The NCAA’s laughable case against Miami reportedly takes another bad turn

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We’ll ask it again: At this point, would you expect anything else?

The NCAA’s investigation of the Miami program has already been tarnished thanks to some serious screw-ups by its enforcement staff. Now, there’s another report of more  unethical practices on the NCAA’s part. According to the Miami Herald,  NCAA director of enforcement, Stephanie Hannah, continued to work with Maria Elena Perez, the attorney of former UM booster Nevin Shapiro,  to obtain information relevant to the Association’s case against the Hurricanes.

Hannah succeeded former NCAA director of enforcement Ameen Najjar last May. Najjar, as you’ll recall, was the focal point of the NCAA’s external investigation into the missteps taken in the Miami case. Najjar allowed Perez to depose witnesses in a bankruptcy case for relevant information in exchange for payment. That, of course, was a huge no-no in the eyes of the NCAA’s legal team — the information was eventually thrown out of Miami’s Notice of Allegations — though Najjar proceeded with the plan anyway without proper approval.

The Associated Press reported earlier this month that Najjar also wrote a letter to Shapiro’s judge indicating the NCAA may hire Shapiro as a consultant one day.

When Najjar left the NCAA last year, Hannah continued the policy of working with Perez. In an email exchange last July, Hannah wrote, “Regarding the enforcement staff’s interest in questioning [name redacted], attached is a document that outlines questions/topics to discuss with him.”

Per the Herald, that redacted name was Shapiro’s bodyguard, Mario Sanchez; his deposition never came to fruition, however. The NCAA has since ended its working relationship with Perez.

Ken Wainstein of the Cadwalader law firm — the same law firm that conducted the NCAA’s external review — told the Herald in an email that Hannah was unaware that her practices were considered unethical.

“Ms. Hannah assumed there was nothing amiss about the arrangement [with Perez] and that it had been completely blessed prior to her involvement in the case. In light of those circumstances, it is understandable that she raised no alarms about the Perez arrangement,” Wainstein wrote.

Former NCAA vice president of enforcement, Jule Roe Lach, was also under the impression that Najjar’s plan was given the green light, according to the external report. Lach was fired by the NCAA earlier this year.

Interestingly enough though, Hannah’s actions were not included in the Cadwalader’s report.

“[The report] was not intended… to describe all aspects of Mr. Shapiro’s relationship with the enforcement staff,” Wainstein wrote to the Herald.

The NCAA did not respond to the paper’s request for comment.

But that’s not all. The Herald also reports that Miami is prepared to allege that NCAA investigators lied to interview subjects by “claiming that other people interviewed made comments they never made, in order to trick the subjects into revealing incriminating information they otherwise might not…”

Miami, which is not required to release its NOA but has vehemently disagreed with it publicly, is expected to include both of the aforementioned arguments in a motion to dismiss the case on Friday. Though the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions cannot dismiss a case before a hearing — in this instance, the hearing is expected to occur sometime in June — Miami is reportedly set to dispute that as well.

Whether or not UM will get the case tossed, be it now or later, remains to be seen. The fact that the NCAA has turned this investigation into an unmitigated disaster is much more obvious.

SEC leads NFL Draft for 11th straight year as Alabama and Michigan set school records

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The 2017 NFL Draft has come and gone, and once again it is the SEC claiming another NFL Draft national championship. A grand total of 53 players from the SEC were drafted by NFL teams. It is the 11th straight year the SEC has had the most players drafted by NFL teams.

The ACC ended the draft with 42 players drafted, followed by the Pac-12 (36) and Big Ten (35). The Big 12 ended the draft with just 14 players drafted.

Helping to contribute to the SEC’s NFL Draft total was Alabama setting a school record with 10 players drafted.

Alabama’s nine players drafted in the first 80 picks was also a new Alabama record.

Michigan ended up having more players drafted than any other Big Ten team, slipping past Ohio State by the time the draft closed up shop this year. For the Wolverines, 11 players ended up being drafted. The previous school record for draft picks was 10, set in 1972 and tied in 1974. Head coach Jim Harbaugh will get plenty of the praise for developing that many players getting a chance to be drafted, but Brady Hoke should be recognized for recruiting those players as well (and blamed for not developing the talent he brought in).

