Miami’s response to NOA: many allegations ‘remain unsubstantiated’

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Confirming what was reported by the Associated Press Tuesday evening, Miami has in fact received its Notice of Allegations from the NCAA following an investigation into the program spanning over two years.

As of last month, that investigation appeared to be coming to an end with multiple outlets reporting the NCAA was close to handing Miami its NOA. That step took a backseat in a major way less than two weeks later when the NCAA announced it was investigating itself for improper conduct related to the Miami case.

The results of that independent investigation revealed select enforcement staff, including soon-to-be former Vice President of Enforcement, Julie Roe Lach, allowed Nevin Shapiro‘s attorney to depose witnesses in a bankruptcy case in order to seek information related to the UM investigation in exchange for money — despite the fact that the NCAA’s legal staff did not sign off on that particular tactic.

The NCAA did, however, sign off on continuing its investigation of UM and sent the university its NOA on Tuesday — this coming after Miami president Donna Shalala released a scathing open letter asking demanding no additional punitive measures be taken.

As one would imagine, Shalala’s response to the NOA is no different. In a release, Shalala claims that while Miami “takes full responsibility for those NCAA violations… based on fact”, many “allegations included in the Notice of Allegations remain unsubstantiated.” Shalala also directly attacks Shapiro’s claims of providing lavish benefits to athletes, including cars, bounties, and prostitution, calling the story “fabricated.”

It should be pointed out that, because the NCAA lacks subpoena power, it has considerably less access to relevant parties. That’s a big reason why the misconduct of using an attorney to depose witnesses for information occurred in the first place.

But if the NCAA is alleging certain violations by Miami that cannot be backed up without using information provided by Shapiro’s attorney, then the university could have a compelling counterargument on its hands. UM is a private institution and therefore not required to release the NOA.

Point being, Miami looks like it’s prepared to fight this one — be it in front of the COI or in a court of law.

Anyway, here’s Shalala’s statement in its entirety:

“The University of Miami deeply regrets and takes full responsibility for those NCAA violations that are based on fact and are corroborated by multiple individuals and/or documentation.  We have already self-imposed a bowl ban for an unprecedented two-year period, forfeited the opportunity to participate in an ACC championship game, and withheld student-athletes from competition.

“Over the two and a half years since the University of Miami first contacted the NCAA enforcement staff about allegations of rules violations, the NCAA interviewed dozens of witnesses, including current and former Miami employees and student-athletes, and received thousands of requested documents and emails from the University.  Yet despite our efforts to aid the investigation, the NCAA acknowledged on February 18, 2013 that it violated its own policies and procedures in an attempt to validate the allegations made by a convicted felon.  Many of the allegations included in the Notice of Allegations remain unsubstantiated

“Now that the Notice of Allegations has been issued, let me provide some context to the investigation itself:

> Many of the charges brought forth are based on the word of a man who made a fortune by lying. The NCAA enforcement staff acknowledged to the University that if Nevin Shapiro, a convicted con man, said something more than once, it considered the allegation “corroborated”—an argument which is both ludicrous and counter to legal practice.

> Most of the sensationalized media accounts of Shapiro’s claims are found nowhere in the Notice of Allegations.  Despite their efforts over two and a half years, the NCAA enforcement staff could not find evidence of prostitution, expensive cars for players, expensive dinners paid for by boosters, player bounty payments, rampant alcohol and drug use, or the alleged hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and gifts given to student-athletes, as reported in the media.  The fabricated story played well—the facts did not. 

> The NCAA enforcement staff failed, even after repeated requests, to interview many essential witnesses of great integrity who could have provided first-hand testimony, including, unbelievably, Paul Dee, who has since passed away, but who served as Miami Athletic Director during many of the years that violations were alleged to have occurred.  How could a supposedly thorough and fair investigation not even include the Director of Athletics? 

> Finally, we believe the NCAA was responsible for damaging leaks of unsubstantiated allegations over the course of the investigation.   

Let me be clear again: for any rule violation—substantiated and proven with facts—that the University, its employees, or student-athletes committed, we have been and should be held accountable.  We have worked hard to improve our compliance oversight, and we have already self-imposed harsh sanctions.   

