SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
When UM defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio was asked at a Canes recruiting party what he plans to do differently next season, he had four words.
“Get after the quarterback!”
Applause naturally followed. There will be even more applause if, well, it actually happens.
UM spring practice begins next Saturday, and there will be no greater defensive priority than figuring out how to improve a pass rush that produced a meager 13 sacks in 12 games.
Also high on D’Onofrio’s list: Upgrading a run defense that improved in November, when Curtis Porter returned, but still finished 112th of 120 Bowl Subdivision schools.
D’Onofrio has the trust of Al Golden and until last year, a record of fielding generally stout defenses. But last season produced mostly angst: Miami allowed 30.5 points and 487 yards per game, and D’Onofrio faced a torrent of fan criticism.
“It’s something I have to ignore,” he said of fan backlash. “I have to put trust in my training. I’ve called over 85 games. First year I came here, we were in the top 20 in scoring defense. The year before at Temple, we were in the top 20 in scoring defense.”
Last year, he had a young group (Brandon McGee was the only senior) and had to overcome injury issues (Porter missed the first eight games), suspensions (Eddie Johnson, Gionni Paul) and the early NFL departures of Olivier Vernon and Marcus Forston.
Despite those impediments, some questioned his philosophy.
One scout said he had no issue with D’Onofrio’s approach, but another scout said he would like to have seen more blitzes, creative pressure packages, and more use of man-to-man coverage (especially bump and run) and less zone.
McGee defended D’Onofrio: “It’s a good system if it’s executed. All Coach D can do is the make the calls. We had mental breakdowns, guys not getting deep enough in coverage.”
D’Onofrio blitzed some, but not a ton, because he didn’t want to put his young secondary at risk and “you have to figure out the risk/reward. It comes down to putting guys in situations they’re ready for….
“I don’t know if the casual fan understands the depth of what we’re doing. There’s not a coverage we don’t have. We pressure a lot of different ways; I probably ran five different safety pressures last year. I’ve never been so stubborn that I say, ‘This is what we do.’ It’s about the players and what can they do well. I never get boxed in and say, ‘This is our scheme.’
“If you’ve got corners that can play press and play it well and the situation dictates it, that’s great. Press man is tremendous and we run it. [But] you can’t press every down because it doesn’t make sense. If the receivers are going to run your corners off and they have their back turned to the ball and the run pops, you’re playing with two less guys… At the end of the game, we’ve got to be able to make plays.”
One thing D’Onofrio wants to do differently: Play fewer players. He said UM used 25 to 27 a game on defense last season. “We have to get to the point where it’s not quite that many. If it’s 18 or 19, there can’t be that much of a dropoff from the first 11.”
Here’s how he plans to address other issues:
### Pass rush: UM doesn’t want to put all the pressure on Anthony Chickillo, who faced frequent double teams and saw his sacks drop from five to four. But more is obviously needed.
“Everyone wanted him to play like a senior, like he’s supposed to all of a sudden have 10 sacks as a sophomore,” D’Onofrio said. “That’s not realistic. He continued to improve.”
Equally important is getting more pass rush from the other end spot. Here’s the conundrum: Shayon Green led UM with 67 tackles but had no sacks. D’Onofrio conceded “it will be awful, awful hard to knock him out of the [lineup]” because of his “toughness, leadership, the way he plays.” But unless Green improves as a pass-rusher, that also means conceding that you're not going to get much of that from one of your starting ends.
So the pressure will again fall on the young ends: promising Tyriq McCord, who had 3.5 sacks, and Jelani Hamilton, who played sparingly in five games while rounding back into form from an ACL injury in high school.
“Jelani is getting stronger, starting to blow up,” D’Onofrio said. “I’m looking forward to seeing him in the spring.” There’s also hope that Olsen Pierre (1.5 sacks) can produce more pressure from a tackle spot.
And D’Onofrio expects immediate pass rush contributions from newcomers Al-Quadin Muhammed (12 sacks last season) and junior college transfers Devante Bond (17 sacks) and Ufomba Kamalu (7.5 sacks). “Those guys can get to the quarterback – that’s their expertise,” D’Onofrio said.
### Stopping the run: It all starts with Porter, who must stay healthy. He and Pierre formed a capable tackle duo in November, and having “Jimmy Gaines healthy at mike linebacker helped a lot, too,” D’Onofrio said.
But behind Porter and Pierre, UM needs growth from Luther Robinson (“he really played well for us the second half of the year,” D’Onofrio said), Jalen Grimble, DeQuan Ivery, Earl Moore and Corey King. D’Onofrio said Kamalu may end up playing tackle, too.
Besides needing to get stronger physically, “the group has to hold each other accountable that it’s not OK for a guy to be out of their gap and freelance,” D’Onofrio said. “It’s not just the coach out there going crazy, but a teammate that gets himself angry at another teammate.”
### With UM adding three recruits since Signing Day – including highly regarded running back Cornelius Elder and tight end Derrick Griffin – ESPN raised UM’s final recruiting class ranking from 21st to 15th, past Texas, Oklahoma, and Virginia Tech, among others.
“The snapshot of their class is a lot better than it was two weeks ago,” ESPN’s Jeremy Crabtree said. “Griffin reminds me of Jermaine Gresham and he ends up being the best player in their class. They now have one of the most memorable tight end classes we’ve seen in 15 years.”
### UM basketball coaches like the upside of Elder (a point guard) and especially Griffin (a small forward, rated 83rd among all prospects by rivals.com). Al Golden said Jim Larranaga was thrilled to get Griffin, and Larranaga told WFTL-640's Sid Rosenberg: "The first time I saw him, I thought he was incredible. Picture Shane Larkin at 6-7, 225. Speed, quickness, jumping ability. This kid is super gifted." Larranaga said several times, Griffin would "take a bad lob pass and turn it into an incredible dunk."
### Though the luxury tax is a concern for the Heat, Miami never considered trading Joel Anthony (due $3.8 million each of the next two years) or Mike Miller (due $6.2 million next season and likely to be amnestied this summer) before Thursday's deadline, contrary to speculation. But the Anthony issue might be revisited this summer.
Heat officials want to keep Miller around this season in case there's an injury to a shooter. And they like Anthony in certain defensive matchups, including on Kevin Garnett. Miami, which is happy with Chris Andersen as its primary backup center, simply wasn't willing to give up anything of value for centers rumored to be available, such as DeJuan Blair or Tim Mozgov, because it "didn't want to add a center just to add a center."
### The Dolphins' Jared Odrick (five sacks) bemoans that “the media is always worried we need another pass rusher, but just look at the numbers!” Miami was 10th in sacks per pass play, and Odrick said he will lose about 20 pounds to gain quickness if he stays at defensive end. He would move to defensive tackle if Randy Starks bolts in free agency, but Miami is working hard to try to keep Starks.
### Jonathan Martin admits his ideal scenario would be to play left tackle this season (which will happen if Jake Long leaves) and Richie Incognito says “we’re trying to toughen up” the scholarly Stanford grad, whom teammates good-naturedly call Big Weirdo. (Artis Hicks, who had half a cup of coffee with the Dolphins, gave him that nickname.)
### The Dolphins had more contract talks with Sean Smith's representation the past couple days, and the situation is fluid. The sides began the week far apart, with vastly different views of his value, and they still have plenty of distance to bridge to do a deal. Smith has said he very much wants to stay, but other teams might place a higher value on him.
### One respected 2012 Marlins player with no ax to grind said the one improvement the team made (besides dumping Heath Bell) was replacing Ozzie Guillen with Mike Redmond because “Ozzie just didn’t care. All he cared about was his money. And he wasn’t good in game situations, either.”
### Please see our last post for more Canes, Heat and Marlins notes from earlier in the weekend.
We'll post the Sunday buzz later. A few things, in order: UM, Heat, Marlins ---
### So who will decide UM’s fate? At least five, and maybe more, of the 18 members of the infractions committee.
If you're wondering, that group includes these folks:
Former Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr, former Georgia Tech basketball coach Bobby Cremins, Kansas City based attorney John Black, Washington D.C. based attorney Roscoe Howard, SEC associate commissioner Gregory Sankey, Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky (the chairperson)…
Notre Dame senior deputy A.D. Melissa Conboy, Oregon law professor James O’Fallon, Missouri law professor Rodney Uphoff….
