Miami players move on from scandal
Canes continue to practice and focus on the upcoming season
CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Despite having a dozen teammates implicated in the scandal that may impact the future of Miami football, two Hurricanes said Friday they are trying to focus on the coming season and not possible sanctions.
Center Tyler Horn and running back Mike James were the first Miami players to meet reporters since convicted Ponzi-scheme architect and former university booster Nevin Shapiro claimed that he provided money, prostitutes, cars and gifts to some current and former Hurricanes in a story Yahoo Sports published Tuesday.
The NCAA has been investigating Miami for five months, and the school is bracing for the possibility of stiff penalties at some point.
"Well, of course, it was a shock to hear those allegations," Horn said. "But we're focused on football. That's all we can focus on. That's all we can control."
Miami's decision to allow Horn and James the opportunity to take the first questions posed to players since the scandal broke was not entirely coincidental. Not only are they among the more expressive Hurricanes, but neither is among the current players implicated by what Shapiro told Yahoo Sports.
"Life is easy regardless," James said. "We just know we don't pay attention to outside things. We just focus on us, and that's about it."
Horn and James were the only two speakers before Miami's practice Friday morning. Coach Al Golden opted to take a day off from briefing reporters, clearly weary of discussing the scandal. Golden was not implicated in the story, since all the events Shapiro detailed to Yahoo Sports allegedly took place between 2002 and 2010. Golden was hired in December, months after Shapiro was placed into custody for masterminding a $930 million Ponzi scheme.
Shapiro is serving a 20-year prison sentence. He has also been ordered to pay more than $82 million to bilked investors.
Neither Horn nor James would say if they spoke to any of the current players who were implicated by Shapiro. He claims he threw lavish parties at his home and on his yacht, provided cash to recruits and paid for 39 players to have sex with prostitutes.
Those current Hurricanes listed in the story include quarterback Jacory Harris, safeties Vaughn Telemaque and Ray Ray Armstrong, receivers Travis Benjamin and Aldarius Johnson, defensive linemen Marcus Forston, Olivier Vernon, Marcus Robinson and Adewale Ojomo, tight end Dyron Dye, defensive back JoJo Nicholas and linebacker Sean Spence - many of whom are expected to play key roles for the team in 2011.
"That's something I don't speak on," James said. "I just worry about football and let coach and the NCAA handle that."
All Miami players were involved with practice Friday. Nicholas returned after missing part of Thursday to tend to a family matter unrelated to the investigation. On Thursday, Miami athletic director Shawn Eichorst issued a four-paragraph statement, closing his message by saying "there will be a better day." He did not say when.
That's one of many questions lacking answers in this scandal.
"There are tough times ahead, challenges to overcome and serious decisions to be made, but we will be left standing and we will be stronger as a result," Eichorst wrote. "I understand there are unanswered questions, concerns and frustration by many but this athletic department will be defined now and in the future, by our core values, our integrity and our commitment to excellence, and by nothing else."
Shapiro's attorney, Maria Elena Perez - a University of Miami graduate - said she agrees that the Hurricanes will be "left standing" when this process ends. "I think there will be a football program after this," Perez said. "If they shut down this football program, too many people will lose too much money."
But Perez said the allegations were not made up and speculated more could be triggered by Shapiro's story. The attorney said Shapiro is aware of the fallout from his story and suggested more allegations may still be coming.
"I believe inevitably there will be more," Perez said. "Whether that comes from Nevin or from outside sources who have additional information about this, I can't tell you. But I believe that there will be more."
Miami joined a growing list of schools with major football programs to be investigated by the NCAA for rule-breaking in the past 18 months. Others include Southern California, Ohio State, Auburn, Oregon, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and LSU.
Shapiro began making his allegations about a year ago. He told Yahoo Sports that 72 football players and other athletes at Miami received improper benefits from him in the past decade.
The NCAA's four-year statute of limitations doesn't apply when there is a pattern of willful violations that continues into the past four years.
"These are not times for pity and reflection," Eichorst said.