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Wednesday, August 17, 2011
No suspensions at Miami yet

By Heather Dinich
ESPN.com

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- No Miami players were suspended for Wednesday morning's practice on the heels of allegations by a former booster that could implicate dozens of current and former players in various NCAA violations, coach Al Golden said.

"Until we hear of an infraction or that we did break a rule, everybody is practicing," Golden told a small group of reporters before the practice session. "If it is determined that somebody broke rules, then certainly that will be first dealt with from a university standpoint, from an eligibility standpoint."

Golden said he has thought about future suspensions, but said he doesn't know all of the facts and did not read the inflammatory Yahoo! Sports story released Tuesday.

Nevin Shapiro, a former Miami booster who is serving a 20-year prison sentence for masterminding a $930 million Ponzi scheme, told Yahoo! Sports he provided impermissible benefits to 72 of the university's athletes between 2002 and 2010.

Shapiro said he gave money, cars, yacht trips, jewelry, televisions and other gifts to numerous players, including several starters on Miami's current roster. Shapiro also claimed he paid for nightclub outings, sex parties, restaurant meals and in one case, an abortion for a woman impregnated by a player.

Current Miami players named by Shapiro as receiving benefits included quarterback Jacory Harris, Ray Ray Armstrong, Travis Benjamin, Sean Spence, Marcus Forston, Vaughn Telemaque, Dyron Dye, Aldarius Johnson and Olivier Vernon. Former Hurricanes quarterback Robert Marve, now at Purdue, also was named by Shapiro, Yahoo! Sports said.

Former Hurricanes players allegedly to have received gifts from Shapiro who are now in the NFL or have played in the league include Devin Hester, Vince Wilfork, Jon Beason, Antrel Rolle, Sean Taylor.

NCAA president Mark Emmert said Wednesday in an interview with ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike in the Morning" that Miami has been under investigation for at least five months.

"We were well aware of it and weren't surprised by the sensational media coverage. We've been on top of it for a while, gathering information and collecting data," he said.

Emmert released a statement about the investigation later Wednesday.

"If the assertions are true, the alleged conduct at the University of Miami is an illustration of the need for serious and fundamental change in many critical aspects of college sports," Emmert said in the statement. "...The serious threats to the integrity of college sports are one of the key reasons why I called together more than 50 presidents and chancellors last week to drive substantive changes to Division I intercollegiate athletics."

Emmert told ESPN Radio earlier Wednesday that he couldn't comment on the specifics of the case but he did say that typical investigations take six to seven months.

Former Hurricanes star quarterback Jim Kelly also was a guest on "Mike and Mike in the Morning" and was audibly disappointed by details of the Yahoo! Sports report, calling the allegations "shocking and heartbreaking news."

"This one, it hurt, because this is my alma mater, this is my school," Kelly said. "To see the allegations and having this guy come out and put names behind all of it and saying up to 72 players, to me that's shocking. I don't know what else to say."

Kelly said he understands that many college football players come from disadvantaged economic backgrounds and find the temptations difficult to ignore. "Back in the day if someone came up to me and offered me a thousand dollars and I might've taken it, because I came from a situation where we had no money. I'd never seen a $100 bill," he explained.

But at the same time, Kelly says the players must share the blame for taking gifts they know are against the rules and putting the program in danger.

"When you start talking about some of the things that he was offering these guys and they were accepting them, they've gotta know that this is not right. That sooner or later you have that many players involved in this, that somebody's gonna find out, you're gonna get caught and you're gonna take 'The U' down with you," Kelly said. "You have to have some belief in your own heart and mind that this is not right."

Larry Coker, the Hurricanes' coach from 2001 to 2006, hasn't been contacted by the NCAA amid the allegations, a spokesman for Texas-San Antonio, the school he currently coaches for, said Wednesday.

Also, Bernard Thomas, a former Nebraska football player alleged to have accepted extra benefits from Shapiro, admitted that he had been on Shapiro's yacht, but not while he was in college.

Thomas told The Associated Press he was on Shapiro's yacht with two former Hurricanes players, Kellen Winslow Jr. and D.J. Williams, in 2005 when they had finished college.

