Report: Coaches, ‘millions of dollars’ part of Miami allegations

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Forget the Ohio State mess, the North Carolina debacle, or the USC imbroglio; that’s penny-ante stuff compared to what’s being alleged occurred between 2001 and 2009 in a program-shaking new piece published by the Yahoo! investigative pitbull Charles Robinson.

Following an 11-month investigation by Robinson, it’s being reported that former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro — you know, this guy — is alleging “he provided thousands of impermissible benefits to at least 72 athletes” during an eight-year-period beginning in 2001.  In the latest report, it’s claimed Shapiro spent what he estimated as “millions of dollars”, with the benefits ranging from “cash, prostitutes, entertainment in [Shapiro’s] multimillion-dollar homes and yacht, paid trips to high-end restaurants and nightclubs, jewelry, bounties for on-field play (including bounties for injuring opposing players), travel and on one occasion, an abortion.”

Unbelievably, those aren’t even the most damning accusations uncovered by Robinson through 100 hours of jailhouse interviews with Shapiro, a convicted felon.  Shapiro alleges that at least three football coaches — Clint Hurtt, Jeff Stoutland and Aubrey Hill — as well as three members of the football support staff had direct knowledge or participated in the violating of NCAA rules. Additionally, Yahoo! is reporting independent of Shapiro that former football assistant Joe Pannunzio was also involved; Shapiro refused to discuss his relationship with Pannunzio.

It should be noted that none of the coaches mentioned in the article are on first-year head coach Al Golden‘s staff; Stoutland and Pannunzio are part of Nick Saban‘s program at Alabama, Hill is a member of Will Muschamp‘s new Florida staff and Hurtt’s at Louisville on former UF defensive coordinator Charlie Strong‘s Cardinals staff.

Among the allegations Shapiro makes involving former members of the coaching staff  includes:

  • Hurtt, Hill, Stoutland and Pannunzio delivered football recruits to Shapiro’s multi-million dollar home, allowing the booster to make recruiting pitches to the prospective players.
  • Shapiro stated that he took high school recruits on his yacht as well as to strip clubs at the behest of the coaches, paying for services rendered at the latter establishment.
  • Coaches took part in strip club visits with Shapiro and Hurricane football players.

In addition to the allegations involving coaches playing active roles in major violations, Shapiro was also the co-owner of Axcess Sports & Entertainment, a sports representation agency.  Shapiro claims the agency — Shapiro’s partner was Michael Huyghue, currently the commissioner of the UFL — funneled money to former Miami players Vince Wilfork and Jon Beason, as well as dozens of other unnamed players.  Wilfork, Shapiro claimed, was paid a lump sum of $50,000 while he was a Miami player as an inducement to sign with Axcess; Wilfork ultimately signed with the agency before becoming a first-round pick in the NFL draft.

Just as damaging as the above claims are to the program is the fact that Shapiro alleges a dozen unnamed, current members of the football roster were the alleged beneficiaries of Shapiro’s financial benevolence, which ended in April of 2009 after he was arrested for defrauding dozens of individuals out of over $80 million in a Ponzi scheme.  Shapiro claims he was just grabbing the financial assistance baton from Luther Campbell, the rapper who was a big-time booster of the university before the school distanced themselves from him.

“Here’s the thing: Luther Campbell was the first uncle who took care of players before I got going,” Shapiro told Yahoo!. “His role was diminished by the NCAA and the school, and someone needed to pick up that mantle. That someone was me. He was ‘Uncle Luke’, and I became ‘Little Luke.’

“I became a booster in late 2001, and by early 2002, I was giving kids gifts. From the start, I wasn’t really challenged. And once I got going, it just got bigger and bigger. I just did what I wanted and didn’t pay much mind toward the potential repercussions.”

Shapiro was also asked why he did what he did, when he knew what he was doing could potentially place a football program he claimed to love dearly squarely in the NCAA crosshairs and in line for what could be significant sanctions.

“I did it because I could,” he said. “And because nobody stepped in to stop me.”

