WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
The NCAA has delivered a new and disturbing ultimatum to numerous former University of Miami football players: Either talk to us or we’ll believe Nevin Shapiro’s claims against you.
The NCAA last week mailed a letter to former players that allegedly committed NCAA violations by accepting gifts from Shapiro, including dinners, prostitutes, trips to nightclubs, cash and other perks. Shapiro told the NCAA that 114 players committed violations; Yahoo previously identified 72 of them.
Only players who were playing college football at the time the investigation was launched are required to speak to the NCAA. Thirteen current or former UM football players did so in 2011. So the players who were sent the letter last week are no longer playing college football; some are in the NFL.
The letter, which I obtained, gives the players a Friday deadline to speak to the NCAA. What’s surprising is that the NCAA states in the letter that it will conclude the players committed violations if they do not respond.
UM officials were privately hopeful that many of the allegations made against players who left UM several years ago cannot be corroborated. Unless the NCAA is bluffing, it appears it might take Shapiro’s word on these claims unless the players refute them.
In recent days, several players and their attorneys have been trying to decide whether to speak to the NCAA. Even Tuesday, one said he's not sure what he will do. So it’s unclear how many players will speak to the NCAA.
Here’s how the letter to one player attorney reads:
"The purpose of this letter is to apprise you that the NCAA enforcement staff is requesting to schedule an interview with your clients regarding their knowledge of or involvement in possible NCAA violations concerning the University of Miami, Florida, football program.
"Interviewing your clients is important in order for the enforcement staff to conduct a thorough investigation, and both the staff and the institution request you and your clients’ cooperation in this matter. However, at this time, all attempts to schedule and execute interviews with [blank] have been unsuccessful. As a result, this letter serves as a formal and final request by the NCAA enforcement staff for interviews with [blank] to be completed by Nov. 23, 2012.
“If we do not hear back from you or your clients by that time, the staff will consider the non-response as your client’s admission of involvement in NCAA violations. You may contact me at [blank] in order to arrange this interview. Your assistance in this matter is appreciated.”
Assistant Director of Enforcement
### My opinion: Regardless of whether it's bluffing or not, the NCAA - by sending this letter to former players - is being heavy-handed and manipulative. Considering the NCAA has no jurisdiction over former players, it's offensive that it would threaten to believe a convicted felon without additional corroboration. A felon, for that matter, who's in jail for a crime involving lying (a Ponzi scheme).
### Keep this in mind: Shapiro claims player violations started in 2002, but the NCAA’s four-year statue of limitations doesn’t apply when there’s a longstanding pattern of willful violations that continues into the past four years. The NCAA previously told UM that it will consider invoking that “willful violators” clause.
### Though several high-ranking UM officials believed UM should play in a bowl game if it won the ACC Coastal, a UM official said the school went with the advice of outside attorney Mike Glazier, who thought it would mitigate future penalties but was given no assurance that UM would not have any more bowl bans. Though Penn State got a four-year bowl ban this year for the Jerry Sandusky tragedy, no school has had a recruiting-related three-year bowl ban since Oklahoma State (1989-91).
One upshot, a UM official said, is self-imposing lessens the chances of prematurely losing seniors- and juniors-to-be, who could transfer and play elsewhere immediately, if UM gets a one- or two-year bowl ban, respectively.
### Some former players are upset about UM’s self-imposed bowl ban --- “These players don’t deserve it and Miami could be punishing themselves for no reason!” Olivier Vernon told me --- but current players “were told to watch what we say,” Brandon McGee said. That's one reason why you haven't heard any current Canes voice displeasure.
### Seniors McGee and Mike James are expected to be drafted, and UM hopes a few juniors (including Seantrel Henderson and Curtis Porter) don't turn pro, too. UM lost five early entrants to the NFL last year, but Al Golden said Tuesday: "There's a stronger relationship with a lot of these young men [now].... A lot of guys understand from last year, perhaps guys would have gone higher if they had stayed. We want to make sure they have the facts, not just leaning on one side."
### Golden, on his WQAM radio show Tuesday night: "The thing people don't understand and accept is I want to be here for a really long time."
### Here’s what has changed in how teams are defending Ryan Tannehill: According to Matt Moore, he’s seeing more zone coverage and “looks that are better disguised.” Also key: Tannehill is being blitzed less; he faced only three blitzes against Buffalo and threw his only touchdown against one of them. His 2012 quarterback rating is 77.2 when blitzed, 66.5 when not blitzed.
“Teams are adjusting to what the Dolphins are doing. There’s not much separation from their receivers, so the windows are always tight that Ryan is throwing into,” ESPN’s Ron Jaworski said off air Tuesday.
### Coach Joe Philbin said Tuesday that owner Stephen Ross – who expected this team would be a playoff contender – “has been fantastic, very, very supportive” through this losing streak but “of course, I give him a 72-hour cool down period.” Ross, predictably, was down in the wake of the Bills loss, a friend said. But he likes this coaching staff.
### Chris Leible, one of Jose Reyes’ agents, said Reyes was “shocked” about being traded and confirmed a Fox report that the Marlins had orally promised he would not be traded. “He was told many times he wasn’t going anywhere,” Leible said, declining to say who told Reyes that. (Another friend of Reyes said it was Jeffrey Loria who told him.)
Mark Buehrle also was angry and told associates that he, too, was told he wouldn't be traded, an associate said… The Red Sox pursued Reyes before the Toronto deal but offered only marginal prospects and wouldn’t pay most of his salary.
### Marlins executive Larry Beinfest suggested he would explore adding a power-hitting center fielder (either a cheap free agent -- good luck with finding one of those -- or through a trade) but otherwise would go with a combination of Justin Ruggiano, Gorkys Hernandez and Bryan Petersen in center. Chris Coghlan also might get yet another chance.… Beinfest said Wade LeBlanc, Brad Hand and Tom Koehler will compete for the fifth rotation spot behind Ricky Nolasco (Beinfest won’t guarantee he will be back), Jacob Turner, Henderson Alvarez and Nate Eovaldi.
### Though the Heat’s Mario Chalmers continues to allow too many blow-bys defensively, his improved passing is encouraging: His career-best 3.1-to-1 assist to turnover ratio ranks 10th among starting point guards. Last season, his 1.56-to-1 ratio was third-worst.
“We need Chalmers to be low turnover,” Shane Battier said. “He still has a tendency to go off the reservation and get crazy at times, but he’s better. He makes less young-player mistakes.”