Yahoo! and Charles Robinson made their big splash two weeks back, but in the end, justice prevailed. A reminder to all you rush-to-judgment losers in the media who had the gall to scream ‘death penalty’ over a sensationalized expose.
The NCAA investigated a dozen or so current UM players and the punishment has been handed down. Five players have been cleared (four of which must repay less than $100), five will miss one game, two will miss four games and one will miss six games.
A far cry from the ‘death penalty’ closing the doors on a ‘renegade’ program.
Per the investigation, junior defensive end Olivier Vernon received the harshest penalty – a six-game suspension – as he received more than $1,200 in benefits as a “prospective student-athlete” in order to “entice” him to enroll at UM. The benefits included meals, transportation, drinks, cover charges and access to a game suite.
Junior safety Ray-Ray Armstrong and recently converted tight end Dyron Dye will each miss four games, again for benefits received during the recruitment process. Armstrong and Dye both attended Seminole high and were part of the Sanford Trio, that included receiver Andre Debose, who ended up signing with Florida.
Debose was cleared by the NCAA, which led many to cite the “limited immunity” clause for those who speak out and aid the NCAA in an investigation. (Debose was on the same recruiting trip with Armstrong and Dye, where the improprieties occurred.)
Armstrong is said to have received upwards of $788 and extra benefits while Dye received $738 – made up up “impermissible lodging”, transportation, meals and entertainment at a gentleman’s club.
The five student-athletes who each received a one-game suspension – quarterback Jacory Harris, linebacker Sean Spence, receiver Travis Benjamin, defensive tackle Marcus Forston and defensive end Adewale Ojomo. The benefits ranged from $140 (Harris) to $400 (Forston). Senior wideout Aldarius Johnson has been suspended indefinitely by UM, not the NCAA.
Four other student-athletes were cleared to play, but each must pay back under $100 as a result of benefits received – cornerback Brandon McGee, cornerback JoJo Nicolas, defensive tackle Micanor Regis and safety Vaughn Telemaque. Defensive end Marcus Robinson has been fully cleared of any investigation and will lose no playing time, as well.
That’s the NCAA’s version – as a Miami fan, this is how it breaks down.
Maryland will be a challenge Labor Day night as Miami will be without seven impact players – Vernon, Armstrong, Harris, Spence, Benjamin, Forston and Ojomo. The biggest hits for the Canes in the opener – the loss of Armstrong and Spence, as well as the hit the defensive line takes with three guys out. That doesn’t diminish the loss of Harris or Benjamin, but with talk of Stephen Morris battling for the start at quarterback and solid depth at receiver, that is an area where UM could seemingly afford the one-night hit.
Miami has a bye on Saturday September 10th, meaning five suspended Canes will work their way back into the fold for Ohio State on September 17th – Harris, Spence, Benjamin, Forston and Ojomo.
The Canes will be without Vernon and Armstrong from this point through game four (Armstrong) and game six (Vernon) – meaning they’ll also miss Kansas State and Bethune-Cookman. Miami will get Armstrong back Saturday October 8th for a road game at Virginia Tech while Vernon will return Saturday October 22nd for Georgia Tech.
The downside? Being strapped for the opener. The upside? It’s Maryland, as opposed to one of the bigger dogs on the schedule. Definitely not a gimmie, but definitely not an ACC powerhouse, either.
Another bonus, Miami goes into it’s biggest ACC Coastal game in Blacksburg with two suspended impact players. Bigger than that, the annual showdown with Florida State comes on November 12th this year, as opposed to early October. The Canes will be running a full squad when rolling into Tallahassee late fall. Sorry, Noles.
The biggest standout in all this? The NCAA truly cracking down on any impermissible benefits given during the recruiting process. Anything that could’ve influenced the route where a then-high school athlete chose to go collegiately, those are the guys here who took the hardest hit (Vernon, Armstrong and Dye).
We could turn this into a sanctimonious rant about rushing to judgment and casting stones, but we’ll instead give thanks that this portion of the investigation is in the rearview and move forward.
Yes, some current Miami players broke a few rules – but when you hear what was done versus what Yahoo! attempted to imply, the slap on the wrist is beyond justified and the 2011 season will remain in tact.
Al Golden and his squad will now get their fighting chance to do what they came to Coral Gables to do – which is the feel-good story in all this. No one wanted to see the majority of this squad or these first-year coaches suffering because of a misstep here or there several years back.
Five more days until College Park. Set the depth chart, Coach and let’s do this.