For much of last season, it seemed that the Steelers were destined to return to the Super Bowl, for the third time in four years. But a stronger-than-expected season from the Ravens relegated Pittsburgh to a wild-card berth, and a game plan that grossly underestimated Tim Tebow kept the Steelers from advancing. While it was…
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Quarterback Jacory Harris and 11 other Miami players who accepted extra benefits from former booster Nevin Shapiro will be allowed by the NCAA to play again, the first sanctions in a scandal that continues to overshadow the Hurricanes.
In all, 12 players must pay at least some restitution. Of those, eight will miss at least one game.
The harshest penalties handed down Tuesday were reserved for those who took gifts from Shapiro while being recruited. Defensive lineman Olivier Vernon will sit out six games, while Ray Ray Armstrong – considered among the nation’s top safeties – and tight end Dyron Dye will miss four games apiece. They are three of eight players, including Harris, who must sit out games and make restitution before they can be reinstated.
“I think it was probably fair,” Miami coach Al Golden told The Associated Press Tuesday night. “Clearly, whatever transpired, it wasn’t as over-the-top as everybody was initially reporting and all of those things. The NCAA and the university felt there was mistakes made … and I’ve accepted that. And now we’re moving forward.”
Miami opens its season at Maryland on Monday night.
The Hurricanes still might face many more sanctions as the NCAA’s investigation into Miami’s compliance practices continues. And with Tuesday’s ruling, the school has joined a growing list of schools with major football programs to be investigated by the NCAA for rule-breaking in the past 18 months. Others include Southern California, Ohio State, Auburn, Oregon, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and LSU.
“Our members have continually stressed that involvement of third parties during recruitment will not be tolerated,” NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs Kevin Lennon said.
Harris, Sean Spence, Travis Benjamin, Marcus Forston and Adewale Ojomo – all of whom were likely starters – must sit out one game and make restitution for accepting benefits after enrolling at the school. Four other players must repay small amounts, all under $100, but will not miss any games.
“They understand that their actions demand consequences,” Miami athletic director Shawn Eichorst said.
A 13th player, Marcus Robinson, was vindicated of wrongdoing, the university said.
The players who have to miss games may practice with the team even while they are unable to play.
“It’s nice to have it out there now,” Miami center Tyler Horn said. “There’s no suspense in the air. We know what we have. We know what we’re taking to Maryland. We have a lot of very talented players that we’re taking to Maryland, and we’re going up there to do our best. I wasn’t too worried about it. I knew things would take care of themselves.”
As Golden arrived at a fan gathering Tuesday night, he was greeted by dozens chanting his last name. Golden acknowledged them with a wave.
“I’m relieved,” Golden said. “I think that’s a fair assessment.”
The NCAA’s ruling means Stephen Morris – who led Miami past the Terrapins last season – will be at quarterback for the Hurricanes to start the season. Harris, Spence, Benjamin, Forston and Ojomo all will be eligible to play when Miami hosts Ohio State on Sept. 17.
“They’ll still be motivating us,” said Joel Figueroa, named Miami’s left tackle earlier Tuesday. “We’re going to welcome them back with open arms, and we know they’ll be ready to perform when the time comes.”
The process of evaluating the eligibility of Miami student-athletes might not be over yet. Miami President Donna Shalala revealed last week that university compliance personnel were investigating 15 student-athletes. Of those, 13 were addressed by Tuesday’s football decisions. A 14th is believed to be basketball player DeQuan Jones, who was also implicated by Shapiro’s claims to Yahoo Sports. The identity of the 15th is unknown.
It may be senior wide receiver Aldarius Johnson – who was also implicated by Shapiro, but not named in Tuesday’s NCAA statement. Golden said Tuesday afternoon, as the NCAA news was being announced, that Johnson is suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules.
“We clearly have identified what our travel team is now,” Golden said. “Everybody’s going to get their roles (Wednesday) and by 7 a.m. we’re going to be back on the practice field. That’s been kind of our sanctum anyway. That’s been the safest place for us this whole time.”
