Nuclear Explosion

Is a Miami death penalty the NCAA’s only option?

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Roughly 16 years after SMU was hit with the infamous “death penalty” that crippled their football program for nearly a quarter of a century, then-Florida president John Lombardi said that the NCAA would do anything it could going forward to avoid sentencing another school to a similar fate.

“SMU taught the committee that the death penalty is too much like the nuclear bomb,” Lombardi said in 2002. “It’s like what happened after we dropped the [atomic] bomb in World War II. The results were so catastrophic that now we’ll do anything to avoid dropping another one.”

A decade later, thanks to an explosive exposé by Yahoo! sports, the nuclear option appears to be back on the table, and it could force the NCAA to play the football version of Harry Truman once again.

The level of malfeasance alleged in the investigative piece by convicted felon Nevin Shapiro is truly staggering and is only rivaled in recent times by the infamous SMU scandal, when the Mustangs were Pony Express’d back to the football dark ages in the mid-eighties.  Shapiro, who once had a players lounge named in his honor at the Coral Gables school, alleges he gave impermissible benefits that by his estimation totaled in the millions and millions of dollars to more than five dozen Hurricane football players — including a dozen current ones — over an eight-year period beginning in 2001.

Cash, prostitutes, jewelry, clothing, electronics, yachts, mansions, strip club junkets and, in one instance, an abortion.  You name it, Shapiro alleges he provided it for many, many a Hurricane player.

Perhaps most damning is the Yahoo! report claims four former football assistants as well as three football support staff members had direct knowledge of or participated in the violating of multiple NCAA rules, including sending high school recruits to Shapiro’s multi-million dollar mansion or accompanying Shapiro and recruits to strip clubs.  Shapiro’s physical confrontation with UM’s head of compliance in the press box of a 2007 game wrought a background check by the university, which revealed he was the co-owner of a sports representation agency.  Still, the university did nothing.

Juxtapose those Miami allegations against the SMU case two-and-a-half-decades ago and, more recently, USC.

Already banned from bowl games in 1985 and 1986 as well as any television appearances for the latter year due to recruiting violations committed by boosters and at least one assistant, SMU was found in 1986 by the NCAA to have created a slush fund — which paid football players upwards of $700 a month — that was controlled by a booster and sanctioned by officials from the athletic department all the way through the school’s Board of Governors.  For that, the NCAA canceled the Mustangs 1987 season — the school canceled the 1988 season as well due to lack of players — banned the school from bowl games and television appearances through the 1989 season, as well as stripping them of nearly 60 football scholarships over a four-year period.

At first blush, the situation in Miami appears to be the work of a lone rogue booster who inexplicably flew underneath the school’s radar — allegedly — for eight years.  SMU’s case was an organized, systematic pay-for-play scandal involving multiple layers of individuals both inside the athletic department and out, even bleeding into the political arena.

Is that enough of a difference to keep the NCAA from pressing the nuclear button and leveling The U football program?

If it’s looked at through a prism of blacks and whites, the allegations leveled against Miami are the worst to hit major college football since SMU in the mid-eighties and would appear to deserve something that approaches the same level of sanctions.  As the NCAA has shown since slapping near-historic sanctions on USC, though, the NCAA seems to work with varying shades of gray that only they can see.  And comprehend.

To illustrate that very point, the Trojans were stripped of 30 scholarships over a three-year period and banned from appearing in bowl games for two after the NCAA found one player — Reggie Bush — and/or his family had received in the neighborhood of $300,000 from two would-be sports marketers/felons while he was a running back at the school.  One USC assistant — not four as alleged in the Yahoo! Miami piece, or multiple members of the institution as found in the SMU case — and one two-minute phone conversation led to the sanctions that have set the Trojans football program back at least a couple of years if not more.

After handing the Trojans some of the stiffest sanctions since SMU was obliterated from the football map, Paul Dee, chair of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, said the following when it comes to a school’s responsibility for dealing with outside influences on student-athletes:

“The real issue here is if you have high‑profile players, your enforcement staff has to monitor those students at a higher level. It’s extraordinarily important that the people that are likely to be receiving these kinds of interactions from people outside the institution are also those same people who are going to provide a reward somewhere down the road. So high‑profile players demand high‑profile compliance.”

Dee was the athletic director at the University of Miami during the time Shapiro was allegedly lavishing his student-athletes with gifts, cash and services.

Regardless of whether it’s too much like the nuclear bomb, and the catastrophic results Lombardi referred to be damned, the NCAA needs to drop another one on the Miami football program if they have any real desire to truly change the culture as they’ve openly professed in recent months.  What would that entail when it comes to the ‘Canes?  Miami’s situation — if the allegations are proven, it should be noted — would seem to fall somewhere between SMU and USC, but leaning decidedly toward the former side in terms of severity.

Leaning enough to warrant sanctions similar to what SMU received?  Certainly this trumps Bush’s financial masterpiece, setting the bar for sanctions to come in somewhere well above what USC received.  If that involves something close to the death penalty, so be it; at some point, there have to be significant repercussions for programs that don’t demand high-profile compliance for high-profile players.

One way or the other, though, the NCAA needs to take their hands out from under their backsides and show that what they’re spewing publicly aren’t merely words lacking any kind of meaningful action behind them.  One SMU is too many.  Two of them calls for a significant change to the structure of collegiate athletics.

And a sweeping change to the hypocrisy that Dee’s involvement on both sides fully displays.

VIDEO: Body cam footage shows Iowa football player’s encounter with police

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Christian McCaffrey #5 of the Stanford Cardinal runs past Faith Ekakitie #56 and Cole Fisher #36 of the Iowa Hawkeyes in the 102nd Rose Bowl Game on January 1, 2016 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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The story of an Iowa football player, Pokemon Go and Iowa City police now has some visuals to go along with the oral narrative.

