NCAA: 8 Miami players must sit out games

August 31, 2011 - 5:35 AM
Miami NCAA Investigation Football

Miami head coach Al Golden answers questions during NCAA college football media day in Coral Gables, Fla., Saturday, Aug. 27, 2011. Several Miami players have been implicated in an NCAA scandal. (AP Photo/Jeffrey M. Boan)

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — For Miami coach Al Golden, there is relief.

And for the Hurricanes implicated in an extra-benefits scandal, there will be a return to the field this season.

The NCAA said Tuesday that quarterback Jacory Harris and 11 other Hurricanes who accepted benefits from former booster Nevin Shapiro may play with some conditions — the first sanctions in a scandal that continues to overshadow the program.

Three players who accepted benefits as recruits were hit hardest, a six-game ban for Olivier Vernon and four-game penalties for Ray Ray Armstrong and Dyron Dye.

"I think it was probably fair," Golden told The Associated Press in response to the NCAA ruling. "Clearly, whatever transpired, it wasn't as over-the-top as everybody was initially reporting and all of those things. The NCAA and the university felt there was mistakes made ... and I've accepted that. And now we're moving forward."

In all, 12 players must pay restitution and eight will miss at least one game.

Miami opens its season at Maryland on Monday night.

The Hurricanes still might face many more penalties as the NCAA's investigation into Miami's compliance practices continues.

Miami is one of a growing list of schools with major football programs to be investigated by the NCAA for rule-breaking in the past 18 months, a club that includes Southern California, Ohio State, Auburn, Oregon, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and LSU.

"Our members have continually stressed that involvement of third parties during recruitment will not be tolerated," NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs Kevin Lennon said.

Harris, Sean Spence, Travis Benjamin, Marcus Forston and Adewale Ojomo — all of whom were likely starters — must sit out one game after it was determined they accepted benefits after enrolling at the school. Four other players must repay small amounts, all under $100, but will not miss any games.

"They understand that their actions demand consequences," Miami athletic director Shawn Eichorst said.

A 13th player, Marcus Robinson, was vindicated of wrongdoing, the university said.

The players who have to miss games may practice with the team even while they are unable to play.

"It's nice to have it out there now," Miami center Tyler Horn said. "There's no suspense in the air. We know what we have. We know what we're taking to Maryland."

Said Golden: "I'm relieved. I think that's a fair assessment."

The NCAA's ruling means Stephen Morris — who led Miami past the Terrapins last season — will be at quarterback for the Hurricanes to start the season. Harris, Spence, Benjamin, Forston and Ojomo all will be eligible to play when Miami hosts Ohio State on Sept. 17.

"They'll still be motivating us," left tackle Joel Figueroa said. "We're going to welcome them back with open arms, and we know they'll be ready to perform when the time comes."

The process of evaluating the eligibility of Miami student-athletes might not be over yet. Miami President Donna Shalala revealed last week that university compliance personnel were investigating 15 student-athletes.

Of those, 13 were addressed by Tuesday's football decisions. A 14th is believed to be basketball player DeQuan Jones, who was also implicated by Shapiro's claims to Yahoo Sports. The identity of the 15th is unknown.

Also Tuesday, senior wide receiver Aldarius Johnson — who was also implicated by Shapiro, but not named in Tuesday's NCAA statement — was suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules.

"We clearly have identified what our travel team is now," Golden said. "Everybody's going to get their roles (Wednesday) and by 7 a.m. we're going to be back on the practice field. That's been kind of our sanctum anyway. That's been the safest place for us this whole time."

The NCAA said Vernon must repay more than $1,200 because as a recruit he accepted things such as access to Shapiro's suite at a Miami home game, drinks and cover charges at two different nightclubs. Vernon was one of 72 Miami players and recruits that Shapiro claimed he provided benefits to over an eight-year span, allegations he detailed in a Yahoo Sports story published Aug. 16.

Armstrong must repay $788, the believed worth of his extra benefits, while Dye will pay $738.

Forston, the NCAA said, received more than $400 in things such as "athletic equipment, meals, nightclub cover charges and entertainment at a gentleman's club." Spence received about $275 in benefits, Ojomo $240, Benjamin more than $150 and Harris more than $140.

Brandon McGee, JoJo Nicholas, Vaughn Telemaque and Micanor Regis all must pay less than $100 for taking various impermissible benefits. Regis was not one of the players Shapiro said accepted benefits. The sanctions of those four players were announced by the university, which is operating a joint investigation with the NCAA.

"I'm glad that chapter is closed," Golden said. "I'm proud of our guys. I think they were, from every report I've gotten, were honest and forthright. And now we get ready for the University of Maryland."