Miami reportedly files motion to dismiss NCAA case

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Given the developments in the Miami situation over the past couple of months, this was anticipated.

Per CBSSportsDennis Dodd, Miami has in fact filed a motion to dismiss the NCAA’s case against its athletics program. The Miami Herald reported earlier this week that UM could file such a motion, with the Associated Press reporting similarly Friday afternoon.

It’s an interesting, and according to Dodd, unprecedented move considering the charges UM is facing. While Miami is a private institution and not required to release its Notice of Allegations — it’s not believed the school will reveal the details of its motion to dismiss either — it’s been reported that the program is facing a lack of institutional control charge.

The AP reported earlier today that the NCAA is alleging Miami officials looked the other way when presented with evidence that former booster Nevin Shapiro provided impermissible benefits to athletes.

From the AP story:

“The NCAA… has asked Miami to detail whether or not it hired a private investigator to look into Shapiro’s business dealings between 2002 and 2005, records of a meeting between at least one athletics department official and Shapiro in 2003, and the findings of a study the school conducted with regard to Shapiro in 2006.

Miami has also been asked to provide copies of certain email exchanges that were about Shapiro, including one from 2008 that was sent to at least one member of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s staff.

If there’s record that Miami turned a blind eye to Shapiro, the Hurricanes could be in serious trouble.

But Miami could have a compelling argument that there’s simply not enough usable evidence for the NCAA to have a legitimate case. The Herald‘s report on Wednesday claimed NCAA’s director of enforcement, Stephanie Hannah, continued to work with Shapiro’s attorney, Maria Elena Perez, to obtain information through depositions that would aid the UM investigation.

While that would be another blemish for the NCAA because it shows a continuation of unethical practices started by Hannah’s predecessor, Ameen Najjar, it’s not nearly as bad as the allegation that NCAA investigators lied to interview subjects in order to gain information.

Hannah’s working relationship with Perez reportedly did not result in any information the NCAA could use in its investigation and Perez’s previous depositions were ultimately thrown out of the NOA. However, if NCAA investigators lied to interview subjects, that information would have to be tossed as well.

Dodd writes that Miami “will include new information regarding the NCAA’s conduct” in the motion. Whether that new information corroborates the Herald‘s report or adds to it isn’t clear. Consequently, how much information, if any, the NCAA would have to scrap is unknown.

There could eventually be a discussion of whether the NCAA should proceed with the case at all, but in the meantime, expect it to go on as planned. As NCAA guru John Infante wrote this week: “Improperly obtained evidence should be removed and the rest of the case should go forward.”

Miami thinks, as it has all along, that it should not face any additional sanctions beyond the ones self-imposed over the past couple of years. But even if Miami could get its case dismissed, all signs indicate that might not happen until after the program files an official response to its NOA.

It’s been no secret Miami planned to fight the NCAA on its NOA. Add in the numerous missteps the NCAA has taken in investigating UM and the Hurricanes certainly have ammo. Just don’t expect that fight to be over tomorrow.

Ex-UCLA OC helped convince Wilton Speight to transfer to Westwood

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When Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight announced he was going to graduate and transfer to UCLA, many were caught by surprise given that the 6-foot-6 pro-style passer is not your typical fit for Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense. While the new Bruins’ head coach brought up how Sam Bradford and Nick Foles ran his system to convince the quarterback to pick the school for the 2018 season, it was a former assistant at the program who appears to have been just as convincing in bringing the big QB to Westwood.

That would be Jedd Fisch, who was Speight’s coach in Ann Arbor for two years before he left to take the offensive coordinator job with the Bruins when Jim Mora was still in charge last season. The veteran coach returned to the NFL as an assistant with the Los Angeles Rams shortly after Kelly was hired but he reconnected with his old pupil to give him an honest assessment of how he’d fit in with a school sporting a different shade of blue.

“As a coach, you can kind of sniff out the B.S.,” Speight told the LA Times, “and he was able to do that and say, ‘Look, you’re getting what you see at UCLA and I think it’s the right fit,’ and I couldn’t have agreed more.”

Speight will join a very competitive race to be the starter for the opener against Cincinnati when fall camp rolls around. Devon Modster is the incumbent having gotten experience last year when Josh Rosen was held out of several games while incoming freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson is considered the future at the position and figures to see early playing time.