Bowling Green A.D. Greg Christopher, Temple law professor Eleanor Myers, Tampa based attorney Christopher Griffin, Georgia president Michael Adams…
Former U.S. attorney Norman Bay, former Bowling Green president Carol Cartwright, Iowa State senior vice president Thomas Hill, former Minnesota A.D. Joe Maturi, and Princeton attorney Sankar Suryanarayan.
The NCAA case very likely be heard in mid-June after the infractions committee agreed to move up the enforcement staff's timetable. An official close with someone on Friday's conference call said nothing else was decided on the call. The NCAA said it would consider the motions by three former assistants to dismiss charges against them, but none know if they have a legitimate chance of success. At least one of the three has been considering a lawsuit.
### LeBron James said after the morning shootaround in Philadelphia this morning that his quad/knee injury, sustained in a collision with Chicago's Nate Robinson on Thursday, is feeling better and he will play tonight. He cracked that it won't stop him from dunking if there are opportunities on alley-oops.
### Chris Bosh was asked by a New York reporter after practice whether he's amused or annoyed when opponents say they can beat the Heat in the playoffs. (The Knicks weren't mentioned, but coach Mike Woodson and Carmelo Anthony have both said that in recent days).
Responded Bosh: "People have been saying that for a while. It's only happened once. When it's go time, when it's time to put it all on the line, we feel we're the best team out there. During the season, late season, early playoffs, late playoffs, when we're playing our best, we're the best team in the league."
### The Heat plays the 76ers tonight, and aside from their three remaining meetings this season, there's no bigger Philadelphia fan, during the next two months, than the Heat. That's because the Heat will get Philadelphia's first-round pick only if the Sixers make the playoffs, and that's looking like something of a long shot.
The first-round pick is lottery protected for 2013, 2014 and 2015. The Heat's own first-round pick in 2013 belongs to Cleveland as a result of the LeBron James sign-and-trade.
Philadelphia is 3 1/2 games behind Milwaukee for the eighth playoff spot and continues to be without center Andrew Bynum, who practiced Friday but is not close to returning, coach Doug Collins said.
If the Sixers surprisingly squeak in as the eighth seed, the pick the Heat would receive likely would be 15th or 16th overall. Otherwise, Miami will have to wait until a year the 76ers make the playoffs, or 2016 --- whichever comes first.
The Heat acquired the pick on a draft night trade last June; Miami selected former Mississippi State forward Arnett Moultree with the 27th pick and sent him to the 76ers for the 45th pick and a future first-rounder. The Heat used the 45th selection on LSU center Justin Hamilton, whose is playing overseas and will be invited to join the Heat's summer program beginning in July. Moultree has played in only 19 games for the 76ers, averaging 2.4 points and 2.4 rebounds.
### After practice Saturday, LeBron James told Wade to tell reporters his new nickname: "It's WOW! Way of Wade. I think it's corny." Wade cracked: "I'm taking it global."
LORIA TO SPEAK
Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has refused to speak to the media since mid-November, when he was approached by writers in Chicago and said this when asked why the Marlins traded three of their four most expensive players to Toronto: “If you guys haven’t figured it out yet, I’m not going to figure it out for you!” Then, when asked if he would sell the team, he spewed: "More stupidity!"
But Loria will finally speak on Monday, and P.R. people believe the owner should.
Cori Zywotow Rice, president of public relations firm Hill & Knowlton/SAMCOR said: “Generally, silence is not a good policy. We, in most circumstances,… recommend our clients to fill the vacuum with their point of view. When there’s an absence of facts, the vacuum often gets filled with speculation, which is not in the client’s best interests.”
In the Marlins’ defense, David Samson and Larry Beinfest have done the best they could to explain the Marlins’ predicament. They were forthright and candid during a Marlins’ media event two weeks ago.
But Loria needs to speak, too, after extracting more than $300 million in public money for a stadium based on the presumption the Marlins would have a competitive payroll.
So what should Loria say? Here’s what we would recommend:
REMEMBER: LORIA DID NOT SAY WHAT'S BELOW. IT"S MERELY WHAT I WOULD SAY IF I WERE HIM, WHAT THE FANS DESERVE TO BE TOLD.
“I want to apologize to our loyal fans for what has happened this offseason. I know it has been difficult for our fans, and I want to explain why we did what we did.
“Let me start by making ourselves accountable. We vastly overestimated the revenue the new stadium would generate. I expected we would draw 33,000 to 35,000 fans per game. In truth, only about 17,000 fans attended each game, on average. As a result, the money we got from tickets, concessions and merchandise was tens of millions of dollars less than we expected.
“I don’t want to leave the impression I’m blaming the fans. If we had put a better team on the field, perhaps more people would have come. But I am puzzled why we had only two sellouts, and why none of the games against the Red Sox sold out.
“At any rate, our revenues were $40 million less than we expected, and as a result, we suffered sizable losses. I am opening our financial books to the media so there aren’t any doubts about that.
“When my business people gave me the revenue projections for this season, I decided I could not stomach the type of financial losses we would incur if we kept the payroll anywhere near where it was last season. And I concluded that the team we had, even before the Hanley Ramirez trade, wasn’t playoff-caliber.
“So I made the difficult decision to trade many of our highest priced players. As much as I loved Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle, I could not fathom paying Reyes $22 million each of the last four years of his seven-year contract, or Buehrle $18 million and $19 million in the last two years of his four year contract. I could not justify those payroll allocations knowing our revenue isn’t nearly as high as we expected.
“I understand that Jose and Mark were upset about being traded, and I understand their anger. I have decided that in some cases, we are going to re-think our policy about not giving no-trade clauses. I don’t want that to be an impediment to signing free agents if it’s the right player.
“What I’m encouraged about is we have replenished our farm system and added quality young players in Rob Brantley, Jacob Turner, Adeiny Hechavarria, and have several terrific prospects not far from the majors, such as Jose Fernandez and Christian Yelich. MLB.com has six of our players ranked among the top 100 prospects.
“My hope is that our young nucleus of players will grow together this year and we can supplement this team with free agents in the future. My hope is that we can make smarter decisions about how we spend money, because our performance in that area --- mine especially - hasn’t been nearly good enough.
“We said when the new ballpark opened, we expected a payroll in the mid range of all teams, and I am sorry that will not be the case this season. Though our revenue will make that difficult to achieve every year, I understand I have an obligation to field a competitive team. I understand why people are angry about our payroll, but we will build it back up when we are further along in our rebuilding plan.
“And I will make an earnest attempt to do a longterm deal with Giancarlo Stanton long before he can become a free agent after the 2016 season.”
So that would be a start for Loria – making an earnest attempt to be straight with Marlins fans, how ever many are left. Anything less would be disappointing.
FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN
For years, it has been a Dolphins’ problem that seemingly can never be solved. As they continue their elusive search for a high-impact stretch-the-field tight end, general manager Jeff Ireland keeps defending the maligned player he drafted; several intriguing veterans approach free agency; and Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti is making an impassioned plea for Miami to follow his advice on the issue.
“There’s one guy that can change this offense and that’s Tyler Eifert,” Buoniconti, a Notre Dame alum, said of the 6-6 Fighting Irish tight end and former receiver.
“But I’m not sure the Dolphins have the vision to get him,” Buoniconti said. “If he stays healthy, he will re-write the tight end record books. He’s that good. If the Dolphins had any sense of wanting to improve the team down the middle and open it up for other receivers, this is the guy. He’s a gem.
“I’m sure he doesn’t fit the mold for the Dolphins. He’s too good.”
Some draft analysts consider Miami’s 12th pick high for Eifert, but Buoniconti said he’s worthy of a top-10 selection. He’s also an option if Miami trades down.
