NCAA INVESTIGATION

Miami Hurricanes expect punishment from NCAA on Tuesday

 

The NCAA is expected to announce its sanctions Tuesday for the University of Miami in the case involving former booster Nevin Shapiro.

 
This image from Sept. 2003 video shows Miami booster Nevin Shapiro gesturing on the field at an NCAA college football game between Miami and Florida, in Miami, Fla.
This image from Sept. 2003 video shows Miami booster Nevin Shapiro gesturing on the field at an NCAA college football game between Miami and Florida, in Miami, Fla.
WFOR / CBS4 / ASSOCIATED PRESS

sdegnan@MiamiHerald.com

The day of reckoning is upon the University of Miami.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association will publicly release its infractions report Tuesday in Miami’s longstanding case involving rogue booster Nevin Shapiro and has scheduled a media call for 11 a.m.

Two-and-a-half years after the NCAA officially opened the case and nearly 19 weeks after UM representatives went before the Committee on Infractions for a hearing in Indianapolis, the Hurricanes — and the rest of the world — will learn of their punishment.

Plenty of information in this case has been leaked, so it’s possible UM could know at least some of what’s coming.

The infractions report will be released to the media at 10 a.m. UM acknowledged through an email Monday that it had been notified by the NCAA of Tuesday’s pending announcement and said it had not planned a news conference but would make UM leadership available to the media.

Scholarship sanctions, and possibly coaching and recruiting restrictions, are expected to be only part of the punishment. Those restrictions are likely for some former UM coaches who have since left the program. One big unknown is whether the Hurricanes, who already self-imposed postseason bans in 2011 and ’12 (encompassing two bowl games and the Atlantic Coast Conference title game), will be hit with another bowl ban.

The Canes could also be hit with financial penalties, and some are wondering if certain former players tied to the scandal will be barred from campus or games — or if any victories or records will be vacated.

“I mean, the school, they’ve done so much already to avoid a harsh penalty by punishing themselves, so hopefully [it’s] not too bad,” said Miami Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon, one of the former UM players suspended for accepting improper benefits from Shapiro. “It’s kind of ridiculous in a way,” Vernon said of the case taking this long to be decided, “but I guess that’s how the NCAA operates. You’ve got to let it take its course.”

UM would have 15 days to submit in writing its intent to appeal any or all of the sanctions and/or the findings of violations, according to NCAA bylaws. If UM appeals, the process will drag on for several months.

So, for example, should the Hurricanes receive another postseason ban and decide to appeal it, they’d still be able to play in a bowl or league championship game after this season.

Miami’s football team is 6-0 and enjoying its finest season in several years. The Hurricanes, who play Wake Forest at noon Saturday at Sun Life Stadium, are ranked seventh in the Associated Press poll, sixth in the coaches’ poll and seventh in newly released Bowl Championship Series standings.

“We’re going to be able to move forward,” UM football coach Al Golden said Monday night at the Sandbar Sports Grill in Coconut Grove, site of WQAM’s Hurricane Hotline program. “That’s it. I don’t know any more than anybody out here does. We’ll find out tomorrow. My biggest priority right now is the young people on our team, their families and clearly getting ready for Wake Forest.’’

Hurricanes athletic director Blake James has talked publicly about the case numerous times. He said UM had hoped to receive the report by the Aug. 30 season opener but had cooperated fully and could only wait.

“We’re almost there,” James said last month on Hurricane Hotline. “I don’t think there’s a person who has a bit of orange and green in their blood that doesn’t want this process to be over. With that said, I think we’ve done an outstanding job as an institution and as a program in respecting the process, as frustrating as it is for everyone.

“The reality is we have to let it play out and go about our business. … The great thing is we’re getting close to the end.”

Golden has acknowledged that any “master plan” he might have had as Hurricanes coach “got torn up” in mid-August 2011, when the UM/Shapiro story broke.

“There is no plan for what transpired here,” the coach said. “We’ve been fighting since that moment. At the end of the day I’m concerning myself with the final product, not how we got from point A to point B. It’s been that kind of two years.”

DETAILS OF CASE

Miami’s two-day NCAA hearing took place June 13-14 in Indianapolis.

The NCAA probe began in March of 2011, NCAA president Mark Emmert acknowledged, and stemmed from now-imprisoned Ponzi-schemer Shapiro’s accusations of rampant violations and improper benefits documented in a Yahoo! Sports report in August 2011.