"We all had money ourselves," Thomas said. "We didn't need anything from him."

Former Hurricanes in the NFL were reluctant to discuss the case. Hester, when approached at a Chicago Bears practice, said: "If this is about the Miami thing, I ain't got nothing."

Tennessee Titans rookie Colin McCarthy, who played at Miami, wore an orange Hurricanes T-shirt when reporters talked to him after practice Tuesday night. He responded "no comment" to four questions.

Shapiro dubbed himself "Little Luke" in reference to Luther Campbell -- aka Luke Skyywalker, the rapper who was a constant presence on the Hurricanes' sideline during their 1980s glory days.

Campbell took exception to any comparisons.

"Nevin Shapiro wishes he could wear my shorts for one day," Campbell wrote in a blog post. "That punk could never be me. First of all, I have never been a UM booster. I have never given a dime to the school. I have and always will support the players and the program out of civic pride, but I never violated any NCAA rules when I was the team's biggest fan in the 1980s."

Golden, who was hired from Temple in December, said he was unaware of any past transgressions at Miami, but said he did not feel blindsided by the recent rapid release of accusations.

"We'll get through this," he said Wednesday. "I feel like Temple prepared me for this opportunity. We had so many issues when we first got there and some of them were carryovers from the previous regime and we stood in there and fixed it, and we fixed it with the lowest APR in the country and we had players suspended for violations from things that happened before I got there. We had 54 scholarship athletes my first year and we came through it. I think that has prepared me for this. You can sit there and feel sorry for yourself and say you got blindsided, but at the end of the day, we have a chance to be a really good football team and we have a chance to be a great program moving forward.

"Nobody wants this to move along more quickly than I do," he said. "The only way to do that is to fully cooperate. My role in this right now is to make sure the student-athletes are honest with the NCAA and university officials, but other than that I have no contact with the NCAA and I have no contact with any of the players in any of the particular issues they're talking about."

As Golden talked, his players walked onto the practice field behind him for their first session since the story broke. Golden said he has not addressed the matter with his players because he's not allowed to, per NCAA rules. Players and assistant coaches were not available for comment.

A team manager was in a parking lot adjacent to the practice field by 7 a.m. ET, assigned to keep members of the media away from the players as they walked into the football building's side entrance.

Golden said he didn't know how his players were going to react.

"We've talked about being a mentally tough team and being a unified team," Golden said. "This is going to test that. ... I really don't know what their attitude is going to be and how they're going to approach practice here. I hope there's good leadership in that locker room."

We've talked about being a mentally tough team and being a unified team. This is going to test that.

-- Miami coach Al Golden

Miami opens the season with a road trip to Maryland on Labor Day. Golden said he has not adjusted his practice plan yet, despite the fact there could be suspensions that alter his game plan.

"When we start getting into preparation for Maryland -- this is very basic preparation right now, we're just trying to improve our team -- but as we get ready for Maryland we'll hopefully and swiftly learn if there were errors that were made," Golden said. "I don't know. I don't know what's in the article. I don't know what the allegations are. All I go by is what the university, legal counsel tells me, and what the NCAA tells me. So if there are guys that are going to have to sit out games, then we'll adjust our practice accordingly."

Golden said that university officials should have informed him of the NCAA investigation or possible violations before he took the job if they had any knowledge of them.

"Only if they knew," he said. "If they knew this was percolating, I believe they did have a responsibility to tell me. But look, I'm happy here. My wife is happy here. We've got great kids on this team. We have commitments from 24 young men and their families that appreciate and share our core values moving forward."

Despite his eagerness to move forward, Golden did concede it has been a difficult few days.

"I'm not going to say it's not difficult," he said. "I'm standing here in front of you because I want to make sure we get it right. As quickly as we can get to the bottom of whatever happened, then we can move forward. I wasn't here when it happened. For me and my staff and the student-athletes, we're trying to get to the bottom of it so we can move forward. One way to do that is to cooperate with the NCAA and get the truth."

Heather Dinich covers ACC football for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.