“He’s a heck of a player,” said Kiper, who projects him 30th but said he would have no issue picking him in the middle of the first round.
“Eifert and Stanford’s Zach Ertz are splitting hairs,” Kiper said. “Both have a chance to be great players in the NFL. Both have pass catching skills of receivers and can overwhelm corners with very good size.”
Asked if Eifert or Ertz should be in the mix at No. 12, NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said: “At No. 12, both those guys are talented. They’re what today’s tight ends are all about. Both of their strengths are getting down the field and catching the ball. Eifert did a better job blocking.”
But Sporting News analyst Russ Lande said Eifert “is not a guy like Rob Gronkowski who will run away from people and run people over.” Some evaluators have raised Heath Miller and Kyle Rudolph as more appropriate comparisons.
ESPN’s Scouts Inc. says Eifert “uses his frame well to box out defenses, and is fast enough to work the seam and make defenses pay for biting on play action, but not going to make many defenders miss.”
Mayock calls San Diego State’s Gavin Escobar (52, 543) the third-best tight end after Eifert and Ertz and sees a dropoff after that.
“It’s a pretty good group,” Kiper said, calling UF’s Jordan Reed a potential second-rounder (“he can stretch the deep middle”) and Michigan State’s Dion Sims and Escobar third- or fourth-rounders.
The Dolphins are expected to try to re-sign Anthony Fasano for modest money while also seeking a skilled playmaker to complement him with a different skill set. That player obviously could start if he's good enough and if the Dolphins can actually acquire him, which they've had no success doing for five years. They’re expected to kick the tires on Jermichael Finley if the Packers release him.
At least four potential free agents would be upgrades: Jared Cook (Tennessee might franchise him; Miami once nearly drafted him before regrettably taking Patrick Turner instead), Washington's Fred Davis (off a torn Achilles’), the Jets' Dustin Keller (injury-plagued in 2012) and Martellus Bennett, who said he prefers to stay with the Giants and also wouldn’t mind playing with his brother Michael, a defensive end who had nine sacks for Tampa Bay.
But Ireland also keeps insisting third-rounder Michael Egnew, who played just 25 snaps and wasn’t thrown a pass as a rookie, is going to have a “good season” in 2013, even though teammates are dubious.
When WQAM’s Joe Rose expressed skepticism about Egnew and asked Ireland what he sees, Ireland said: “I see a 6-4, 260-pound guy who runs a 4.65. I see a guy having vertical speed down the middle of the field. I see a big guy that moves well. I see a developing player with his hand in the dirt.
“I see a competitive guy. I can name several players at that position that did very little in their first year and became big time playmakers. That’s a position that develops differently. Other than quarterback, that position is the most mentally and physically demanding.”
Ireland mentioned a Super Bowl tight end that did little in his first year -- presumably Baltimore’s Dennis Pitta, who had one catch for one yard as a rookie but then blossomed.
But here’s one of the problems with Egnew: According to a teammate, he lined up on the wrong side during pregame work before the season-finale and had troubling remembering the plays.
Ireland explained Thursday that finding a tight end can be challenging because “you’ve got a lot of detached receiver types that fit a tight end body and then when you use a system that uses a traditional tight end, you’re sometimes trying to project that player and the projection business is difficult.”
### As if the NCAA hasn’t done enough already to aggravate UM, add this to the list: Last week, UM and the NCAA engaged in serious settlement talks, and several UM people expected a deal because president Mark Emmert seemed initially supportive. UM wanted a settlement and likely would have accepted modest scholarship reductions.
But a source said the NCAA then informed UM there would be no deal and suggested to UM the enforcement staff and two key boards were against it because of concerns about “not deviating from the rules.”
### Also, UM tried to convince the NCAA to not use the words “lack of institutional control” – and was hopeful at one point it might be changed to the less serious “failure to monitor” – but the NCAA wouldn’t back down.
### UM spring practice starts March 2, and Duke Johnson – hardly content - said one reason he wants to "bulk up and get stronger” is because “I don’t want to get taken out on short yardage because I can’t block.”… New offensive coordinator James Coley is hitting it off with Stephen Morris: “What a great young man. He makes great decisions. He can do something very special this year.”
### Tweet of the day, from NCAA critic and former Canes great Alonzo Highsmith, who's in Indianapolis for the scouting combine in his role as a Packers executive: "Well, I visited the NCAA and asked for [president Mark] Emmert but wasn't in!!!! I said, 'Tell him Alonzo came by.' I think I need to visit Emmert dressed like Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction."
### There's no bigger Canes hater than ESPN's Mark May, who tweeted Thursday: "Let's hope the NCAA stands firm vs. Miami. The self-imposed penalty is not even close for their violations."
### Though the Heat would consider adding a player to replace Dexter Pittman if the perfect fit becomes available, there's nobody Miami's targeting at the moment. They had no interest in Kenyon Martin (who signed with the Knicks tonight). And Jermaine O'Neal, who might get a Phoenix buyout, was considered high-maintanance during his stint here and isn't a Heat target.
The Heat decided there was more potential with Jarvis Varnado than Pittman, whose option likely would not have been picked up this summer anyway.
### More evidence of how our market is changing, thanks to Heat success and Dolphins missteps: Last Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game on cable produced nearly as high a rating in Miami-Fort Lauderdale (12.6) as the Dolphins-Texans opener on free TV last season (13.5). Remarkable.
Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland spoke to reporters at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis earlier today. Here are a few nuggets; also check out Armando's blog with other comments from Ireland:
### Ireland said he wants Reggie Bush back (though it's clear he has a price in mind and doesn't want to exceed it): "We'd love to have his skill set on the team. We just have to see how things go."
### He made clear re-signing Randy Starks is a priority: "It's very important to have Randy back if we can get it done. We have a very good defensive line and keeping that intact is a focus of mine. I don't want to let that strength become just average."
### On impending free agent Jake Long: "We've made our desire to have him back on this team known, but that's a tricky one. It's a complicated negotiation.... Injury history, I don't want to say it's an issue. It's something we look at obviously."
### He "had a meeting the other day" with Sean Smith's agent "and "I left optimistic, but we still have a long way to go."
### Why hasn't he made more aggressive efforts to re-sign players yet? "You can't just make knee jerk reactions on getting certain guys signed. We've taken on the evaluation of our staff. We've been very thorough in that process."
### Asked about making a splash with a marquee signing in free agency, he said: "I don't really feel the pressure that it has to be a name guy. If that player we think is going to help our team move forward and if he has a big name, great."
### On free agency in general, he said: "You just have to feel confident that what you're paying for is what you're getting."
### On Ryan Tannehill: "I love his intangible skill makeup [and] his athletic skill set. He can get a lot better."
Though UM has been targeting mid-June as the time it hoped to make its case in front of the infractions committee -- and though Yahoo reported tonight that June 14-16 is likely --- the notice of allegations delivered to Frank Haith says otherwise.
Those allegations - obtained through public record requests by The Herald and several other media outlets - say that a mid-June hearing appears "unlikely." Why? Because the NCAA believes it's too ambitious a timetable because the infractions committee must analyze written responses from all the parties. Those responses are due May 20. That document delivered to Haith says a July hearing is likely.
UM and all the implicated former coaches go before the infractions committee at the same time.
Here is my Wednesday night story on how the process proceeds from here:
Former Georgia Tech basketball coach Bobby Cremins, a new member of the NCAA’s committee on infractions, said last month that the NCAA should have been “really, really, skeptical” about using Nevin Shapiro as a source.
The University of Miami now must hope that other members of the infraction committee feel the same way.
When UM officials present their case before the committee, they will assert, among other things, that several of the allegations leveled against UM were not corroborated and that the NCAA is relying, as president Donna Shalala said, “on the word of a man who made a fortune by lying.”
Two UM sources said initial sentiment is that the school likely would not appeal limited scholarship reductions but would vehemently fight additional postseason bans in football and any in basketball.
“If there’s a strong penalty, we would appeal,” one of the UM officials said, cautioning that nothing will be decided definitively until the process plays out.
