Ex-Miami coach Larry Coker 'distraught'
Former Miami Hurricanes coach Larry Coker expressed sadness and disappointment Friday regarding the scandal that has resulted in a full-scale NCAA investigation of the school's athletic department and talk of the appropriate use of the "death penalty."
"I'm almost more distraught, because I was there for 12 years," Coker said at UTSA's media day, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
And as NCAA president Mark Emmert said he's willing to use the harshest punishment available as a deterrent to rule-breaking, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly concurred.
Coker became the second college football coach in history and the first in half a century to win a national championship in a first season when Miami won the 2001 title.
A year later, convicted Ponzi scheme architect Nevin Shapiro arrived on the scene and began what he says included nine years of providing improper benefits to athletes at the school.
Coker served six years as a Hurricanes assistant before being promoted to head coach after Butch Davis left to take the same job with the Cleveland Browns.
Emmert said the death penalty, which prohibits a school from competing in a sport, should be used only in rare cases. And he was quick to distance his comments from the Miami case.
But Kelly said serious sanctions should result if an investigation finds that Miami was in breach of the alleged infractions.
"We're going to have to be more vigilant -- everybody," Kelly said after practice Friday. "Everybody says, 'Well, it's just the NCAA.' I think that's a cop-out. It's the NCAA, it's the institution, it's the coach, it's compliance, it's everybody. And the penalties have to be severe for those who don't choose to play by the rules."
Coker, whose new Texas-San Antonio team begins play next month in its inaugural season, has denied knowing Shapiro.
"(It's) not a distraction, because I haven't done anything," Coker said. "But the people there, the players ... it's very hurtful, it really is."
Shapiro has said he provided improper benefits to 72 Hurricanes football and basketball players from 2002 to 2010 and that a handful of coaches in both programs were aware. Yahoo! Sports first reported the allegations following an 11-month investigation in which it said it audited thousands of business and financial documents and spent more than 100 hours interviewing Shapiro.
The NCAA already has spent five months investigating Miami, and calls speculation about penalties for an ongoing case premature.
Coker, who was fired by Miami in 2006 and hadn't coached before his hire at UTSA, said earlier in the week that NCAA investigators haven't contacted him about the report.
What I can tell you is, there are a lot of good football coaches out there that believe recruiting the right kids -- kids that understand and recognize the value of getting an education first -- can alleviate some of those things.” -- Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly
"Compliance issues have always been of utmost importance to me throughout my career," Coker said in a statement Wednesday. "Since I have not been contacted by either the NCAA or Miami, it would be inappropriate for me to discuss any alleged rules violations at another university."
According to the Express-News, Coker said he has discussed the Miami situation with his UTSA players, telling them it "could not" be a distraction as they prepare for the Roadrunners' first season opener.
"I told the players ... 'I'm here, I want to be here. It's been five years since I was at Miami. I'm your coach, this is my team,' " Coker said. "That's what we're working for now."
Coker said the Miami situation can be used as a learning experience.
"I think we're a long way from something like that happening here at UTSA," Coker said. "But again, you learn from it. It's like I told the team, even before this went down, we make decisions that affect everybody."
Meanwhile, Miami coach Al Golden says he will release a depth chart in the coming days for the Hurricanes' season-opener at Maryland.
Golden expects to hear from Miami president Donna Shalala and athletic director Shawn Eichorst about how to move forward.
On Saturday, Golden said he has "no idea" if Shalala and Eichorst have made any decisions regarding player eligibility.
But the situation's impact is wide-ranging, spanning far beyond the potential repercussions to Miami's program, according to Kelly.
"It's obviously not good for college football," Kelly said. "There is no good spin. You can't put a good spin on it. What I can tell you is, there are a lot of good football coaches out there that believe recruiting the right kids -- kids that understand and recognize the value of getting an education first -- can alleviate some of those things.
"That's not to say the guys at Miami didn't want to go to school, but they had other things in mind, too. As a coach, as a program, you recruit guys that understand they're coming to a university to get a degree and the value of that degree and what it costs and playing football."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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