Over the weekend, officers in that police department were searching for a suspect in a bank robbery. Hawkeyes defensive lineman Faith Ekakitie (pictured, No. 56) just happened to be in a park in that area and seemingly matched the description of the suspect — black man in black clothing wearing something on his head — prompting the officers to approach the lineman. When Ekakitie failed to respond to the officers’ commands, because he was wearing headphones, weapons were drawn.

According to Ekakitie in his Facebook accounting of the incident, he had “four gun barrels staring me in the face” at that point.

Because of the national attention the incident has received, the ICPD on Tuesday released two body cam videos that shows exactly how the encounter between their officers and Ekakitie went down.

“I think it’s critical we get the information out so people can actually see the events as they actually occurred in real time,” says ICPD Sgt. Scott Gaarde in regards to releasing the videos.

In his social media missive, Ekakitie thanked the police officers involved for how they handled the situation.

“I would like to thank the Iowa City Police department for handling a situation very professionally,” the lineman wrote. “I would also urge people to be more aware of their surroundings because clearly I wasn’t.

“Lastly, I would urge us all to unlearn some of the prejudices that we have learned about each other and now plague our minds and our society.  I am convinced that in the same way that we learned these prejudices, we can also unlearn them.”

Arrest on UCLA campus led to USC CB’s suspension for opener vs. Alabama

BOULDER, CO - NOVEMBER 13:  Wide receiver Jay MacIntyre #14 of the Colorado Buffaloes is tackled after a reception by cornerback Isaiah Langley #14 of the USC Trojans during the first half at Folsom Field on November 13, 2015 in Boulder, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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Alabama may or may not suspend players involved in off-field incidents this offseason for their highly-anticipated opener, but their opponents already have.

The Los Angeles Times reported that USC cornerback Isaiah Langley was arrested back in May at a frat party at rival UCLA on three misdemeanor charges — suspicion of trespassing, intoxication and resisting arrest. USC head coach Clay Helton subsequently confirmed that Langley will be suspended for the opener against Alabama because of the incident.

From the Times on the events surrounding the arrest:

Langley was attending a fraternity party at UCLA when he was arrested, according to Greenstein. She said Langley gave responding officers the wrong age and resisted arrest.

“When he was asked to leave, he refused,” Greenstein said. “Police were called and he was arrested for misdemeanor trespassing.”

As a true freshman last season, Langley appeared in 11 games as a backup corner.  He was credited with 12 tackles in limited action.

On his official bio, the school wrote that “Langley will battle for key playing time at cornerback as a sophomore in 2016.”

Five-star Miss. St. signee Jeffery Simmons sees resolution to legal issues

Jeffery Simmons
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At least when it comes to the legal system, the saga of Jeffery Simmons has come to an end.

According to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, the touted Mississippi State signee pleaded no contest to a charge of simple assault while he was found guilty on one count of malicious mischief Tuesday.  A disturbing the peace charge he had been facing was dismissed.

Simmons’ restitution consists of $711 for medical bills and $175 for the alleged damage to the victim’s car. Simmons will also pay fines of $175 for the simple assault and $300 for the malicious mischief.

Controversy swirled in late March after a video that showed Simmons violently striking a female several times while she was on the ground went viral. In a Facebook apology, Simmons claimed that the woman had spoken ill of a deceased relative, although he stated that didn’t excuse his actions.

The woman on the receiving end of Simmons’ fists, Sophia Taylor, was subsequently found guilty of disorderly conduct.

The controversy was renewed and grew in early June when Mississippi State announced that Simmons would only be suspended for the opener against South Alabama.  Based on the video, many observers thought that Simmons shouldn’t be permitted to enroll in school let alone see the field at all in 2016.

“I would caution people to be careful about judging a man and his character through 10 or 20 seconds of a video,” Simmons’ attorney, Jay Perry, said according to WTVA.com. “He’s a fantastic young man who made a poor choice but he’s really looking forward to carrying on at Mississippi State.”

Simmons was the only five-star member of the Bulldogs’ 2016 recruiting class, rated as the No. 1 player at any position in the state of Mississippi and the No. 15 player overall by Rivals.com.  On National Signing Day this past February, Simmons, in what some recruitniks considered a surprising development, opted for MSU over Alabama and in-state rival Ole Miss.

Reserve Ohio State DL Dylan Thompson academically ineligible for the fall

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 03: A cheerleader runs onto the field with an Ohio State Buckeyes flag prior to the Discover Orange Bowl against the Clemson Tigers at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
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Do something. And underline that. Do something.

Those were the words of Urban Meyer back in May when discussing the status of Dylan Thompson with his Ohio State football program.  Fastforward two months, and Thompson did indeed do something, albeit it’s a something that’s not even remotely positive.

At the Big Ten Media Days Tuesday, the OSU head coach announced that Thompson is academically ineligible for the fall semester.  That means the defensive lineman likely won’t play at all in 2016, and it could mean it’s the end of the road for the player in Columbus.

Thompson came to the Buckeyes as a three-star 2014 signee, rated as the No. 21 strongside defensive end in the country and the No. 18 player at any position in the state of Illinois. An injured knee cost him his entire freshman campaign, while he didn’t play at all during his redshirt freshman season in 2015.

There was some positive news coming out of Thompson’s plight, however. From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Though bad news for Thompson, it frees up another scholarship and has allowed Ohio State to gift scholarships to former walk-ons Craig Fada and Joe Burger, both of which Meyer said will graduate in December and see the field this fall.