UM likely will not know for many months whether it will receive any additional punishment beyond what it already has self-imposed, including two football bowl bans, 10 player suspensions and a few football scholarships.
Cremins is the only one of the 18 infraction committee members that has spoken publicly about the UM case, and he might not even be assigned to it.
Jo Potuto, the former head of the NCAA’s committee on infractions, said the UM case might only be heard by five or six members of the committee, though the NCAA would not confirm that Wednesday.
Blogger John Infante, a former compliance officer at Colorado State, said Wednesday to keep in mind that “the NCAA infractions committee came down hard on Southern Cal on a case that was resting on flimsy [evidence].”
But Infante said if he had to bet how the UM case would play out, “I would say the NCAA is more likely to scrutinize the information from the enforcement staff more than they might in other cases, considering the committee is the representative of membership and membership isn’t happy with enforcement.
“I would be shocked if there’s another bowl ban, and it would be foolish to impose that. If Miami gets [docked] 10 to 15 scholarships a year, I see Miami fighting back. On the basketball side, it’s a bunch of minor recruiting violations. I would see minimal scholarship losses – maybe one or two and definitely no postseason ban for basketball.”
Shalala said the NCAA told UM that if Shapiro said something more than once, it considered the allegation corroborated.
“The committee of infractions would be skeptical about taking that position – someone whose credibility is questionable, that if they simply repeat something, that constitutes as corroboration,” said Wyoming University professor Jerry Parkinson, a former NCAA infractions committee member.
“I can understand her strong reaction to something like that. The lack of institutional control charge is serious, but the penalties self-imposed were substantial, and they will get credit for that.”
ESPN’s Jay Bilas, a vocal critic of the NCAA, said by phone Wednesday that one problem is “the NCAA has no standard of proof, and the committee on infractions can believe whatever it wants and can believe whatever bad evidence it chooses.
“That’s no way to conduct a system of justice. It’s absurd. I believe there should be a serious negotiation undertaken to resolve this, and that the matter should be settled as you would in a civil case.”
So how will the UM case proceed from here?
Potuto said UM will produce a written response to the allegations and the infraction committee members assigned to the case will be given ample time to “digest it.” The deadline to submit is May 20.
We reported yesterday that UM wanted a forum with the infractions committee this week to jump-start dialogue on procedural issues, and Yahoo reported - and The Herald confirmed - that will in fact happen during a conference call Friday involving Shalala and others. The former coaches also will be part of that call to express their own procedural concerns, according to Yahoo.
Parkinson said the hearings are held either in a hotel or at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis or occasionally, in another city. The site of UM's hearing is undetermined.
When UM appears before the infraction committee, the former coaches accused of wrongdoing also would appear that day --- “so the institution can confront what anybody says,” Potuto said.
But she adds the former coaches would be permitted to stay in the room only during discussions of allegations directly involving them.
Potuto said schools bring “a lot of people” to the hearing – “their general counsel, faculty athletic representative, their head compliance person, athletic director, the new coach in the affected sports, anybody else at risk and lawyers representing them.”
Hearings are not open to the public. Most take a full day but “once in a while” can go into a second day, Potuto said.
Shalala and the official representing the NCAA’s enforcement staff will be permitted to make opening statements. After that, a member of the enforcement staff introduces each allegation “and makes a presentation of what occurred and what evidence they have,” Potuto said.
After each allegation, the university’s attorney --- Potuto expects outside counsel Mike Glazier would fill that role for UM --- would then have a chance to respond.
“Anybody with information with regard to an allegation can speak,” she said. “The chair of the infractions committee [currently Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky] will operate as the traffic controller. Lawyers will speak, but the committee likes to hear from people directly involved. The committee of infractions might have questions as the enforcement staff is presenting stuff.”
Potuto said hearings can sometimes “be contentious. By the time it gets to a hearing, either the enforcement staff and a university are not getting along, or a coach and enforcement may not be getting along. People will be free to express displeasure, but they do it in a civil way. It’s not screaming and yelling, and interrupting is extraordinarily rare.”
The infractions committee also will allow UM to discuss “why it self-imposed penalties and why it believes additional penalties would be inappropriate,” Potuto said.
After the hearing ends, the infractions committee gives the school no indication what type of penalties it might be facing.
Shortly after the hearing ends -- "maybe after dinner" - the infraction committee members handling the case “talk it out among themselves until there’s a consensus" on penalties.
How long that takes depends partly “on how much disagreement there is,” Potuto said. But typically, “you get a decision on everything that weekend.”
So why must schools then wait two to four months before the NCAA informs them of their penalty?
Potuto said infraction committee members want to see what they discussed “in writing and then rethink it. It’s the writing that takes the time. It might take two or three drafts.
“Until the report is written and signed off by everyone [working the case on the infractions committee], it’s not the decision of the committee.” Once the infractions committee signs off,” then the NCAA gets it “formatted and published.”
So if UM goes before infractions in July, it likely would get its penalty sometime between September and November. If it appeals, the process could stretch for another six months beyond that.
“It seems president Shalala will be unhappy even if there is a settlement [of very little additional punishment] because of what happened in the process,” Potuto said. “I can understand her being unhappy with the time it took to get the case ready to go. I don’t think there’s any real good answer that’s going to satisfy all the parties.”
### FYI: UM said that Colin McCarthy's tweet saying that former UM tight end Jake Byrne would be the Hurricanes' new tight ends coach is incorrect.
Quick note: For a look at UM/NCAA news from Tuesday night, see our last post or our story on the sports home page.
WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
With the NFL Combine beginning Thursday, more than a dozen players have emerged as possibilities for the Dolphins’ first-round pick at No. 12. That group will start to get whittled down as they fill needs in free agency and examine players up close, warts and all.
“You better start supporting your young quarterback,” Mike Mayock said of the Dolphins on an NFL Network conference call this week. “And the best way to do it is either at wideout or offensive line. The o-line options are going to be a heck of a lot safer than the receiver options at 12.”
Some chatter on the possibilities, two months from the draft:
### Receiver: Two are options at this spot, but neither is likely if Miami re-signs Brian Hartline and signs Mike Wallace or Greg Jennings. As Armando Salguero and I have noted in recent weeks, the Dolphins are targeting Wallace; they will make a strong effort to sign him when free agency begins March 12.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper has been driving the Cordarelle Patterson bandwagon for months – projecting the Tennessee receiver to Miami at No. 12 – and says: “He’s got freakish talent. He’s worthy of being the 12th pick.”
But one NFC scout raised concerns about his intelligence, inexperience and penchant for drops. And some believe he shouldn’t go that high, citing his lackluster production in big games (Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina).
Patterson at 12 “is not a stretch from a talent standout,” Mayock said. “The problem is he’s got one year of Division 1 experience after two years at a [junior college]. There are a bunch of those guys that have failed over the past 20 years.”
Not everyone has Patterson as the top receiver. Among receivers, “only Cal's Keenan Allen would be worth the 12th pick,” Sporting News draft analyst Russ Lande said. “There are a lot of A.J. Green characteristics – long, linear kid, can make high catches.”
Mayock could understand taking Allen at 12 but believes “he’s a later first round pick. If you like him, he’s Anquan Boldin. If you don’t like him, he’s speed deficient. Speed is the only question on Allen.”
Tennessee’s Justin Hunter, West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, Baylor’s Terrance Williams and Louisiana Tech’s Quinton Patton would be options if Miami trades down much lower in the first round and picks a receiver.
### Defensive backs: None seem the perfect fit at 12, assuming Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner is gone. “He will go 4, 5 or 6,” Kiper assured.
But Lande said “if Milliner doesn’t run well at the Combine, some of those teams in the top 10 may have concerns about using a top 10 pick on him.”
And Mayock said: “I think Milliner is more like the 20th pick. However, if he runs a sub 4.5 [in the 40], he’s going to be a top 10 pick.”
The next best corners, FSU’s Xavier Rhodes and Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks, are considered late first-rounders at best, though Mayock wouldn’t rule out Banks as a top-13 pick if he runs very well at Combine.
