NCAA gives ultimatum to ex-Miami players to talk about Shapiro allegations

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Over the summer, the NCAA took unprecedented steps by giving president Mark Emmert the proverbial keys to Penn State’s fate in the aftermath of the Freeh Report on the university’s (in)action against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Now, and as it relates to the ongoing investigation of Miami’s athletic program, the Association is yet again going a more unconventional, although not unprecedented, route.

According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, the NCAA has mailed letters to former Hurricane players who allegedly committed NCAA violations by accepting impermissible benefits from Shapiro with a clear ultimatum: either talk or non-response will be considered an admission of involvement. Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports was later able to confirm the letters had been sent. Former players must respond by this Friday, Nov. 23 and that’s Black Friday OMG double meaning!

Here’s one letter Jackson was able to obtain (sent to a player’s attorney):

“The purpose of this letter is to apprise you that the NCAA enforcement staff is requesting to schedule an interview with your clients regarding their knowledge of or involvement in possible NCAA violations concerning the University of Miami, Florida, football program.

“Interviewing your clients is important in order for the enforcement staff to conduct a thorough investigation, and both the staff and the institution request you and your clients’ cooperation in this matter. However, at this time, all attempts to schedule and execute interviews with [blank] have been unsuccessful. As a result, this letter serves as a formal and final request by the NCAA enforcement staff for interviews with [blank] to be completed by Nov. 23, 2012.

“If we do not hear back from you or your clients by that time, the staff will consider the non-response as your client’s admission of involvement in NCAA violations. You may contact me at [blank] in order to arrange this interview. Your assistance in this matter is appreciated.”

Sincerely,

Molly Richman,

Assistant Director of Enforcement

A few things here. The NCAA does not have jurisdiction over former athletes, meaning it can’t penalize them personally. The only football players the NCAA can punish are the ones who played for Miami at the time of the investigation. The NCAA’s statute of limitations goes back four years, but does not apply when dealing with what are determined to be “willful violators.”

Shapiro, a former UM booster who is now serving jail time for his role in a Ponzi scheme, alleges that he began providing benefits to players as far back as the early 2000’s. Charles Robinson‘s Yahoo! Sports report identified 72 current and players who received benefits. Eight UM players were ruled ineligible for at least one game last season for accepting gifts from Shapiro.

We’ve linked to NCAA expert John Infante of the Bylaw Blog before, and here’s his take on the situation. According to the NCAA’s Legislative Services Database, “The Committee on Infractions shall base its findings on information presented to it that it determines to be credible, persuasive and of a kind on which reasonably prudent persons rely in the conduct of serious affairs.”

The questions are what evidence does the NCAA have so far, and if the response from former players is silence, are the Shapiro allegations credible enough by themselves to be used against Miami?

Granted, it’s damn-near impossible to think the NCAA has less evidence than what Robinson reported last year. However, this investigation has been going on for a while and the letters indicate the NCAA is still having trouble corroborating all the parts of Shapiro’s story.  So, the NCAA’s enforcement staff is prepared to move forward with a case with the evidence available because, hey, #YOLO #amirite?

It’s amazing that silence from former players could end up costing Miami, but unless the NCAA is able to punish past individuals, these are the kind of steps that will be taken.

Arizona’s Rod Smith named OC at Illinois

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The postseason coaching carousel continues to spin, with Lovie Smith the latest to make a key addition to his staff.

Rod Smith, it was confirmed by the school Friday, has been hired by Smith to serve as the next offensive coordinator at Illinois.  In addition to his coordinating duties, Smith will also serve as quarterbacks coach as well.

Smith replaces Garrick McGee, who was fired two days before Christmas after two seasons with the Fighting Illini.

“Rod Smith brings terrific and exciting offensive experience to our staff at Illinois,” Smith said. “His background and development of dual-threat quarterbacks and multiple-threat offenses is the direction we are going here. Rod has developed explosive quarterback play and offensive performance at each of his coaching stops.”

Smith had spent the past six seasons as the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Arizona.  With Rich Rodriguez‘s dismissal earlier this month, it was expected Smith wouldn’t be retained by new boss Kevin Sumlin, whose hiring was confirmed over the weekend.

