When the United Football League (UFL) was just beginning at the tail end of 2007, Michael Huyghue was asked to become the new league’s Commissioner. Huyghue’s résumé spoke for itself. He was Senior Vice President of Football Operations for the Jacksonville Jaguars prior to becoming the President and CEO of a successful Jacksonville, Florida based sports agency titled, Axcess Sports & Entertainment. Upon receiving the offer from the UFL, Huyghue voluntarily relinquished his NFL Contract Advisor certification and focused all of his efforts on building the UFL product.
At one point in time, Huyghue represented NFL stars that included Jon Beason, Vince Wilfork, Kyle Brady and Adam “Pacman” Jones. It was well known that Huyghue and Axcess Sports & Entertainment recruited players from the University of Miami with the end goal of representing them in the NFL Draft and beyond. What was not overtly alleged until earlier today, is that Michael Huyghue and Nevin Shapiro, on behalf of Axcess Sports & Entertainment, paid University of Miami student-athletes during the recruiting process.
Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports performed a masterful investigation regarding the benefits given to University of Miami student-athletes by former University of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro. Michael Huyghue’s name appears a total of 14 times throughout Robinson’s article concerning that investigation. The following is quoted from Robinson’s article. It contains all 14 instances of Huyghue’s name.
Also among the revelations were damning details of [Nevin] Shapiro’s co-ownership of a sports agency – Axcess Sports & Entertainment – for nearly his entire tenure as a Hurricanes booster. The same agency that signed two first-round picks from Miami, Vince Wilfork and Jon Beason, and recruited dozens of others while Shapiro was allegedly providing cash and benefits to players. In interviews with federal prosecutors, Shapiro said many of those same players were also being funneled cash and benefits by his partner at Axcess, then-NFL agent and current UFL commissioner Michael Huyghue.
Shapiro bought plane tickets for two of [Willis] McGahee’s female acquaintances to attend the 2002 Heisman Trophy ceremony and flew D.J. Williams’ mother from California to Miami to spend time with her son and meet with Shapiro’s partner at Axcess Sports, Michael Huyghue.
According to Shapiro, the system for recruiting players to sign with Axcess Sports was actually compartmentalized between himself and Huyghue. The booster would use his close relationship with players to make an introduction to Huyghue, and then he would retreat from agency talk from that point forward and leave it to Huyghue to grow his own relationship and sign the player.
In that vein, Shapiro said it was also up to Huyghue to develop his own financial link to kids, providing his own set of extra benefits to athletes as he saw fit, including cash payments, travel and other inducements. And Shapiro told federal prosecutors that’s precisely what Huyghue did, giving multiple illicit benefits, including cash, to several players at Miami. Claims that Huyghue called “fantasy.”
“He’s a convicted felon,” Huyghue said. “I just don’t want to get into such fantasy. I just wouldn’t want to even go down that path. I don’t even care what he said. Whatever he could say, there’s just no substance to it.”
But while Huyghue denied ever funneling to players, one former Hurricane told Yahoo! Sports he received multiple extra benefits from both Shapiro and Huyghue during his career.
[Former UM running back Tyrone] Moss added that players in the Miami program were well aware how Shapiro and Huyghue worked in unison for a sports agency.
In hindsight, Shapiro says if anything came close to revealing his impropriety, it was his partial ownership in Axcess Sports. After meeting Huyghue in 2002, the booster paid $1.5 million for a 30-percent stake in the company with the implicit goal of transforming his relationships with Hurricanes athletes into something positive for both him and the players. Shapiro was looking to build a successful sports representation business, and he believed the players would benefit from having Huyghue as their agent.
Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal has already reached out to Michael Huyghue for comment, and she Tweeted that Huyghue denies Shapiro’s allegation regarding Huyghue providing any benefits to University of Miami players while he was a part of Axcess Sports & Entertainment. Huyghue has quite a bit on his plate between the allegations made by Shapiro and the financial trouble that the UFL currently finds itself in.