The only other defensive back that could draw consideration in the top half of the first round is Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro, whom Kiper has going 21st and Mayock around 20th. But he has just five career interceptions, and wouldn’t make sense for Miami at 12.
### Defensive ends: Of the top prospects --- Texas A&M’s Damontre Moore, Georgia’s Jarvis Jones, FSU’s Bjoern Werner, Oregon’s Dion Jordan and BYU’s Ezekiel Ansah – a couple could be there at 12.
Moore (12.5 sacks last season) and Werner (13 sacks) are considered top-10 picks by many. "But I don’t see it that way,” Mayock said. “I don’t see the elite quick twitch burst with Moore and I don’t see a great run defender. Werner doesn’t have that clean get off and go.”
Mayock calls Jones “an explosive, impact player” but but he “potential stenonis in his back” and some wonder if he’s big enough to play end at 241 pounds or whether he projects at linebacker.
There are similar size questions about Jordan (242 pounds) and LSU’s inconsistent Barkevious Mingo, who Mayocks claims he is 230 pounds and better equipped for linebacker. Some evaluators include Mingo in Miami’s range, but Mayock said: “I have him at the end of the first round.”
As for Jordan, “he’s two years away from being an Aldon Smith type,” Mayock said. “Right now, he’s too small to play 4-3 end. Two years from now, he wouldn’t be if he puts on 20 pounds. [If he does], he’s going to be a perennial All-Pro.”
Said Lande said: “Jordan is an electric guy but very thin. Unless you’re a rare Dwight Freeney or Jason Taylor, no one will survive playing end at 4-3 and 240 pounds.”
It’s easy to envision Miami pouncing on Moore or Werner if either slips to 12. If not, “I bet Ansah would be Miami’s pick if the Dolphins pick an end,” Lande said. “Ansah will be a Jason Pierre-Paul type. “Mingo would be a mistake at 12. Some scouts think he takes a lot of plays off." Kiper said Mingo has “a small bust potential.”
Mayock believes Ansah “has got as much upside as anybody in this draft. I don’t think there is anybody in the NFL that doesn’t think he’s going to be a good player. But the question is when? This year, next year or three years from now?”
### Defensive tackles: Utah’s Star Lotulelei should be gone in the top five, and Ohio State’s 340-pound Jonathan Hankins and North Carolina’s 320-pound Sylvester Williams wouldn’t make sense for Miami, because they’re similar to Paul Soliai.
But Missouri’s 295-pound Sheldon Richardson is more of a Randy Starks type and would be in the mix for Miami if Starks leaves. So would UF’s 303-pound Shariff Floyd, who is “skyrocketing and scheme versatile,” Kiper said. But Mayock believes Floyd is now a top-five pick.
“Richardson is really exciting -- has movement skills of a 250 pound linebacker,” Mayock said.
### Tight end: Kiper said in December he could make a case for drafting Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert at No. 12, but has him 30th in his mock draft and Stanford’s Zack Ertz 19th. “Eifert doesn’t have a rare trait to make you say take him that high,” Lande said.
### Linebackers: Georgia’s Alec Ogletree is rated eighth by Kiper but had a drug suspension last season and a recent DUI arrest. And Mayock says Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o should go around 20th. And both are best at middle linebacker, which isn’t a Dolphins need because of Karlos Dansby.
Kiper said if Te’o “runs well in the 40, he could be in the top 10 to 12 discussion. How he runs determine whether he’s an every down linebacker.”
### Offensive line: Some will scoff at taking one at No. 12, but it’s an option if Jake Long leaves. “The deepest position is o-line,” Mayock said. “I’ve got six tackles I’ve given first-round grades to.”
Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel will be gone by 12. Kiper said Central Michigan's Eric Fisher also "is solidly in the top 10, probably top seven" and Lande calls Fisher "a better athlete than Jake Long."
Kiper said Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson could rise to top 12 status; he's 16th now in Kiper's mock draft.
Lande also said Miami would be justified to take North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper (Kiper has him 11th) or Alabama guard Chance Warmark (18th), though No. 12 is high for a guard and Dolphins fans would be understandably outraged.
Said Mayock: “If either Warmack or Cooper are on the board at 10, I’d jump all over them. I couldn’t care less whether that’s a position of value or not.”
### Who would have thought that UM would pick up its highest-rated recruit nearly two weeks after National Signing Day? That's what happened Tuesday when Miami inked Derrick Griffin, rated ESPN's No. 33 overall player.
Though he can play receiver, ESPN analyst Corey Long said he's likely to play tight end longterm. "He has great explosiveness and his long arms and body type remind me of [former Philadelphia Eagles receiver] Harold Carmichael," Long said. "But he might need to go to prep school for a year because of academics." That's still in question; Griffin said he will take the SAT multiple times and is working on qualifying.
UM has now landed the No. 1 high school tight end prospect in Griffin (according to ESPN's rankings), the No. 1 junior college tight end prospect in Beau Sandland (according to ESPN) and the No. 14 high school tight end in Standish Dobard.
Credit new UM running backs coach Hurlie Brown, who was the primary recruiter with Griffin.
He said he expects to play basketball at UM, also. Rivals.com ranks him 81st among all basketball recruits, which would give UM two incoming top-100 players, with Davon Reed, who ranks 100th. UM still five basketball scholarships to fill.
### Some UM people are steamed that Mario Cristobal took the Alabama job. "It doesn't speak well of him," a UM official said. "It burned his chances of returning." An associate said Cristobal will make $500,000 or close to it - about twice what he made at UM.
### With the NBA trade deadline Thursday, LeBron James said Tuesday evening he's happy that "we're not a part of the talk of trades. We're comfortable with what we have."... Erik Spoelstra said Tuesday he has no plans to rest players during the second half of the season, though nobody should be surprised if that changes in the final week of the season.
### One of the Heat’s big issues on the road has been its guard play, especially the backups. This is pretty staggering: With Ray Allen on the court, Miami has outscored teams by 81 at home but been outscored by 79 on the road. With Norris Cole, it’s plus 33 at home, minus 78 on the road.
### For those interested in the Lil' Wayne/Heat story, an associate of Wayne said contrary to what he said, the NBA has not banned him from arenas, nor has the Heat. The associate said Wayne is angry that the NBA didn't give him a courtside seat for the All-Star Game. He is being refunded by his ticket broker for two Heat courtside season tickets.
A few notes on the UM/NCAA story, amid confirmed news that UM has received its notice of allegations:
Here's the UM statement from Donna Shalala:
“The University of Miami deeply regrets and takes full responsibility for those NCAA violations that are based on fact and are corroborated by multiple individuals and/or documentation. We have already self-imposed a bowl ban for an unprecedented two-year period, forfeited the opportunity to participate in an ACC championship game, and withheld student-athletes from competition.
"Over the two and a half years since the University of Miami first contacted the NCAA enforcement staff about allegations of rules violations, the NCAA interviewed dozens of witnesses, including current and former Miami employees and student-athletes, and received thousands of requested documents and emails from the University. Yet despite our efforts to aid the investigation, the NCAA acknowledged on February 18, 2013 that it violated its own policies and procedures in an attempt to validate the allegations made by a convicted felon. Many of the allegations included in the Notice of Allegations remain unsubstantiated.
