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Miami Booster Claims UFL Commissioner Provided Benefits To Student-Athletes

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 WilforkKyle 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.

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.

4 replies on “Miami Booster Claims UFL Commissioner Provided Benefits To Student-Athletes”

seems about right…he is stiffing his employees on their paychecks.  He still owes people from as far back as november 2010 and refuses to pay them but continues to recieve his huge salary for running this league into the ground

seems about right…he is stiffing his employees on their paychecks.  He still owes people from as far back as november 2010 and refuses to pay them but continues to recieve his huge salary for running this league into the ground

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