 

Air Force changes rules for football players with NFL aspirations

AP Photo/The Colorado Springs Gazette, Michael Ciaglo
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One of the top players from Air Force was ineligible to be drafted by the NFL this weekend, and it had nothing to do with NFL rules. It also had nothing to do with NFL teams backing away from a particular player due to off-field concerns. Instead, a policy at Air Force is what is to blame for wide receiver Jalen Robinette not moving on to the NFL at this time.

The U.S. Air Force will not approve requests from academy graduates to defer their two years of active duty in order to be allowed to play professional football. Just a year ago, the Department of Defense changed the policy to allow for the possibility, which made it possible for Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds to be allowed to play. Reynolds later joined the Baltimore Ravens. Reynolds had received a recommendation to be allowed to play by the U.S. Naval Academy.

“The Air Force notified academy leaders [Thursday] that the service would not approve requests to waiver active duty military commitments for cadet athletes,” a statement from Air Force read. “Cadets will be required to serve two years active duty prior to entering Ready Reserve, which would allow their participation in professional sports. The Air Force places tremendous value on our cadet athletes and their contributions to the nation as we continue to build leaders of character, engage in combat operations overseas and continue to ensure our highest military readiness at home.”

Because of the policy change and confirmation, Robinette was not able to be drafted. He may still have been a long shot to be drafted by an NFL Team, but the policy also means he is unable to be signed as an undrafted free agent as well.

Rawleigh Williams carted off at Arkansas scrimmage

AP Photo/Chris Brashers
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Any time a player that has previously undergone neck surgery goes down on the field and needs to be carted off is quite the scary moment. On Saturday, the Arkansas football program had that exact scare when Rawleigh Williams went down on the field in pain and ended up having to be carted off the practice field during the Arkansas scrimmage.

Williams was placed on a stretcher and taken out of the facility on a cart to receive medical attention. His legs and arms were moving on the ground, a slight sigh of relief given the hit and his injury history. In 2015, Williams was carted off and had to undergo surgery on his neck. Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said the injury concern on Saturday was apparently not related to the previous neck injury, which was expected to have a full recovery.

It is an unfortunate ending to the spring for Williams, because all indications seemed to be he was certainly improving running the football. Bielema said earlier in the week Williams was running with more patience, which is always a key for a running back.

Arkansas moved its final scrimmage of the spring indoors due to bad weather rolling through the area.

Justin Herbert shines in first Oregon spring game under Willie Taggart

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A glimpse of a brand new era of Oregon football took center stage in Eugene, Oregon on Saturday as the spring football season drew to a close. Willie Taggart showed fans a little bit of what to expect from Oregon in the fall as the program looks to bounce back from a down season under the coach who has shown a knack for improving programs. As is usually the case in a spring game, Oregon’s quarterback situation was under a microscope, and sophomore Justin Herbert took advantage of the opportunity.

Herbert completed 16 of 26 passes for 327 yards and established a connection with wide receiver Darren Carrington. The two connected for three touchdowns in the game. Sophomore Travis Jonson and early enrollee Braxton Burmeister also saw playing time in the game, but Carrington was confident in saying this is Herbert’s job to lose.

”Our chemistry has definitely improved this spring, and it’ll improve more by the time fall comes, but Herbert, I mean, that’s the guy right now to beat,” Carrington said after the spring game.

As for the team as a whole, Taggert knows there is much still to address as a new system and style are implemented and the roster adjusts physically to the demands of the new coach.

‘We’re still building. We’re nowhere where we need to be as a football team yet. We have some good players. We don’t have a lot of depth that we need to have, that’s going to be a work in progress,” Taggart said. ”The thing for us as coaches is just to make our guys better than they were before. If I guy wasn’t good enough we want to make him look better than he was before. If I guy was good we want to make him great.”

Og course, it wouldn’t be an Oregon spring game without having that typical Oregon uniform flair. Even with a new head coach and with the talk suggesting the Ducks will go for a more traditional approach to uniforms in the fall, the spring game was used for some sizzle on the unis.

Oregon’s spring game crowd of 36,821 assured the Ducks of having the highest spring game attendance among Pac-12 school for a third consecutive year.