"Now that the Notice of Allegations has been issued, let me provide some context to the investigation itself:
"Many of the charges brought forth are based on the word of a man who made a fortune by lying. The NCAA enforcement staff acknowledged to the University that if Nevin Shapiro, a convicted con man, said something more than once, it considered the allegation “corroborated”—an argument which is both ludicrous and counter to legal practice. ·
"Most of the sensationalized media accounts of Shapiro’s claims are found nowhere in the Notice of Allegations. Despite their efforts over two and a half years, the NCAA enforcement staff could not find evidence of prostitution, expensive cars for players, expensive dinners paid for by boosters, player bounty payments, rampant alcohol and drug use, or the alleged hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and gifts given to student-athletes, as reported in the media. The fabricated story played well—the facts did not. ·
"The NCAA enforcement staff failed, even after repeated requests, to interview many essential witnesses of great integrity who could have provided first-hand testimony, including, unbelievably, Paul Dee, who has since passed away, but who served as Miami Athletic Director during many of the years that violations were alleged to have occurred. How could a supposedly thorough and fair investigation not even include the Director of Athletics? ·
"Finally, we believe the NCAA was responsible for damaging leaks of unsubstantiated allegations over the course of the investigation. Let me be clear again: for any rule violation—substantiated and proven with facts—that the University, its employees, or student-athletes committed, we have been and should be held accountable. We have worked hard to improve our compliance oversight, and we have already self-imposed harsh sanctions.
"We deeply regret any violations, but we have suffered enough.
The University and counsel will work diligently to prepare our official response to the Notice of Allegations and submit it to the Committee on Infractions within the required 90-day time period.
We trust that the Committee on Infractions will provide the fairness and integrity missing during the investigative process.”
### One source familiar with the NCAA’s initial draft of UM’s notice of allegations --- which became the basis of the final version --- said the charges “could have been worse but they’re still pretty bad. It’s more than a slap on the wrist. It will be upsetting. But there’s nothing shocking in there.”
### A UM official said before Shalala's statement that the NCAA “has given Shapiro far too much credence and run with a lot of what he said.”
### In recent weeks, the NCAA told UM that it likely would be accused of lack of institutional control, and it is believed that was included in the final notice of allegations.
### There has been a lot of haggling in recent weeks between UM and the NCAA about what should and should not be included in the allegations, and how they're framed.
### Former UM coaches were told to expect their allegations Tuesday night or Wednesday. Clint Hurtt, Aubrey Hill and at least one former basketball assistant were told a couple weeks ago that they likely would be charged with unethical conduct under the NCAA's 10/1 law.
### The NCAA used multiple people to corroborate some of Shapiro’s claims, including several former UM players who were compelled to speak to the NCAA and others that were not.
### Also corroborating some of the allegations were some people who were granted immunity -- players recruited by UM but did not attend UM, and players who transferred from UM.
### Shapiro gave the NCAA four boxes of evidence, including credit card receipts and bank statements.
### According to an NCAA source, UM has asked the NCAA for permission to appear before the 18-person infractions committee during a scheduled infractions committee meeting on Saturday. The NCAA has expressed reluctance to allow UM on the calendar on such short notice.
UM wanted to meet with the committee on Saturday to deal with preliminary issues.
UM then would have a formal meeting with the infractions committee in April or June. After that full hearing in front of the infractions committee, UM would expect to receive its punishment within two to four months.
### One UM source believed UM would likely appeal penalties that extend beyond a slap on the wrist, such as another postseason bowl ban.
On the morning after another dark day for the NCAA, and an upsetting one for UM, the UM administration is braced to receive more aggravation in the next day, two or three, when the notice of allegations is sent along to UM officials.
UM is fully aware there will be plenty in the NOA that will be upsetting. That’s because the NCAA is using evidence former UM recruits who went to school elsewhere and players who transferred from UM (several of both groups were granted immunity in exchange for throwing UM under the bus), several ex-Canes who talked (several voluntarily and several others because they were compelled by NCAA rules), and lots of documents and other information provided by convicted Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro, among other things. At least one former assistant coach has admitted wrongdoing.
The words "lack of institutional control" have been discussed in the UM/NCAA talks, but we do not have confirmation that they will actually appear in the notice of allegations. That remains to be seen, but UM is braced for that very real possibility.
UM will fight this hard. “It’s going the distance, and we’re going to defend ourselves aggressively,” one UM official said.
We’ve posted two things below: My story from today’s paper which supplemented the main story on the topic, and a look at where every key Heat player stands at the All-Star break.
For 18 months, the University of Miami’s philosophy has been to cooperate with the NCAA in its investigation. But that approach essentially ended Monday, when the NCAA both declined UM’s overtures to settle the matter – even amid the NCAA’s admission that it handled part of the case improperly.
UM president Donna Shalala called the NCAA’s conduct “unprofessional and unethical” and said the “process must come to a swift resolution.” Another UM official, not authorized to comment publicly, called the NCAA’s handling of the case “shameful” and said the school now would defend itself “aggressively.”
Last week, UM proposed a settlement, but the NCAA balked and school officials were left with the impression that NCAA president Mark Emmert believed he did not have the support of two key boards – made up of university presidents - to settle with UM and circumvent the usual process for recruiting cases.
A UM official said the school does not believe another postseason ban in football is warranted. And UM said it will not self-impose an NCAA Tournament basketball ban.
It remains to be seen if UM would appeal modest scholarship reductions in football, but Shalala said Monday that UM deserves no additional penalties.
UM is expected to receive its notice of allegations in the coming days, after which it would have 90 days to respond before the infractions committee. The NCAA’s next infractions committee hearing is scheduled for April. After that session, UM likely would not receive its penalties for at least two months.
But the NCAA didn’t announce North Carolina’s penalties until four months after its hearing. Central Florida appealed its football bowl ban last September and is still awaiting a response 15 ½ months after receiving its allegations.
“I bet leaders at Miami feel like some dumb asses for not fighting and taking a stand against the NCAA,” former UM football star Alonzo Highsmith, now a Green Bay Packers executive, tweeted Monday. “We got rolled over and got played by everyone.”
Kenneth Wainstein, whose law firm conducted the investigation into the NCAA’s improper conduct in the UM investigation, said 20 percent of the evidence against UM has been tossed, including the Sean Allen and Michael Huyghue depositions, 13 interviews and parts of 12 others that used information from those depositions, and two other interviews with Allen.
The investigation determined that NCAA enforcement staff members knowingly circumvented legal advice to hire Nevin Shapiro’s criminal defense attorney. Among details in the 52-page report:
### The NCAA paid Shapiro’s attorney at least $19,500 (mostly for legal services, some for out of pocket expenses) and transferred $4500 to Shapiro’s prison account for phone calls. NCAA officials visited Shapiro three times in prison, and he gave them four boxes of documents, including bank and credit card records and yacht records.
### Naima Stevenson, the NCAA’s associate general counsel, learned last September that investigator Ameen Najjar – a former police officer who was fired by the NCAA last May for undisclosed reasons – disregarded the legal department’s advice and struck a deal with Perez late in 2011 for her role in assisting the case. Emmert was then informed last September.
Najjar said he told Perez the enforcement staff would not pay her for billable hours, but they could reimburse her for costs and expenses. But Perez said Najjar told her the NCAA would pay her for “costs and fees.”
### When Stevenson learned last September that Perez was paid for the depositions, the NCAA began removing evidence tied to those depositions but did not inform UM it was doing that until Jan. 11.
### UM attorneys knew Najjar was using Perez to gets depos but didn’t know the NCAA was paying her until the NCAA told UM on Jan. 11.
### Najjar told his supervisors that using the bankruptcy proceedings to subpoena Allen and Huyghue was necessary because “I do not believe we will be able to secure interviews” with them otherwise. And other people interviewed “gave seemingly false or incomplete information in their unsworn interviews.”
### Perez also wanted to subpoena UM basketball booster Dave Leshner and Shapiro’s bodyguard, Mario Sanchez, but neither materialized.
### Perez told Najjar that Shapiro wanted to help partly because “conducting these depositions would help Shapiro get revenge on UM and its student athletes and coaches who had turned their back on him.”
### Najjar showed up to the Allen deposition in December 2011, but Allen’s attorney asked him to leave the room. Najjar provided 34 “areas” the NCAA wanted Perez to discuss. Shapiro also wrote some questions.
### Perez spoke to the NCAA in 2011 and 2012 about using Luther Campbell’s defamation suit against Shapiro in Florida state court as a vehicle for securing witness testimony and documents, but she never gave the NCAA records because of a dispute over payment.
