Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Miami benches Ray-Ray Armstrong
Miami safety Ray-Ray Armstrong will not play Saturday against Florida State, and school officials are checking to see if he broke NCAA rules by having dinner with someone who owns a public relations firm that works with professional athletes.
Armstrong has not practiced this week because of what Miami described as a violation of team rules. He served a four-game suspension to start the season after a separate investigation determined he broke NCAA rules by accepting gifts from a former Miami booster, and was also ordered to repay $788.
This latest situation stems from a dinner he had Sunday night -- and what was said on Twitter after the meal.
ESPN.com's Heather Dinich and Andrea Adelson write about all things ACC in the conference blog.
Armstrong dined at a Miami Beach restaurant with Arielle Washington, who owns a firm called Double Coverage PR and lists clients including Darius Butler of the Carolina Panthers. After dinner, Armstrong and Washington posted some details about the meal on their respective Twitter accounts.
The posts have since been deleted, but not before they raised questions about the circumstances surrounding the meal. Washington met with Miami compliance officials Tuesday, and that investigation is apparently ongoing.
"Saying she's surprised would be understating -- a major understating what her feelings are right now," Herb Washington, the woman's father, told The Associated Press. "She feels betrayed. She feels hurt. She hasn't done anything and wouldn't do anything to put Ray, his family, his eligibility (in jeopardy). And she sure as hell isn't a runner for some agent."
Herb Washington did not reveal specifics of his daughter's relationship with Armstrong, other than saying they first met during a chance encounter on a beach when she was on a break from school.
The 22-year-old Arielle Washington has not commented publicly about her relationship with Armstrong. On the company website, she describes her firm as "boutique" specializing in "event planning, crisis communications & management, public affairs, charity/foundation ventures, public appearances and media relations."
Armstrong's family has hosted events for children in his hometown of Sanford, Fla., in each of the last two summers. Washington was not listed as someone involved in the organization or planning of either of those events.
If Miami believes Armstrong accepted an extra benefit, he could be declared ineligible by the university. A person familiar with the status of the investigation told The AP on Wednesday night that no determination has been made by either coach Al Golden or the university about Armstrong's status for Miami's final two regular-season games against South Florida and Boston College.
Armstrong was considered by some experts as a likely early-entry candidate for the 2012 NFL draft. He has been listed as Miami's backup strong safety since returning from the four-game suspension. He ranks fifth on the team with five tackles per game, and he made one of the Hurricanes' five interceptions so far this season.
It's the latest issue for the Hurricanes to deal with this season, starting with the news in August that 13 players -- including Armstrong -- had been linked to former booster Nevin Shapiro, a convicted Ponzi scheme architect who is now serving a 20-year prison sentence. Of those 13, eight players were suspended for at least one game, four others had to make restitution in amounts of less than $100, and another was exonerated completely.
Miami has also endured a number of injuries to key players and suspended another for one game after he punched a North Carolina player in the groin last month. The ongoing investigation into the Shapiro matter may not be resolved for several months, and athletic director Shawn Eichorst would not commit when asked last week if Miami would go to a bowl game if it qualifies -- raising the possibility that the Hurricanes may self-impose a postseason ban ahead of any NCAA sanctions that eventually will come down.
"I think that all universities today, especially high-profile programs, are under scrutiny," Herb Washington said. "Certainly Miami is, given the violations that they most recently had. Therefore I think that the university is looking at everything with a very, very close eye. And I think that that's prudent on their part. But at the same time, let's make sure the playing field is level. ... Folks don't have the facts here and people tend to react."