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.

Notre Dame jumps to No. 9, Iowa State replaces Michigan in latest AP poll

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The most newsworthy changes in the latest AP poll come at the bottom. Michigan is out after falling 42-13 at No. 2 Penn State. Taking their place? The twisting Cyclones of Iowa State. Following a 31-13 win at Texas Tech and riding the crest of a 3-game winning streak that began at then-No. 3 OklahomaMatt Campbell‘s crew is off to its best start since 2002 and in the AP poll for the first time since Sept. 25, 2005. The Cyclones will have to earn their keep, though. Their next three games: No. 4 TCU, at No. 22 West Virginia and No. 11 Oklahoma State.

Elsewhere, Notre Dame jumped four spots to No. 9 after a 49-14 destruction of USC, a loss that pushed the Trojans down 10 spots to No. 21.

After a 31-21 win at Navy, Central Florida continues to track down I-4 rival South Florida as the top-ranked Group of 5 team; the Knights are up two spots to No. 18, while South Florida dropped a spot to No. 17.

The full poll:

1. Alabama — 1,525 total points (61 first-place votes)
2. Penn State — 1,444
3. Georgia — 1,409
4. TCU — 1,327
5. Wisconsin — 1,241
6. Ohio State — 1,165
7. Clemson — 1,113
8. Miami — 1,101
9. Notre Dame — 1,066
10. Oklahoma — 1,040
11. Oklahoma State — 894
12. Washington — 836
13. Virginia Tech — 791
14. NC State — 666
15. Washington State — 648
16. Michigan State — 615
17. South Florida — 604
18. Central Florida — 500
19. Auburn — 397
20. Stanford — 344
21. USC — 319
22. West Virginia — 196
23. LSU — 182
24. Memphis — 111
25. Iowa State — 98

Coaches’ Poll: Top 5 remains the same, Notre Dame moves into top 10

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The top five remained the same in the latest edition of the Coaches’ Poll, released Sunday. Notre Dame’s 49-14 whipping of then-No. 11 USC allowed the Irish to move into the top 10, while the Trojans plummeted all the way to No. 21.

Michigan was the other big loser this week, falling 10 spots to No. 25 after falling 42-13 at No. 2 Penn State.

And in our weekly reminder why the Coaches’ Poll is the lesser of the two irrelevant polls, voters moved Clemson ahead of Miami after the Hurricanes beat Syracuse, the team the idle Tigers lost to just one week ago.

The full poll:

1. Alabama — 1,600 total points (64 first-place votes)
2. Penn State — 1,520
3. Georgia — 1,463
4. TCU — 1,385
5. Wisconsin — 1,343
6. Ohio State — 1,244
7. Clemson — 1,173
8. Miami — 1,172
9. Oklahoma — 1,084
10. Notre Dame — 951
11. Washington — 931
12. Oklahoma State — 926
13. Virginia Tech — 818
14. South Florida — 730
15. NC State — 683
16. Washington State — 636
17. Central Florida — 561
18. Michigan State — 560
19. Auburn — 455
20. Stanford — 367
21. USC — 321
22. West Virginia — 211
23. LSU — 178
24. Texas A&M — 151
25. Michigan — 121

Ole Miss QB Shea Patterson to miss rest of season with knee injury

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An already lost Ole Miss season just drove deeper into the woods with no way out.

Rebels quarterback Shea Patterson tore the PCL in his right knee during the first half of Ole Miss’s 40-24 loss to No. 24 LSU on Saturday night. OM Spirit broke the news, citing confirmation from Patterson’s father and head coach Matt Luke, and the program later confirmed it.

Patterson was examined in the medical tent during the first half of Saturday night’s game. He was given a brace around the knee and remained in the game until the final series of the loss. He finished the night 10-of-23 for 116 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions, easily the worst night of the sophomore’s brief but stellar career. He’ll finish the season hitting 166-of-260 throws (63.8 percent) for 2,259 yards (8.7 per attempt) with 17 touchdowns against nine interceptions. His 151.49 efficiency rating ranks fifth in the SEC.

The loss dropped Ole Miss to 3-4 on the year and 1-3 in SEC play. Though the schedule does lighten from here, the Rebels will still be underdogs in at least three of their five remaining games. The program announced a self-imposed bowl ban in February, but it seems the rest of the SEC and Patterson’s injury will likely conspire to make that bit of penance unnecessary.

Ole Miss will now turn to junior Jordan Ta’amu, and their fortunes may have been better on Saturday had they done that earlier. He finished the LSU loss hitting 7-of-11 throws for 78 yards with three carries for 20 yards. It was the first action of the New Mexico Military Institution transfer’s career.

No. 15 Washington State rebounds from first loss to thump Colorado with a shutout

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It was not the most rousing of responses, but No. 15 Washington State bounced back from their first loss of the year last week and thumped Colorado 28-0 on Saturday night.

Many of the struggles could be explained by the conditions, which were rainy and windy for most of the night in a not so lovely bit of fall/winter weather out on the Palouse. Nevertheless, it was an impressive outing by the Cougars defense as they controlled the game throughout and held the Buffs to just one third down conversion all night while recording three sacks and making life miserable for last year’s Pac-12 South champs.

Luke Falk was not the most efficient quarterback running WSU’s Air Raid, but did enough to get the victory in a game that never was as close as the scoreboard indicated. He set another Pac-12 career record, this time for completions on a night where he threw just 17 total for 197 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Jamal Morrow was part of a more balanced approach on offense, rushing for 73 yards and a score that was part of a season-high 194 on the ground.

If there was any Pac-12 After Dark element to this game, a Mike Leach team coming close to rushing for more yards than they had through the air would be it.

As for the Buffs, there will not be much to enjoy when they go back and watch the game film. Running back Phillip Lindsay was bottled up fairly successfully and needed nearly 30 carries to run for 98 yards on the night. QB Steven Montez had just four completions and was benched in the second half for Sam Noyer after a rough, rough outing. The defense had their moments in recovering two fumbles but were continually put in bad spots given how lackluster the offense was.

The victory by Wazzu moves them to 7-1 on the year for the team’s best start in over a decade and keeps them atop the Pac-12 North standings — while also keeping them within control of their own destiny when it comes to the conference title. It also sets up a very interesting road trip next week, as they go to Tucson to play an Arizona team that also finds themselves suddenly in the mix for a division title as well.

Strange times indeed out West, even if things aren’t always pretty.