Miami opens its post-All-Star break schedule Wednesday at Atlanta. Sizing up where each of the key players stand heading out of the break:
### LeBron James: Start with this: No player in history has ever produced the collecting numbers that James is averaging this season: 27.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 6.9 assists and shooting 56.5 percent from the field. And there’s this: James had made 69 percent of his shots over the past seven games – including 51 for 61 in the paint and 14 for 26 on threes.
“He’s the most versatile player of all time,” Magic Johnson said. “Kudos to him for improving his game.”
### Dwyane Wade: Spoelstra contends he’s playing more efficiently than ever before. His scoring average (21) is nearly four points below his career average, but he’s shooting a career-high 50.5 percent, best among two guards. And he seemingly has regained his lift after offseason knee surgery.
“They can’t win without Wade,” Lakers forward Antawn Jamison said. “He’s still one of the best players in the league.”
### Chris Bosh: The offensive numbers are impressive: His 55.5 shooting percentage is well above his first two seasons with the Heat (49.6 and 48.7). And in the final five minutes of close games (margin of five or less), Bosh has made 18 of 21 shots – easily the best in the league.
His 7.4 rebounding average would be a career low, but he enters Wednesday with three consecutive double figure rebounding games --- the first time he has achieved that all season.
### Mario Chalmers: His shooting percentage has dipped from 44.8 to 41.3, and he can exasperate with his uneven play. But this is encouraging: Given more responsibilities to set up the offense, Chalmers has 29 assists and just six turnovers in his past nine games, and his overall turnover average has dipped from last season (2.2 to 1.4). And he has the Heat’s second-best plus/minus ratio (behind James), with Miami outscoring teams by 364 with Chalmers on the court.
### Udonis Haslem: Despite starting 31 games, he’s averaging just 19 minutes – about 10 below his career average. His rebounding (13.6 per 48 minutes) is down only slightly from recent years, and the Heat’s best plus/minus lineup features Haslem with The Big Three and Chalmers.
On the down side, he’s shooting just 32 percent on all attempts beyond two shoot. His once reliable mid-range jumper remains elusive.
### Shane Battier: For most of the season the Heat has allowed fewer points per possession with Battier on the floor than any regular, along with part-timer Joel Anthony). But what has been particularly helpful has been his three-point shooting: 39.9 percent, compared with 33.1 the past two seasons.
He has been especially deadly on corner threes (46 percent), and Spoelstra said the Heat’s ball movement is at its best when Battier is getting those shots.
### Ray Allen: The ride has been bumpy at times, including a recent 4 for 28 slump. His three-point percentage stands at 41.1, down from 45.3 in Boston. But he’s shooting 53 percent in clutch situations.
### Chris Andersen: He’s still working on his conditioning and has collected at least four foul in four of his 10 games, despite limited minutes. The Heat is minus-eight with Andersen on the floor, but his energy has made a difference at times, and his rebounds per 48 minutes (15.5) is a bit ahead of his 14.1 career average.
### Norris Cole: The turnovers are down from his rookie season (from 1.6 to 1.1 per game) and he is an improved shooter from 16 to 23 feet (44 percent). Though he is finishing at the rim better than a year ago, he’s shooting just 26 percent (12 for 45) on shots from 3 to 16 feet. But he’s undoubtedly a better player than the one who struggled the second half of last season.
### Rashard Lewis: After falling out of the rotation for more than a month, Lewis has begun receiving regular, albeit uneven, minutes as Miami’s 10th man. He is shooting 41.8 percent on three-pointers, but Miami has been outscored by 67 with Lewis in the game.
### Joel Anthony: His minutes have been dramatically curtailed since Andersen’s addition, but he still figures to play in spots, usually when Andersen is in foul trouble. His defense remains an asset, but his 9.2 rebounds per 48 minutes is fourth-worst among NBA centers.
### Mike Miller: He hasn’t been used in seven of the last eight games – he missed one of those with the flu – because Spoelstra more often has opted for Lewis’ size over Miller’s diverse skill set. But he could still be a factor in the playoffs, depending on matchups.
More news from the UM/NCAA saga today:
UM president Donna Shalala came out swinging tonight, calling on the NCAA to end its investigation into the UM case and saying the Hurricanes deserve no more penalties. UM will be very aggressive in fighting this. Scroll down to the bold section to see her statement.
(Quick aside: Two sources close to Mario Cristobal confirmed this afternoon he's leaving the UM staff, after less than two months on the job, to take the job as Alabama's offensive line coach. More on that below.)
Here's a synopsis of the UM/NCAA story today, plus an astounding nugget about the NCAA essentially paying Nevin Shapiro:
The NCAA says it acted improperly in the UM case, but the case will go forward to the infractions committee and the NCAA will not settle with UM as it did in the Penn State case, where the case did not go to infractions. That's disappointing news to UM, with multiple UM people saying the school had hoped for a quick settlement to put this behind them.
The downside is this could take many more months unless the process is somehow expedited, which would be very unusual.
While 20 percent of the information against UM has been thrown out, NCAA president Mark Emmert said there's still plenty of evidence to go forward with this case.
And there's this: The NCAA revealed that it purchased a disposable mobile phone and paid for Nevin Shapiro's use of the prison phone system. The NCAA expended $8200 to fund communications with Shapiro, including the transfer of $4500 to the prison commissary account from which Shapiro pays for his communication. That allowed the NCAA to call Shapiro repeatedly during the investigation. So the NCAA paid not only Shapiro's attorney, but Shapiro. Charming.
Also, Maria Elena Perez, Shapiro's attorney, billed the NCAA $57,115 for her work from October 2011 to July 2012. The NCAA expected her bill to be around $15,000. Perez was paid at least $19,609.
UM president Donna Shalala just came out with a very strong statement, calling on the NCAA to end this investigation and not to penalize UM further.
“The University takes full responsibility for the conduct of its employees and student-athletes. Where the evidence of NCAA violations has been substantiated, we have self-imposed appropriate sanctions, including unilaterally eliminating once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for our students and coaches over the past two years, and disciplining and withholding players from competition.
"We believe strongly in the principles and values of fairness and due process. However, we have been wronged in this investigation, and we believe that this process must come to a swift resolution, which includes no additional punitive measures beyond those already self-imposed. In September 2010—two and a half years ago—the University of Miami advised the NCAA of allegations made by a convicted felon against former players and, at that time, we pledged our full cooperation with any investigation into the matter.
"One year later, in August 2011, when the NCAA’s investigation into alleged rules violations was made public, I pledged we would ‘vigorously pursue the truth, wherever that path may lead’ and insisted upon ‘complete, honest, and transparent cooperation with the NCAA from our staff and students.’ The University of Miami has lived up to those promises, but sadly the NCAA has not lived up to their own core principles. The lengthy and already flawed investigation has demonstrated a disappointing pattern of unprofessional and unethical behavior.
"By the NCAA leadership’s own admission, the University of Miami has suffered from inappropriate practices by NCAA staff. There have also been damaging leaks to the media of unproven charges. Regardless of where blame lies internally with the NCAA, even one individual, one act, one instance of malfeasance both taints the entire process and breaches the public’s trust. There must be a strong sense of urgency to bring this to closure. Our dedicated staff and coaches, our outstanding student-athletes, and our supporters deserve nothing less.” – Donna E. Shalala, University of Miami President.
## Cristobal is leaving because he's getting a big raise (to $500,000) and values the chance to work for Nick Saban. And no, UM isn't happy about him bolting after less than two months on the job. Hard to ever see UM welcoming him back again.
Meanwhile, here's a minute-by-minute update during the NCAA's 2 p.m. news conference.
Below the live comments is the press release that the NCAA issued at 1:50 p.m., which detailed its findings in its investigation into how it handled the UM case.
Remember, UM won't learn its punishment today. It should get its notice of allegations very, very soon, perhaps this week. NCAA President Mark Emmert wouldn't say.
Julie Roe Lach, the NCAA's vice president of enforcement, has been fired because of her role in the UM case. But Emmert refused to discuss her.