Smith heads to Champaign armed with experience in the Big Ten, coaching quarterbacks and co-coordinating Indiana’s offense in 2011 as well as spending 2008-10 as Michigan’s quarterbacks coach.

Stanford’s Ryan Beecher diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

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One member of the Stanford football program has been dealing with a fairly serious health issue off the field, the school announced Friday.

Ryan Beecher revealed in a statement that he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma last month.  The inside linebacker has been undergoing treatments to fight the disease, although he remains enrolled in classes at the university.

Per the player, he intends to return to playing football for the Cardinal, although a timeline wasn’t specified.

“I look forward to making a full and healthy recovery,” a portion of Beecher’s statement read. “”With the help and support of my family, friends and teammates, I remain inspired to once again contribute to the Cardinal football team.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, non-Hodgkin lymphoma “is cancer that originates in your lymphatic system, the disease-fighting network spread throughout your body. In non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, tumors develop from lymphocytes — a type of white blood cell.”

A redshirt sophomore, Beecher (pictured, left) played in 13 games this past season.

Peter Sirmon named new DC at Cal

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And now it makes a little more sense.

Earlier Friday, Louisville announced that Peter Sirmon had abruptly stepped down as the defensive coordinator of the Cardinals.  Less than two hours after that confirmation, Cal announced that Sirmon has been hired in the same position with the Bears.

Sirmon will also serve as inside linebackers coach.

“Peter Sirmon shares our vision for Cal football and is an ideal fit for our coaching staff,” head coach Justin Wilcox said in a statement. “I have had the pleasure of working with Peter on previous staffs and understand the value he will bring. Peter is an excellent football coach, a top-notch recruiter and talented in the development of players both on and off the field. He will be an excellent teacher of the game as well as a tremendous mentor for our student-athletes in all aspect of their lives.”

Sirmon just completed his first season with the Cardinals.  In his lone season, the U of L finished 70th in scoring defense (27.4 ppg) and 62nd in total defense (388.1 ypg); in the year prior to arrival, they were 71st (27.1 pp) and 59th (387 ypg), respectively, in those categories.

Prior to the U of L, Sirmon had served as the coordinator at Mississippi State for one season in 2016.

“I’m excited to be joining the University of California and reuniting with Justin Wilcox.” Sirmon said. “We are like-minded in what we believe and in our approaches to both football and life. I’m looking forward to coaching championship football at Cal and helping create the best possible experience for the student-athletes in this program both on and off the field.”

Record number of players on NFL’s official early-entry list for 2018 draft

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If it seemed to you like there were an inordinate number of early cannonballers jumping into the draft pool, you were correct.

Four days after the Jan. 15 deadline, the NFL Friday announced that 106 players have been granted special eligibility for the April draft.  That sets a new record for early entrants, breaking the mark of 98 set in 2014.  The past two seasons, there were 95 and 96 in 2017 and 2016, respectively.  In 2015, there were just 74.

The SEC was hit hardest by attrition with 26 players leaving early, although the ACC wasn’t far behind at 24.  The Pac-12 was next among the Power Five conferences with 17, followed by the Big 12’s 13 and the Big Ten’s 11.

Among Group of Five leagues, Conference USA lost the most with four.  The Mountain West saw three go early, with the AAC (two), MAC (one) and Sun Belt (one) coming next in line.  There were also two non-FBS players who left early, as well as two from Notre Dame.

As far as individual schools go, there were three that lost six apiece — Florida State, LSU and Texas.  Alabama lost five, while Auburn, Miami, Oklahoma, UCLA, and USC all lost four apiece.  Clemson, Florida, Louisville, Stanford and Tennessee were on the losing end of three players each.

