In this May photo, Luther Campbell speaks during a forum with other Miami-Dade mayoral candidates. (AP)
Legendary hypeman and longtime graphic hip-hop lyricist Luther Campbell is judiciously seeking to distance himself from his latest alleged act of salaciousness.
Convicted swindler and $930 million Ponzi scheme mastermind Nevin Shapiro charges that he took the reigns directly from Campbell in doling out impermissible perks ranging from cash, cars, jewelry and wild sex parties to at least 72 University of Miami athletes over an eight-year period that could result in the once vaulted UM football program being hit with sanctions as severe as the death penalty.
Shapiro says he even bankrolled a revolving cash fund where bounties as high as $5,000 were routinely placed on the heads of rival star players, among them golden-boy quarterback Tim Tebow of rival Florida.
“Here’s the thing, Luther Campbell was the first uncle who took care of players before I got going,” Shapiro, now serving a 20-year federal prison sentence, told Yahoo! Sports over the course of an 11-month investigation and more than 100 hours of jailhouse interviews. “His role was diminished by the NCAA and the school, and someone needed to pick up the mantle. That someone was me. He was ‘Uncle Luke,’ and I became ‘Little Luke.’”
Campbell, who never met a line or performance he shied away from or seemed to deem too risqué during his thrill-seeking, chart-topping heydays of the ’90s, appears none too flattered by all Shapiro’s idolatry.
Now a candidate for mayor in nearby Dade-County, Campbell, 50, shot back in a Miami-Times column: “First of all, I have never been a UM booster. I have never given a dime to the school. I have and always will support the players and the program out of civic pride, but I never violated any NCAA rules when I was the team’s biggest fan. If Nevin really wanted people to see him as ‘Little Luke,’ then he would have dedicated part of his life to helping kids in Miami’s inner city neighborhoods get college educations.”
And let the record show, Campbell’s history of aiding the youth of Miami is as long as Shapiro’s is checkered. Campbell’s Liberty City Optimist youth program provides academic and athletic support to youths aged five to 15, and his Luther Campbell Foundation regularly sponsors toy, school supplies and scholarship drives for the underprivileged.
“Many of these kids find themselves at a crossroads; we try to be there to make sure they come out on the right side,” he said.
As for the UM scandal, Campbell feels that situation has also reached a point of critical mass. “Love for ‘The U’ runs deep,” he said. “If the NCAA kills the program, there will be a lot of people around here slitting their throats.”
But if all Shapiro’s allegations prove true, some NCAA observers feel the governing body will have little choice. Shapiro outlines a systematic pattern of rule-breaking that would seem to soil even the UM legacies of such current NFL stars as Jonathon Vilma, Devin Hester, Kellen Winslow Jr., Vince Wilfork, Jon Beason and Willis MaGahee.
“Some of the players, those players, used to say we were a family,” said Shapiro, in addressing the burning question of why he chose to now put the entire UM program in peril. “Well, who do you go to for help when you need it? You go to your family. Why the hell wouldn’t I go to them. Yeah, I’m guilty, and now I’m an outcast … but you tell me why should the University of Miami be exempt from the truth.”
Again, Campbell seems unnerved, albeit moved to verbosity on the matter.
“That punk could never be like me,” he said of Shapiro. “It has never been about the money for me. It’s always been about community service. That’s what being Uncle Luke is really about. Shapiro is nothing but a jilted groupie who f—-d over a lot of people. Nevin’s mad because he couldn’t get former players to invest in his Ponzi scheme and now he wants to play the role of jailhouse snitch.”