Among the things Shapiro claimed he did because he could included:

  • Putting up bounties of $5,000 for any Hurricane who could knock players like former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow out of games.
  • 39 Hurricane football players were on the receiving end of prostitutes paid for by Shapiro.  Shapiro initially set the players up in hotel rooms before moving the “encounters” to his yacht.
  • Provided plane tickets, jewelry, electronics and clothing to myriad players.
  • Allow players to take his $1.6 million yacht out on fishing trips and other excursions.  The boat was fully stocked with food and alcohol for the players.  Shapiro claimed it cost $2,000 to fill the boat up with fuel for the trips.
  • Paid for a stripper to have an abortion after she claimed an unnamed player had gotten her pregnant during an encounter.

There are myriad other claims, accusations and allegations made by Shapiro, but they are too lengthy to mention.  Thus, we’d strongly, strongly urge you to click HERE to read the entire expose because it is truly riveting stuff that would likely make SMU of the eighties blush.

Robinson utilized a laundry list of sources and financial documentation — some of which Shapiro has already turned over to the NCAA — to corroborate Shapiro’s claims, which the Yahoo! reporter laid out in great detail.

In an effort to substantiate the booster’s claims, Yahoo! Sports audited approximately 20,000 pages of financial and business records from his bankruptcy case, more than 5,000 pages of cell phone records, multiple interview summaries tied to his federal Ponzi case, and more than 1,000 photos. Nearly 100 interviews were also conducted with individuals living in six different states. In the process, documents, photos and 21 human sources – including nine former Miami players or recruits, and one former coach – corroborated multiple parts of Shapiro’s rule-breaking.

NCAA investigators have been in Miami since Monday digging for answers to questions Shapiro’s claims have raised.  It’s unclear how long The Association will remain on campus.

In light of Robinson’s report and Shapiro’s accusations, it could be a substantial period of time.

UPDATED 8:21 p.m. ET: the 12 current players who Shapiro claims received impermissible benefits have indeed been named.  The names appear below; click on the name to go to the Yahoo! player page, which lays out the specific allegations made by Shapiro regarding that specific player.

Safety Ray-Ray Armstrong
Wide receiver Travis Benjamin
Defensive end Dyron Dye
Defensive tackle Marcus Forston
Quarterback Jacory Harris
Wide receiver Aldarius Johnson
Safety JoJo Nicolas
Defensive end Adewale Ojomo
Defensive end Marcus Robinson
Linebacker Sean Spence
Safety Vaughn Telemaque
Defensive end Olivier Vernon

Eight of those 12 players are listed as either starters or co-starters on the most recent depth chart.  It’s unclear what impact this report and the investigations being conducted by the NCAA and the school will have on their eligibility for the beginning of the 2011 season an beyond.

Georgia loses second player to transfer in as many days

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On the same day they picked up a significant graduate transfer, Georgia has seen another player leave Kirby Smart‘s football program.

As all of the cool transfers are doing these days, Jaleel Laguins took to his personal Twitter account to confirm that, “[a]fter careful consideration with coaches and family, I’d like to announce that I will be transferring from The University of Georgia.” “Athens will always be a special place for me, but now it’s time to start a new journey,” the linebacker added.

A four-star member of the Bulldogs’ 2016 recruiting class, Laguins was rated as the No. 10 inside linebacker in the country and the No. 21 player at any position in the state of Georgia. He was the top-rated linebacker in UGA’s class that year, and only three signees on the defensive side of the ball — defensive tackles Julian Rochester and Michail Carter, and defensive end Chauncey Manac — were rated higher.

As a true freshman, Laguins played in six games. He took a redshirt for this past season, and would have to sit out the 2018 season if he moved on to another FBS program.

Laguins was the second Georgia player to transfer this week. Tuesday, Pat Allen, a four-star 2015 offensive lineman, announced on his private Twitter account that he too was moving on from the Bulldogs. Allen began the 2017 season as UGA’s starting left guard but lost it heading into Week 2 and never regained it.

UNC and Minnesota line up future home-and-home deal

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While one football series between an ACC and Big Ten team may be hard to come by, North Carolina and Minnesota have put together a future home-and-home scheduling agreement to look forward to. The Tar Heels and Gophers will meet for the first time on the football field in 2023 and follow up with a second game in 2024, the schools announced on Wednesday.