In August 2010, Shapiro hinted at what might unfold when he told the Miami Herald he had penned a first draft and was seeking a publisher for a “tell-all book” that would detail allegations of former Canes players committing major NCAA violations.

“I want to make the average fan aware of what really exists under that uniform,” Shapiro said of “no less” than 100 former players. “They might be great players, but they’re certainly not great people.”

Shapiro, serving a 20-year prison sentence for his $930 million Ponzi scheme, said he was angry because “once the players became pros, they turned their back on me. It made me feel like a used friend.”

Then came the Yahoo report in which Shapiro said that among the impermissible benefits he provided were cash, prostitutes, entertainment in his multimillion-dollar homes and yacht, paid trips to restaurants and nightclubs, jewelry, bounties for on-field play, and travel for athletes.

The NCAA began a 23-month investigation and delivered its Notice of Allegations (NOA) to UM on Feb. 19. Less than a month before that, however, the NCAA’s Emmert used the words “grossly inappropriate” and “shocking” to reveal that the NCAA improperly obtained information via the attorney of Shapiro — and paid her — during its investigation.

The circus got even crazier, and the NCAA not only fired its vice president for enforcement, but hired outside counsel to investigate the situation. Eventually, about 20 percent of the tainted evidence was thrown out.

Miami is a private school and was not required to disclose the NOA, but school President Donna Shalala responded with a long statement that night regarding the allegations.

“Many of the charges brought forth are based on the word of a man who made a fortune by lying,” Shalala wrote. “The NCAA enforcement staff acknowledged to [UM] that if Nevin Shapiro, a convicted con man, said something more than once, it considered the allegation ‘corroborated’ — an argument which is both ludicrous and counter to legal practice.”

Also in Shalala’s statement: “Most of the sensationalized media accounts of Shapiro’s claims are found nowhere in the [NOA]. … We deeply regret any violations, but we have suffered enough.”

The Hurricanes self-imposed their second bowl ban this past December, which automatically included a chance to play for what could have been their first ACC championship. The school also has noted that it cut football scholarships but has never detailed an amount.

On Aug. 30, former Canes great and current UM trustee Bernie Kosar told reporters in passing that Miami had self-imposed 10 scholarships, but UM swiftly responded by saying that was not true. The number, according to someone close to the program, is around five.

Heading into the 2011 season, the NCAA suspended eight UM football players for taking benefits from Shapiro. Two basketball players also were suspended. Only one — defensive end Dyron Dye — was still on the football roster as of the start of fall camp on Aug. 3. But on Aug. 19, UM dismissed Dye from the team.

“Given the totality of the circumstances and unresolved issues regarding the NCAA investigation,” the school wrote in a prepared statement regarding Dye, “the University has decided to move ahead.”

PLAYERS IMPLICATED

The Associated Press reported that the NCAA document charged the Hurricanes with a “lack of institutional control” — the allegation that programs typically dread — and claimed Shapiro provided $170,000 in impermissible benefits from 2002 to 2010. That included $90,000 spent to get former UM defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and cornerback Antrel Rolle to sign with Axcess Sports, an agency in which Shapiro had an ownership stake.

The AP also reported that the NOA mentioned 48 players had received VIP access and beverage service from Shapiro at Miami nightclubs; 38 were entertained at Shapiro’s home; 18 received invitations to bowling events; and seven dined with Shapiro at Benihana. Twenty of the charges were uncorroborated by anyone besides Shapiro, including an alleged $50,000 payment to Wilfork.

Individually, Louisville assistant football coach and former UM assistant Clint Hurtt faced allegations of receiving and providing impermissible benefits and the 10.1 rule of unethical conduct for providing false and misleading information during the investigation. Former UM basketball coach Frank Haith, now with Missouri, was charged with a failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance at UM. Former UM basketball assistants Jake Morton and Jorge Fernandez, as well as former receivers coach Aubrey Hill — now the head football coach at Miami Carol City High — also were alleged to have committed infractions. Hill, Hurtt and Fernandez are the only three that faced 10.1 infractions for unethical conduct, a source confirmed.

Earlier this season during a teleconference, Golden mentioned the NCAA situation without being prodded, an unusual occurrence. For him, the end can’t come soon enough.

“We’re trying to build something here,” the Canes coach said, “and it’s just step by step. The first step really for us is going to be to get closure on this NCAA deal.”

Miami Herald sportswriters Barry Jackson, Manny Navarro, Michelle Kaufman and Adam H. Beasley contributed to this report.

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