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’s Latavious Brini arrested on felony forgery charge

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For the third time since winning the SEC championship nearly two weeks ago, a member of the Georgia football program has found himself on the wrong side of the law.

The Macon Telegraph and Rivals.com are both reporting Tuesday night that Latavious Brini has been arrested on a first-degree felony charge of forgery.  Brini was arrested shortly after six local time earlier today and released from the Athens-Clarke County (Ga.) Jail a couple of hours later after posting a $5,700 bond.

No details of what led to the arrest and charge have been released.

Brini was a three-star member of UGA’s 2017 recruiting class.  The linebacker hasn’t played a down for the Bulldogs as a true freshman.

Earlier this month, Natrez Patrick and Jayson Stanley were arrested on marijuana-related charges.

Phil Bennett leaves Arizona State staff

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The plan for success at Arizona State under AD Ray Anderson was to remove head coach Todd Graham and while keeping everything else the same — just with a head coach that was… better. And as we know, that head coach turned out to be Herm Edwards.

But not a week into his tenure, Edwards has already hit his first crossroads.

The Sun Devils announced Tuesday that defensive coordinator Phil Bennett has left the staff over family matters.

The statement from Edwards:

“While I would have liked for Defensive Coordinator Phil Bennett to remain on the coaching staff, I do appreciate the fact that he has chosen not to stay based upon family reasons,” said Edwards. “Family always comes first and right now he needs to turn his attention to that.  My top priorities right now going forward are to solidify our recruiting class and to assemble a defensive coaching staff.  Both objectives are moving along quite well.”

The question now will be who Edwards turns to as Bennett’s replacement. As we know, the new Devils coach has not coached in a decade and not coached in college in nearly three.

So this hire will be anyone’s guess.

Report: Bill Snyder to return to Kansas State in 2018

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Retirement rumors will persist about Bill Snyder until he inevitably retires, especially at this time of year. But a report from K-StateOnline on Tuesday will push those rumors back another year.

According to the site, the Wizard will return to the Kansas State sideline in 2018:

Four separate sources have now confirmed to K-StateOnline.com that Bill Snyder plans to return to coach Kansas State in 2018.

Multiple sources also said that the mood within the Vanier Football Complex and K-State program is “good” heading into bowl season – despite speculation to the contrary.

Snyder took a leave of absence in the offseason to battle throat cancer, but he returned in time for fall camp and has not missed any games this season. A report also emerged last month that former AD John Currie attempted to bring Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt aboard as a head coach-in-waiting, but the school rebutted that by stating Snyder will be the Wildcats’ head coach until he decides he’s not.

Snyder has made no secret he’d like his son, Sean Snyder, to one day succeed him, but a number of logical candidates exist in Leavitt, Brent Venables and new UTEP head coach Dana Dimel.

Now in the ninth year of his second stint as K-State head coach, Snyder owns a record of 209-110-1 with the Wildcats. He has guided the program to two Big 12 championships and six top-10 finishes, though none since 2002.

Kansas State entered this season ranked No. 18 in the AP poll but finished the regular portion at 7-5. The Wildcats will meet UCLA in the Cactus Bowl on Dec. 26 (9 p.m. ET, ESPN).

 

Finalists named for inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year

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Jason Witten was named the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2012, and now his foundation is attempting to start a similar honor for college football. While the William V. Campbell Trophy goes to the nation’s best scholar-athlete and the Wuerffel Trophy honors the nation’s best community servant, no other college award attempts to recognize what the Witten Man of the Year recognizes.

And what is that, you ask?

Reads the boiler plate from the Jason Witten SCORE Foundation:

Presented annually to the Division I college football player who has demonstrated a record of leadership by exhibiting exceptional courage, integrity and sportsmanship both on and off the field. The award honors the type of exemplary character and commitment to community, family and teammates demonstrated by Jason Witten, the 2012 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year and one of the most prominent role models in the game.

Nominees are gathered from the Sports Information Directors of each NCAA Division I football-playing institution. Three finalists are selected by the award’s board of directors, and the winner is selected by a panel of prominent former players and coaches, as well as members of the college football media.

The finalists were announced Tuesday, and they are:

  • Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick
  • UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin
  • Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph

“I am very excited to announce these three exceptional young men as the finalists for the inaugural Collegiate Man of the Year,” the former Tennessee tight end said in a statement. “Minkah Fitzpatrick, Shaquem Griffin and Mason Rudolph are outstanding leaders on the field, in the classroom and in the community, and they embody what the sport of college football is all about. It was a nearly impossible task to choose just three from all of the great student-athletes nominated. There are so many outstanding leaders who are great representatives for college football, and I commend all of the nominees for the tremendous example they set on and off the field.”

These types of awards seem to be just as much about honoring the namesake as they do the winner, but I doubt either of the three finalists would turn down the award if chosen.

The winner will beget a $10,000 contribution in his name to his school’s scholarship fund, and will be chosen on Feb. 22.