Miami NOA delayed as NCAA investigates itself

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No, seriously.  This is actually happening.

Two weekends ago, a report surfaced that the NCAA would be issuing a Notice of Allegations to the Miami Hurricanes in connection to  improper benefits involving both the football and basketball programs.  That issuance was expected as early as a week ago Monday; since that report, there’s been nothing but crickets chirping as far as the ear could hear.

Today, we now know why the Notice of Allegations has been delayed, and the reasons behind the delay paint the NCAA in an even more negative light than it already has been over the past few years.

In a press release, the NCAA announced that its “national office has uncovered an issue of improper conduct within its enforcement program that occurred during the University of Miami investigation.”  In other words, the NCAA violated NCAA bylaws in its investigation of an NCAA member.  The genesis for the improper conduct seems to stem almost solely from documents obtained by the NCAA from bankruptcy proceedings involving Nevin Shapiro, the former UM booster who allegedly lavished millions of dollars in impermissible benefits on Hurricane football (mainly) and basketball players.

From the release:

Former NCAA enforcement staff members worked with the criminal defense attorney for Nevin Shapiro to improperly obtain information for the purposes of the NCAA investigation through a bankruptcy proceeding that did not involve the NCAA.

As it does not have subpoena power, the NCAA does not have the authority to compel testimony through procedures outside of its enforcement program. Through bankruptcy proceedings, enforcement staff gained information for the investigation that would not have been accessible otherwise.

As a result of misconduct on the part of his enforcement staff — conduct that he says “angered and saddened” him — president Mark Emmert confirmed that the NCAA “will not move forward with a Notice of Allegations against Miami until all the facts surrounding this issue are known.”

An external review of the NCAA’s enforcement program has been commissioned by Emmert.  Kenneth L. Wainstein, a partner with the law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, has been retained by the NCAA and will be charged with conducting “a thorough investigation into the current issue as well as the overall enforcement environment, to ensure operation of the program is consistent with the essential principles of integrity and accountability.”

Emmert hopes that the review will be completed in a period of 7-10 days.

“Trust and credibility are essential to our regulatory tasks,” said Emmert.  “My intent is to ensure our investigatory functions operate with integrity and are fair and consistent with our member schools, athletics staff and most importantly our student-athletes.”

Regardless of how long this external review takes, it’s yet another delay in an investigation that’s more than two years in the making.

Shapiro first came to the NCAA’s attention in August of 2010, with reports surfacing that the convicted felon was writing a tell-all book in which he was alleging former Hurricane players had committed major NCAA violations.  In August of the next year, the NCAA’s investigation became public knowledge; a Yahoo! Sports report that same month had Shapiro claiming he spent “millions of dollars” on six dozen UM student-athletes, 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.”

In February of 2012, Shapiro, apparently agitated that nearly four dozen individuals connected to The U were lined up to testify against him in his federal trial, promised to take “that program down to Chinatown” and that the Miami story will become “an urban legend” before it’s all said and done.

Shapiro was ultimately sentenced to 20 years in prison for orchestrating what was in the neighborhood of a $1 billion Ponzi scheme.  The damage outside the courtroom, though, had already been done.

Miami has already self-imposed a bowl ban each of the past two seasons in an attempt to soften potential NCAA sanctions, although it was holding off on self-imposing scholarship reductions and other punitive measures for the time being.  How this latest revelation by the NCAA will affect a Notice of Allegations — if there even is one — remains to be seen.

Per the NCAA, a NOA is sent to notify a member institution that enough evidence exists that major violations have occurred and that The Association is moving forward in the process.  Some have asked whether misconduct on the part of the investigative staff will result in some sort of a “mistrial” for Miami’s case.

“It’s premature to answer that question,” Emmert said on a conference call Wednesday, adding, “this is a shocking affair.”

If/when Miami receives its NOA from the NCAA — Emmert said during the conference call that information obtained surreptitiously was a very small part of the case and would be “thrown out” — they will have 90 days to respond.  Following that response, UM will appear in front of the Committee on Infractions to answer the allegations.  Typically 6-8 weeks thereafter, the NCAA will issue its findings and any sanctions will be revealed.

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.

Transferring BYU QB Kody Wilstead finds new home at Kansas JUCO

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With eight quarterbacks on the roster, Kody Wilstead opted to leave the Cougars in mid-March.  A little over a month later, Wilstead has found a new home, albeit a little further down on the college football ladder.

According to the Deseret News, Wilstead has signed to play at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas.  As Coffeyville is a junior college, the quarterback will be eligible to play immediately in 2018.

It’s expected that Wilstead will spend at least one season at the JUCO level before looking at making a move back up to the FBS.

Wilstead, a three-star 2015 signee, took a redshirt as a true freshman last season after serving an LDS mission the previous two years.

After Wilstead’s departure, the seven remaining Cougar signal-callers are, in alphabetical order, Stacy ConnerJoe CritchlowHayden GriffittsBeau HogeTanner MangumBaylor Romney and Zach Wilson. Mangum, last year’s starter, is recovering from an Achilles tendon injury he suffered in November of last year but remains on track to return for the start of summer camp in August.