In addition to the 106 granted special eligibility — they’ll be listed at the end — the NFL also granted eligibility to 13 players who the league writes “have in timely fashion under NFL rules officially notified the league office that they have fulfilled their degree requirements.” Those players are listed below:

» Jordan Akins, TE, UCF
» Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
» Kyle Allen, QB, Houston
» Will Clapp, C, LSU
» Terrell Edmunds, DB, Virginia Tech
» Taylor Hearn, G, Clemson
» Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State
» Sam Jones, G, Arizona State
» Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
» Brian O’Neill, T, Pittsburgh
» Christian Sam, LB, Arizona State
» Tre'Quan Smith, WR, UCF
» Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

Courtesy of the NFL, below is the complete list of 106 players who have been granted special eligibility for the 2018 NFL Draft:

» Josh Adams, RB, Notre Dame
» Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, DE, Toledo
» Jaire Alexander, DB, Louisville
» Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma
» Dorance Armstrong, DE, Kansas
» Jerome Baker, LB, Ohio State
» Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
» Jessie Bates, DB, Wake Forest
» Orlando Brown, T, Oklahoma
» Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
» Deontay Burnett, WR, USC
» Deon Cain, WR, Clemson
» Antonio Callaway, WR, Florida
» Geron Christian, T, Louisville
» Simmie Cobbs, WR, Indiana
» Keke Coutee, WR, Texas Tech
» Vosean Crumbie, DB, Nevada
» J.J. Dallas, DB, Louisiana-Monroe
» James Daniels, C, Iowa
» Sam Darnold, QB, USC
» Carlton Davis, DB, Auburn
» Michael Dickson, P, Texas
» Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
» DeShon Elliott, DB, Texas
» Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
» Matt Fleming, WR, Benedictine
» Nick Gates, T, Nebraska
» Rashaan Gaulden, DB, Tennessee
» Frank Ginda, LB, San Jose State
» Rasheem Green, DT, USC
» Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
» Ronnie Harrison, DB, Alabama
» Quadree Henderson, WR, Pittsburgh
» Holton Hill, DB, Texas
» Nyheim Hines, RB, NC State
» Jeff Holland, LB, Auburn
» Mike Hughes, DB UCF
» Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
» Joel Iyiegbuniwe, LB, Western Kentucky
» Ryan Izzo, TE, FSU
» Donte Jackson, DB, LSU
» J.C. Jackson, DB, Maryland
» Josh Jackson, DB, Iowa
» Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
» Derwin James, DB, FSU
» Richie James, WR, Middle Tennessee
» Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
» Courtel Jenkins, DT, Miami
» Kerryon Johnson, RB, Auburn
» Ronald Jones, RB, USC
» John Kelly, RB, Tennessee
» Arden Key, LB, LSU
» Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
» Du’Vonta Lampkin, DT, Oklahoma
» Jordan Lasley, WR, UCLA
» Chase Litton, QB, Marshall
» Tavares Martin, WR, Washington State
» Hercules Mata’afa, DE, Washington State
» Ray-Ray McCloud, WR, Clemson
» Tarvarus McFadden, DB, Florida State
» R.J. McIntosh, DT, Miami
» Reginald McKenzie, DT, Tennessee
» Quenton Meeks, DB, Stanford
» Kolton Miller, T, UCLA
» D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
» Ryan Nall, RB, Oregon State
» Nick Nelson, DB, Wisconsin
» Kendrick Norton, DT, Miami
» Isaiah Oliver, DB, Colorado
» Dwayne Orso-Bacchus, T, Oklahoma
» Da’Ron Payne, NT, Alabama
» Kamryn Pettway, RB, Auburn
» Eddy Pineiro, K, Florida
» Trey Quinn, WR, SMU
» D.J. Reed, DB, Kansas State
» Justin Reid, DB, Stanford
» Will Richardson, T, NC State
» Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
» Austin Roberts, TE, UCLA
» Korey Robertson, WR, Southern Miss
» Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
» Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama
» Dalton Schultz, TE, Stanford
» Tim Settle, DT, Virginia Tech
» Andre Smith, LB, UNC
» Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
» Van Smith, DB, Clemson
» Breeland Speaks, DE, Ole Miss
» Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame
» Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State
» Auden Tate, WR, Florida State
» Maea Teuhema, T, Southeastern Louisiana
» Trenton Thompson, DT, Georgia
» Kevin Toliver, DB, LSU
» Travonte Valentine, NT, LSU
» Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
» Vita Vea, NT, Washington
» Mark Walton, RB, Miami
» Denzel Ward, DB, Ohio State
» Chris Warren, RB, Texas
» Toby Weathersby, T, LSU
» Jordan Whitehead, DB, Pittsburgh
» JoJo Wicker, DT, Arizona State
» Jalen Wilkerson, DE, Florida State
» Connor Williams, T, Texas
» Eddy Wilson, DT, Purdue