The University of Miami has been investigating at least four football players to determine if they violated NCAA rules when they struck deals with a local car agency to use luxury vehicles, multiple sources told The Miami Herald on Friday.
One of those players, linebacker Juwon Young, was suspended indefinitely from the football team on Friday for violation of department rules and his status for the 2016 season is very much in doubt.
One of the others players being investigated by UM, defensive end Al Quadin Muhammad, has not been cleared by the compliance department, according to a school source.
UM also is still investigating at least two other football players in this matter, but their identities were not confirmed.
Two officials inside UM’s football program expressed optimism that Muhammad and those unidentified players would be cleared to play next season, but another UM official said that could not be said with any degree of certainty yet because the matter is still being investigated.
But it is known that quarterback Brad Kaaya is not among the players under investigation.
Though there is no ongoing NCAA investigation into this matter or anything involving UM athletics, the UM internal investigation comes months before the conclusion of UM’s three-year NCAA probation as a result of student athletes receiving illegal benefits from imprisoned former booster Nevin Shapiro.
That probation, which included the loss of nine football scholarships and other penalties, is scheduled to end in October.
According to a school source, UM is not concerned about its probation being extended, or new discipline from the NCAA, even if the players are found to have committed NCAA violations.
If UM determines that violations occurred, the university will inform the NCAA and tell the NCAA what it would do to discipline the athletes. That punishment would then be administered if it meets with the NCAA’s approval.
Young, who was expected to get playing time this season, was suspended partly because he was not honest with UM officials when questioned about the use of the luxury car, according to a source. It was unclear whether Young paid for the vehicle or intends to.
Multiple people inside the UM football program do not expect Young to be on the team this season. One source cautioned that he's in limbo and it's still possible he could return.
Another source said a former girlfriend of Young’s informed UM about Young’s involvement.
After appearing in four games as a freshman in 2014, Young had 57 tackles, including three for loss, one interception and one forced fumble in 10 games last season.
He was expected to get playing time this season, potentially behind freshman revelation Shaquille Quarterman at middle linebacker or behind Darrion Owens and Mike Pinckney at weak-side linebacker.
Muhammad has not been cleared, but he remains on the team, according to a source with direct knowledge.
Muhammad is expected to start at defensive end if he's cleared. He had 54 tackles and five sacks last season and is UM's best pass rusher, a key cog in defensive coordinator Manny Diaz’s attacking defense.
Muhammad, who considered turning pro after last season, missed all of the 2014 season because of a one-year suspension for punching another student in the face in the Sun Life Stadium parking after the spring game. That penalty was doled out by the university, not the athletic program. He was suspended for the 2015 opener because of an undisclosed violation of team rules.
No current UM basketball players are being investigated in the luxury car matter, according to two school officials.
At the conclusion of spring practice, coach Mark Richt warned his players not to do anything they would regret and not to associate with “fools.”
But since that time, running back Mark Walton was arrested on a DUI charge and suspended. The school has not announced his reinstatement or whether he will be suspended for a game or more, but he is thoroughly immersed in team activities.
Miami Herald sportswriter Susan Miller Degnan contributed to this report.