We deeply regret any violations, but we have suffered enough. 

The University and counsel will work diligently to prepare our official response to the Notice of Allegations and submit it to the Committee on Infractions within the required 90-day time period. 

We trust that the Committee on Infractions will provide the fairness and integrity missing during the investigative process.”

 

Thirteen-year-old twins forged paperwork to participate in LSU football camp

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This is some McGyver-level moxie right here.

Joshua and Jacob Johnson are twin brothers who are getting set to begin the eighth grade in Geismar, Louisiana. At 5-11 and already weighing in the neighborhood of 240-245 pounds, they are also very talented football players on both the offensive and defensive lines.

Too young to actually participate in an LSU football camp last month, the twins were taken to it by their trainer, former collegiate defensive back Keith Ballard, under the assumption that they would be spectators and not participants. Unbeknownst to both the trainer and the players’ father, however, the sibling duo fudged some of their particulars — i.e., they “enhanced” their ages upwards — in order to participate in the clinic.

“They must have taken their money out of their piggy bank, because when I turned around, they had forged the paperwork and had signed up for the camp and started doing drills with the rest of the linemen,” Ballard said by way of USA Today High School Sports. “I asked them, ‘What are you doing?'”

From the report:

The twins’ father, Herm Johnson, said he was a little shocked but not angry that his sons had signed up for the camp, even if they had to lie about their age to get in.

“These dudes have put us on a roller coaster ever since they came about,” he said. “I’m not going to lie. I think they have the heart and skill level to compete.

Despite the shenanigans that got them there, the twins caught the attention of the Tigers’ current football boss.

And, yes, the Johnson brothers would be a part of the 2023 recruiting class. Whether Coach Eaux will still be there to sign them as part of that year’s class certainly remains to be seen.

Family: Heatstroke caused death of Maryland’s Jordan McNair

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According to the family of Jordan McNair, the Maryland offensive lineman died earlier this offseason as a result of heatstroke.

McNair was hospitalized in late May after collapsing during a strength & conditioning workout.  After being hospitalized in critical condition for a little over two weeks, and after receiving a liver transplant, McNair died June 13.

Following McNair’s death, the lineman’s parents established a foundation in honor of their son.  On that foundation’s website, whose goals in part are to “promote awareness, educate, and advocate for parents and student-athletes about heat-related illnesses at youth, high school, and collegiate levels,” it was written that “Jordan’s untimely death was the result of… heatstroke he suffered during an organized offseason team workout.”

From the Washington Post:

The workout was designed and supervised by the Maryland strength and conditioning staff, and certified athletic trainers were present throughout, according to an account provided by the university. Maryland Coach DJ Durkin was also at the workout, which began around 4:15 p.m. McNair, who was listed as 6-foot-4 and 325 pounds, had trouble recovering after completing a series of 110-yard sprints, a standard conditioning test, and received medical attention. McNair soon was transported to the team’s practice facility and later airlifted to R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore at approximately 6 p.m., according to the university’s timeline of that day.

In the wake of McNair’s death, the university launched an investigation into the tragedy that will include a thorough evaluation of the football program’s procedures and protocols.  A report on the findings of the external probe is expected to be completed at some point in late September or early October.

“Jordan’s death was a shock to his family, friends, former classmates, and the entire football community near and far,” the foundation’s website stated. “His parents were left with a void and pain that only those who have lost a child could fully understand.

“But in his death, the world learned about the humble young man whose smile communicated more than words ever could. Jordan was a quiet spirit, whose size never went unnoticed in any room, but whose spirit took up the entire room.”

Jake Browning, Jalen Hurts highlight Davey O’Brien Award watch list

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Once the Conference of Defenses, has the SEC morphed into the Conference of Quarterbacks?

According to the folks at the Davey O’Brien Award, that certainly could be the case as the hardware handed out annually to the nation’s top quarterback released its 2018 watch list Tuesday morning, with the SEC accounting for six of the 26 players listed.  Next up are the remaining Power Five conferences, with the Pac-12 leading that group with four, followed by three apiece for the Big Ten and ACC as well as two for the Big 12.  With two each, Conference USA and the MAC pace all Group of Five leagues, with the AAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt all seeing one player on the initial watch list.