It remains to be seen just how good UCLA will be in their first season with Kelly in charge but the head coach will certainly have a variety of options to choose from at the most important position on the field this year.

Proposed California amendment would cap coaches salaries at $200,000

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Some states do everything they can to help out athletics programs in their borders, that is something that California has never really been accused of doing. A state-wide travel ban has already caused some ripples with regards to scheduling for some teams and it seems lawmakers in Sacramento are back with a new constitutional amendment that could hamper schools ability to pay their coaches.

UCLA student paper The Daily Bruin passes along news that a new constitutional amendment was announced last week “that aims to restrict the University of California’s autonomy by reducing staff salaries, the length of regents’ terms and the authority of the UC president.” That first item is the biggest to take note of, which would institute a cap on non-faculty salaries to $200,000 per year — something that would affect everybody from coaches to the athletic director and everybody in between.

The University of California (UC) system most notably includes Pac-12 schools like UCLA and Cal, which means coaches like Chip Kelly and Justin Wilcox could be affected. To take Kelly as an example, he signed a five-year contract worth a total of $23.3 million when he was hired by the Bruins this offseason.

Head football coaches salaries are not typically paid completely by a school directly however, so there is some wiggle room should this amendment wind up passing. Often a separate athletics organization will foot most of the bill using funds raised from donors while other outside companies sometimes also get involved. Things might be a little more interesting when it comes to assistant’s salaries or non-football/men’s basketball head coaches and support staffers however, who could fall under the purview of the cap.

In other words, some creative accounting practices might have to be implemented by schools like UCLA or Cal or else they’ll be at a significant disadvantage compared to their private school peers like USC or Stanford as well as conference rivals like Arizona or Oregon.

It’s far from certain the amendment will pass given that it requires a two-thirds vote in the state legislature as well as passing muster on a state-wide ballot measure during a general election. We don’t typically see college coaches wade too far into political waters but, in this case, they might be forced to because its one that directly affects their wallets.

Arkansas moving back to natural grass field at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in 2019

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It’s a new era at Arkansas with Chad Morris and a new athletic director in charge and not even the turf will be spared from seeing changes.

Per the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, the school will be moving to a natural grass field at Reynolds Razorback Stadium instead of replacing their current artificial turf again as it nears the end of its lifespan.

“Let me say my preference is I love natural grass,” Morris told the paper a few months ago. “That’s just me. Maybe that’s just the high school coach in me.

“Worrying about what the next surface out here looks like is irrelevant to me. I just want to get through a practice and get better today. But I prefer, I’m a natural grass type of guy. I love being on a grass field. There’s nothing better than that in college football, or football period.”

Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek confirmed this weekend that the change was being made in Fayetteville after the 2018 season concludes. The current turf was put in back in the Bobby Petrino era in 2009 and will need to be replaced after a decade or so of heavy use.

This will not be the end of Razorbacks playing on turf however, as they will not only see the stuff for games at neutral sites and at other SEC opponents but also when they make their annual trek to War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock — which had turf installed a dozen years ago.

West Virginia President on old Big 12 expansion craze: “It was a little bit messy”

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E. Gordon Gee is one of college athletics’ most recognizable figures, which isn’t exactly what you typically say about school leaders like him. The West Virginia President known for his trademark bow tie (and who has never shied away from an interview or a quip he didn’t like) is on the cusp of his first set of spring meetings in the conference as the new chairman of the Big 12 board of directors.

Speaking to the Dallas Morning News about a range of issues around the league prior to meeting in Dallas, Gee seems to have come around on conference expansion from a few years ago and thinks it not only could have been handled better, but it probably shouldn’t be done in the first place because being the smallest Power Five league has its advantages too.

“I’m not certain it was the best way to do it,” Gee told the paper. “It was a little bit messy — and I was part of the mess.

“Intimacy gives us an opportunity to do something that a lot of other places can’t do… We’ll play to our strengths. We’re small, but we can be very aggressive in positioning ourselves uniquely.”

I’m sure the folks at places like Houston and BYU would agree the entire process was messy but will certainly disagree with Gee about the Big 12 sticking with just 10 members. It certainly sounds as though the issue has been put to bed for the foreseeable future but if the merry-go-round gets going once again, at least we know that the process everybody goes through will be a lot different.