The NCAA said Vernon must sit six games and repay more than $1,200 because as a recruit he accepted things such as access to Shapiro’s suite at a Miami home game, drinks and cover charges at two different nightclubs. Shapiro, who told Yahoo Sports for a story published Aug. 16 that he provided benefits to 72 Miami players and recruits over an eight-year span, has even said that he made a $1,000 donation to Vernon’s high school booster club.
Armstrong must repay $788, the believed worth of his extra benefits, while Dye will pay back $738.
“The student-athletes involved have acknowledged receiving improper benefits and will now be responsible for restitution,” Eichorst said.
Forston, the NCAA said, received more than $400 in things such as “athletic equipment, meals, nightclub cover charges and entertainment at a gentleman’s club.” Spence received about $275 in benefits, Ojomo $240, Benjamin more than $150 and Harris more than $140.
Brandon McGee, JoJo Nicholas, Vaughn Telemaque and Micanor Regis all must pay less than $100 for taking various impermissible benefits. Regis was not one of the players Shapiro said accepted benefits. The sanctions of those four players were announced by the university, which is conducting its own investigation separate of the NCAA probe.
“I’m glad that chapter is closed,” Golden said. “I’m proud of our guys. I think they were, from every report I’ve gotten, were honest and forthright. And now we get ready for the University of Maryland.”
© 2011 The Associated Press
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Sean Spence led the Miami Hurricanes in a pre-practice chant. Jacory Harris took his spot at the front of a stretching line, a place typically reserved for starters.
Say this for the ‘Canes: They’re trying to carry on some sense of business-as-usual.
Spence, Harris and all other Miami players implicated by claims that a rogue booster provided dozens of Hurricanes with extra benefits like cash, cars, gifts and sex for the better part of a decade returned to the practice field Thursday. Whether they play in the season-opener at Maryland on Sept. 5 remains unclear, as the university works through the process of determining their eligibility.
As a result, the depth chart for Week 1 is still anyone’s guess.
“We’ll make sure we practice enough guys because we really don’t know what the future brings,” Miami coach Al Golden said. “Hopefully we’ll find out pretty quickly here in the near future if there are any penalties or suspensions, and we’ll adjust accordingly.”
Golden said the depth chart may take until Tuesday to complete. He also said in accordance with Atlantic Coast Conference policy, the Hurricanes will divulge their plans to the Terrapins before releasing anything publicly.
“Any projections or anything like that, all it is is speculation,” Golden said.
Spence and Harris are among two of the biggest names wrapped up in the scandal — Spence is considered by many to be Miami’s best defensive player and one of the top linebackers in the ACC. Harris has played 36 games at quarterback for the Hurricanes in his first three seasons, and he’s far-and-away the ACC leader among active players in passing touchdowns, yards and wins.
University officials have not commented on the specifics of the process. Miami President Donna Shalala said this week that 15 student-athletes — she did not specify names or teams — were being investigated by university compliance personnel. The former booster, convicted Ponzi-scheme architect Nevin Shapiro, told Yahoo Sports that he provided benefits to 72 athletes, 65 of whom played football for Miami. Of those, 12 are current football players, and one is a member of the men’s basketball team.
“We’re going about our business,” Golden said. “Obviously some of the players that are alleged to have done something are guys that have played a lot of football for us, so obviously there’s going to be some adjustments if there are suspensions. Other than that, we’re just moving forward and the kids have been great.”
The other football players named by Shapiro to Yahoo Sports are Vaughn Telemaque, Ray Ray Armstrong, Travis Benjamin, Aldarius Johnson, Marcus Forston, Olivier Vernon, Marcus Robinson, Adewale Ojomo, Dyron Dye and JoJo Nicholas. Like Harris and Spence, many of those players are presumed starters this season.
Shapiro is serving a 20-year prison sentence for bilking investors out of $930 million.
Copyright 2011 Associated Press