Individually, there are a pair of two-time O’Brien Award semifinalists on the roll — Washington’s Jake Browning and Alabama’s Jalen Hurts (whether Hurts gets the opportunity to three-peat as a finalist is another matter entirely).  Additionally, there are six other 2017 semifinalists on the list as well — Clemson’s Kelly Bryant, Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald, West Virginia’s Will Grier, Penn State’s Trace McSorley, UCF’s McKenzie Milton and Arizona’s Khalil Tate.

Of the 26 players on the list, 13 are listed as seniors and 12 as juniors.  The lone sophomore is Georgia’s Jake Fromm.

Below is the complete 2018 Davey O’Brien Award Watch List:

Jake Bentley, South Carolina, (Jr., Opelika, Ala.)
Jake Browning, Washington (Sr., Folsom, Calif.)
Kelly Bryant, Clemson (Sr., Calhoun Falls, S.C.)
Mason Fine, North Texas (Jr., Peggs, Okla.)
Ryan Finley, NC State (Sr., Phoenix, Ariz.)
Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State (Sr., Richmond Hill, Ga.)
Andrew Ford, UMass (Sr., Camp Hill, Penn.)
Jake Fromm, Georgia (So., Warner Robins, Ga.)
Will Grier, West Virginia (Sr., Charlotte, N.C.)
Justice Hansen, Arkansas State (Sr., Edmond, Okla.)
Justin Herbert, Oregon (Jr., Eugene, Ore.)
Alex Hornibrook, Wisconsin (Jr., West Chester, Penn.)
Jalen Hurts, Alabama (Jr., Houston, Texas)
Tyree Jackson, Buffalo (Jr., Norton Shores, Mich.)
Daniel Jones, Duke (Jr., Charlotte, N.C.)
Kyle Kempt, Iowa State (Sr., Massillon, Ohio)
Brian Lewerke, Michigan State (Jr., Phoenix, Ariz.)
Drew Lock, Missouri (Sr., Lee’s Summit, Mo.)
Trace McSorley, Penn State (Sr., Ashburn, Va.)
McKenzie Milton, UCF (Jr., Kapolei, Hawaii)
Nathan Rourke, Ohio (Jr., Oakville, Ontario)
Brett Rypien, Boise State (Sr., Spokane, Wash.)
Jarrett Stidham, Auburn (Jr., Stephenville, Texas)
Brent Stockstill, Middle Tennessee (Sr., Murfreesboro, Tenn.)
Khalil Tate, Arizona (Jr., Inglewood, Calif.)
Manny Wilkins, Arizona State (Sr., Novato, Calif.)

Kentucky transfer Eli Brown granted immediate eligibility at WKU

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As it turns out, Western Kentucky will be the beneficiary of a Power Five playing sooner than most had expected.

When Eli Brown transferred to WKU in late March, nearly six weeks after leaving Kentucky, it was thought that the redshirt junior linebacker would have to sit out the 2018 season. However, both the Hilltoppers and the player have confirmed that Brown has been granted immediate eligibility, which will allow him to compete in 2018 as well as the 2019 season.

The school didn’t specify on what grounds the waiver was granted, although Brown had left the Wildcats for the Hilltoppers in order to be closer to family.

“Not only is Eli one of the best high school linebackers of the last decade in our area, he is an incredible young man with a powerful story,” a statement from WKU head coach Mike Sanford began. “We’re ecstatic that he will be able to play for us this season. I commend the NCAA for truly putting the student-athlete first in this decision.”

A four-star member of UK’s 2015 recruiting class, Brown was rated as the No. 20 outside linebacker in the country and the No. 2 player at any position in the state of Kentucky according to 247Sports.com. Brown was the highest-rated player in the Wildcats’ class that year.

After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, Brown played in 12 games in 2016. Because of injuries to others, the 6-2, 215-pound redshirt sophomore started five games this past season and was seemingly in line for significant playing time at the SEC school in 2018 prior to his decision to transfer.