North Carolina will host Minnesota on Sept. 16, 2023. The two schools will then open the 2024 season at Minnesota, either on August 31, 2024 or for a Thursday opener on August 29, 2024.

The ACC and Big Ten each require their members to play one game against another power conference opponent each season. North Carolina already satisfied that requirement in 2024 with a season-opener against South Carolina scheduled to be played in Charlotte, NC, but the 2024 game fulfills the power conference scheduling requirement for the Tar Heels. The home-and-home series will also satisfy Minnesota’s obligation to the Big Ten scheduling policy for both seasons (Minnesota is getting an exemption for 2018 and 2019 due to previous scheduling arrangements being in place prior to the Big Ten’s stance on strength of schedule in non-conference play.

Pitt leaves renewal of football series in Penn State’s hands

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Ever since the in-state rivalry between Penn State and Pitt came to a temporary end in 2001, it has been a struggle to get the two schools back on the field for any stretch of time. With the third in a four-game series upcoming this fall, Pitt is hoping to find a way to continue playing the Nittany Lions on future schedules, but the offer is now apparently in Penn State’s hands awaiting a response.

Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke told reporters Wednesday she has proposed a four-year series beginning in 2026 to her Penn State counterpart, Sandy Barbour, but Penn State has not responded to the offer.

“We’re going to wait a tad more patiently, but not much,” Lyke said, according to Trib Live. “We can’t. We have people who want to play us and good opportunities to play what would be a very attractive game.”

The four-game series currently ongoing between the Panthers and Nittany Lions comes to a close after their meeting in the 2019 season in Happy Valley. According to FBSchedules.com, Penn State will not have another opening for a non-conference game until 2021. That is also the first season Pitt will have scheduling availability for non-conference matchups. Both schools already have power conference opponents lined up through 2025 as well, perhaps eliminating the desire to add another power conference opponent to the schedule.

Both Penn State and Pitt have scheduling requirements for non-conference play from the Big Ten and ACC, respectively, to include at least one game against another power conference opponent. It seems like a natural solution for Penn State and Pitt to agree to a long-term scheduling commitment to satisfy their respective conferences’ scheduling requirements, but the old issue has always come down to the financial incentive of a game. With Penn State playing in a larger stadium, it would be losing out on potential revenue that could be gained by an extra home game when possible. And playing road games at Pittsburgh only helps another program in the state by filling the seats more than any other home game on Pitt’s schedules in just about any season (Notre Dame and West Virginia would be other candidates to help Pitt fill Heinz Field).

It took so long just to get the two schools together for a two-year series, which was later expanded to a four-year arrangement. Don’t count on this in-state rivalry being renewed for quite some time after the 2019 season.

QB Blake Barnett reportedly transferring from Arizona State

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Quarterback Blake Barnett is now on the graduate transfer market. According to Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated, via Twitter, Barnett will find a new program to wrap up his college football career as a graduate transfer. South Florida is reportedly set to get an official visit from the former Sun Devils and Alabama quarterback.

Barnett started his football career at Alabama, where he sat out the 2015 season as a freshman. During his redshirt freshman in 2016, Barnett appeared in just three games as Jalen Hurts rose to become Alabama’s starting quarterback that would lead the Tide for the next two seasons (until halftime of last season’s national championship game). Barnett transferred to Arizona State, leaving behind a seemingly tumultuous relationship with Nick Saban, and played in just two games for the Sun Devils last fall, while Manny Wilkins established himself as the quarterback for former head coach Todd Graham.

A former four-star recruit out of high school, Barnett has played in just five games and completed 14 of 24 pass attempts for 259 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Barnett’s latest transfer news comes a day after former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen took a swipe at Barnett, who was ranked ahead of Rosen in various recruiting rankings out of high school.

“Blake Barnett was the Elite 11 MVP,” Rosen said, per SEC Country. “He was the dude that was going to go to ‘Bama, win a couple championships, call it quits and go to the league as the first overall pick. You don’t really hear about him too much.”

As a graduate transfer, Barnett will be eligible to play immediately this fall.