties to Alabama--in more ways than one.
The most obvious connection involves the University of Alabama's football coaching staff, which includes former Miami assistants Jeff Stoutland and Joe Pannuzio. Reporters Charles Robinson and Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports broke the Miami story, and their investigation implicates Stoutland and Pannuzio in the wrongdoing.
But the Alabama connections, in a sense, go way beyond the coaching staff. At the heart of the Miami scandal is a renegade booster named Nevin Shapiro, who is incarcerated for his role in a $930 million Ponzi scheme. Shapiro told Yahoo! Sports he provided thousands of impermissible benefits to at least 72 UM athletes from 2002 through 2010.
Alabama, it turns out, has a booster who probably can match Shapiro step for step in the rogue category. In fact, Paul W. Bryant Jr.'s connections to Alabama are way more powerful than those Shapiro enjoyed at Miami. After all, Bryant's father, the late Paul "Bear" Bryant, was the Crimson Tide's Hall of Fame coach for many years. And Bryant Jr. is more than just an enthusiastic fan; he is part of the university's leadership team, serving on its board of trustees.
Like Shapiro, Bryant has a history of shady business practices. Unlike Shapiro, Bryant managed to escape serious scrutiny from federal prosecutors. But how long will that last? If the NCAA is going to examine the actions of a rogue booster in Miami, shouldn't it also be taking a look at a questionable character in Tuscaloosa? If Shapiro is incarcerated for his role in a $930-million Ponzi scheme, why are Paul Bryant Jr. and his associates in Greene Group Inc. enjoying freedom?
As we have reported in more than a dozen posts, one of Bryant's companies has clear ties to insurance fraud. Public documents show that Alabama Reassurance was implicated in a $15-million scheme that netted a 15-year prison sentence for a Pennsylvania man named Allen W. Stewart in the late 1990s. An investigation of Alabama Re was called off, apparently because Bryant had friends in the U.S. attorney's office for the Northern District of Alabama.