Coach: Miami awaits eligibility decisions
The fate of eight Miami players is now in the hands of the NCAA.
Miami coach Al Golden said Friday that the university has asked the NCAA to decide the eligibility of a number of football players — eight, a person with knowledge of the process told The Associated Press — who are believed to have committed violations in dealings with former booster Nevin Shapiro.
The stakes couldn't be higher. Soon, those players deemed ineligible by the university will know when, or if, they will play for Miami this season.
''We've done our part,'' Golden said. ''We're waiting.''
The NCAA's decision is expected early next week, and it will shape the season for the Hurricanes. Some of Miami's top players are implicated in the scandal, including quarterback Jacory Harris, linebacker Sean Spence and receiver Travis Benjamin. Miami declared eight players ineligible, the person with knowledge of the investigation said, in what's described as a procedural move.
When a player is found to have committed a violation, that player must be declared ineligible by the university — a necessary step before the NCAA can decide if the athlete should be reinstated.
''We're all just focused on football,'' said offensive lineman Joel Figueroa, who is not under investigation. ''Just like any other season.''
Except it's not just like any other season. At least, it hasn't been since the Shapiro scandal exploded. And this part of the process will be brutal for Miami because the Sept. 5 primetime opener at Maryland is drawing ever closer.
''They're eligible to practice,'' Golden said Friday. ''We have filed paperwork to the NCAA as of late last night, which is part of the normal process. ... The only entity that can reinstate them is the NCAA.''
Sanctions could include sitting out games, having to repay any money accepted, or both. Miami has asked for an expedited ruling, a request the NCAA typically complies with.
''They're still here,'' offensive lineman Brandon Washington said Friday, speaking about the implicated group. ''They're team guys.''
The NCAA will announce any reinstatement decision, and there is precedent suggesting the governing body may move swiftly. When Auburn ruled eventual Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton — who was dogged by a pay-for-play scandal - ineligible during the week leading up to last year's SEC championship game, the NCAA reinstated him without conditions a day later.
On Saturday, Miami will hold an annual event open to fans, and most players are expected to attend, including those implicated in the scandal. It's the first time many will be available publicly since Shapiro's allegations broke.
Golden expects to have his depth chart for the Maryland game completed for release by Tuesday, though the names listed still would be subject to change. The team is working through a number of scenarios, because no one can say with any certainty which mix of players will be available to join the Hurricanes for the trip to play the Terrapins.
''We'll fight through this,'' Golden said. ''Hurricanes always have.''
Being declared ineligible now doesn't necessarily mean a player would miss any time this season. Golden said he wasn't allowed to discuss specifics about the players who have been declared ineligible.
''It's an ongoing investigation,'' Golden said. ''I'm not allowed to comment on that. Again, we've been most respectful to the process here from the NCAA and been extremely cooperative, so I'm not going to deviate from that path right now.''
Besides Harris, Spence and Benjamin, the other football players named by Shapiro for an article published by Yahoo Sports on Aug. 16 are Vaughn Telemaque, Ray Ray Armstrong, Aldarius Johnson, Marcus Forston, Olivier Vernon, Marcus Robinson, Adewale Ojomo, Dyron Dye and JoJo Nicholas.
During the portion of practice open for viewing Friday, 10 of the 12 players implicated by Shapiro were on the field. Dye and Nicholas were not seen.
The reason for Dye's absence was unknown. Nicholas is dealing with the recent death of his child, born prematurely.
Shapiro is a convicted Ponzi scheme architect serving a 20-year prison sentence for bilking $930 million from investors. He was a Miami booster for much of the past decade and says he provided dozens of Hurricanes, and some recruits who went elsewhere, with extra benefits such as cash, gifts, cars and even prostitutes at times from 2002 through 2010.
Golden has said several times since the story broke that 90 percent of his team, and his coaching staff, are not implicated in the scandal — which makes it possible to think solely about the challenge of getting ready for Maryland.
''I think anybody who is in flux would have some concerns,'' Golden said. ''But we've been trying to keep them on task, and they've been doing a good job of that.''
Figueroa said he has no doubt that Miami will be able to concentrate in the days ahead on the game plan for Maryland.
''We're just worrying about this 'U', worrying about what our goals are and just focusing on that first game,'' Figueroa said. ''We're definitely going to be ready.''