Here's how the call unfolded:
Outside counsel Kenneth Wainstein said he was asked by the NCAA to investigate whether the enforcement staff acted inappropriately in the UM case "by using the subpoena power of the bankruptcy case" to get witnesses to talk (Sean Allen, Michael Huyghue) who otherwise might not have.
### Wainstein said he interviewed 22 people, "including all the relevant NCAA staff, the legal staff, and a number of third parties outside the NCAA, such as former investigators, and Nevin Shapiro." (But oddly, Sean Allen was not interviewed.)
### Wainstein then reiterated what the news release says below. He said Shapiro's attorney, Maria Elena Perez, said she could use deposition subpoena authority for the bankruptcy process "to compel witnesses to come in and be deposed and the NCAA could propose questions... to get information."
Ameen Najjar, the investigator on the UM case who was fired by the NCAA in May, took the proposal to NCAA vice president of enforcement Julie Lach and "they then secured financial approval to pay Perez's fees, and also took it to the legal staff to get it vetted and approved," Wainstein said.
### The legal staff advised enforcement "not to do this," Wainstein said. The advice not to do this was reiterated to Najjar and the enforcement staff. But Najjar disobeyed his bosses and "went forward with it in order to pay Ms. Perez to secure depositions," Wainstein said.
Wainstein said the fact Najjar paid Perez wasn't known by the NCAA's top administration until after Najjar was fired. Mark Emmert has refused to say why Najjar was fired.
### Wainstein said "no law" in the NCAA's bylaws were violated, but his subsequent comments seem to contradict that. But he said the enforcement staff "very clearly disregarded" the legal staff's instructions not to do this. "The practice and policy of the NCAA is that only the legal staff of the NCAA can retain outside counsel. The enforcement staff violated that in this case," Wainstein said.
### Wainstein said he was also trying to determine: "Was there anything about this that was a manipulation or abuse of the bankruptcy process?... While we did not find any law that was violated, the lead investigator [Najjar] and [two enforcement supervisors] failed to appreciate the concern that this could be perceived as [abuse] of the bankruptcy process."
### Wainstein said in the NCAA's defense, "the NCAA undertook to make sure -- before we got involved -- that they went through that record with a fine tooth comb and took out any fact, any allegation that was derived in any way from the enforcement staff's work with Shapiro's attorney." The investigation is now "cleaned of tainted information. We clearly reviewed every assertion in the record" and determined all of the "tainted information" has been removed.
### NCAA President Mark Emmert said he discussed these matters with the executive committee and board of directors "and they have copies of the final report." Emmert said: "I want to make sure we stayed focused on how it happened and how to avoid similar situations in the future.... It's of paramount importance we follow our own rules."
Reporters still haven't been given a chance to ask questions.
### Emmert said: "In the UM case, we have had now three reviews of the information involved to make sure none of the information continued in the UM investigation resulted from the depositions conducted. We are going to move forward with the Miami investigation. That will move through enforcement staff and committee of infractions as they would during their normal course of business."
### Those Emmert comments suggests UM won't get a settlement, which became even clearer later in the call. That's bad news, because that means this process could take many, many more months. As we noted yesterday, nine months passed between the time UCF got its notice of allegations and then got its penalties. UCF appealed its football bowl ban last September and is still awaiting a rule on that -- 15 1/2 months after it got its allegations.
### Questions have started.
### Wainstein said Lach asked for permission from NCAA COO Jim Isch to get a green-light to pay Perez, who was asking for up to $20,000. Lach got permission from Isch "to approve the funding" and then reached out to the legal staff, which told Lach not to do this. But Lach did it anyway "contrary to legal advice."
### Emmert, asked how much personal responsibility he feels: "This is an outcome nobody wants to see on their watch. It's an embarrassment to the association and its staff. This is not a good situation at all."
### Asked how much information was thrown out of the case, Emmert said: "We can't get into details of a case. The information that was expunged was anything that came from the depositions of the two individuals or was related to them. It's inappropriate to put it in percentages."
But Wainstein said "20 percent of the allegations were taken out."
### Wainstein defended the NCAA in some ways, saying: "The NCAA went overboard to extract things if there was a close call." He said 13 interviews and portions of 12 others were thrown out.
### Asked how he feels about several enforcement people being fired, Emmert said he wouldn't comment on individual cases, saying only: "We need to make sure we have the right people in place to provide leadership." He said if the NCAA's two boards believe he should be disciplined, he would accept that discipline.
### Emmert said: "I wouldn't characterize this as a case of corruption. This was a case of bad judgment and bad decisions made."
### Emmert said he "would not set a timeline" on when UM will get its notice of allegations but the enforcement committee "is moving forward with dispatch."
### When will the Miami ruling come down? Emmert said "everyone is trying to get it done as quickly as possible."
Emmert said: "It will be up to the committee of infractions who will pass judgment on this to determine the validity of the arguments put in front of them. The intention is to move forward with this case. There's still a lot of information available that is not tainted by this."
"There are many parties at risk beyond the university. It will be up to the committee on infractions to make those judgment calls."
### Emmert was asked again about the letter threatening former UM players that Shapiro's claims against them would be believed if they didn't agree to be interviewed.
Emmert said Monday: "That was not a point of the discussion of this review." Keep in mind that Emmert said on the January conference call that this threat WOULD be investigated. Absurd.
Here's the NCAA news release:
Select NCAA enforcement staff acted contrary to internal protocols, legal counsel and the membership’s understanding about the limits of its investigative powers in the University of Miami case, according to the external Enforcement Review Report.
Kenneth L. Wainstein, a partner with the law firm of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, conducted the review at the direction of NCAA President Mark Emmert following his January 23 announcement of conduct issues within the enforcement program.
“With the completion of the external enforcement review, we recognize that certain investigative tactics used in portions of the University of Miami case failed our membership,” said Emmert. “As I stated before, we are committed to making the necessary improvements to our enforcement processes and ensuring our actions are consistent with our own values and member expectations.”
This review focused specifically on the enforcement staff’s use of outside counsel and the federal bankruptcy process to determine whether staff took inappropriate steps in their efforts to secure testimony and records, and if so, determine how that happened.
The external review found select enforcement staff members:
Additionally, the report found:
The information gained through the bankruptcy proceedings or other evidence derived from that process will not be used in the Miami investigative record. The NCAA plans to proceed with the case with information properly obtained by the enforcement staff.
“This report is an important first step in responding to the issue at hand,” said Wainstein. “For an organization with an oversight function like the NCAA, its credibility and reputation for fair-dealing are always more important than its ability to prove the allegations in any particular case. This episode is a reminder of the problems that arise when investigators resort to expedient but questionable tactics.”
“My responsibility is to be certain that the membership has confidence in all of our processes across the national office,” said Emmert.
“To that end, I have appointed Jonathan Duncan, a law partner with a focus on education and sports law at Spencer, Fane, Britt & Browne LLP, to serve as interim vice president of enforcement. He has worked on NCAA issues for 15 years from multiple perspectives, including service to both the Enforcement and Rules Working Groups,” added Emmert.
Additionally, Duncan and Spencer Fane will work with Cadwalader to review the regulatory environment from the national office and membership perspectives. To gain member insights, the review will include discussions with schools that recently engaged in the enforcement process. It will comprise a broader policy, practice and procedural review of how NCAA regulatory activities are managed and conducted.
The final phase of the review will engage the membership to probe broader, philosophical questions about the nature of the regulatory side, including the desired outcome of regulation and to what level the membership wants to be held accountable. The review will include enforcement, eligibility, reinstatement and the waiver processes.
“Integrity is vital to the Association’s regulatory functions,” said Lou Anna K. Simon, executive committee chair and Michigan State University president. “Our expectation is that the NCAA uses this review as a launching point for meaningful change. Moving forward, NCAA member schools must engage in a healthy debate about our desired outcomes and expectations of the Association’s regulatory functions.”
Couple other things: Mike Mayock said today the best value for the Dolphins at No. 12 might be an offensive lineman. Oy!.... Mayock compares Cal receiver Keenan Allen - a first-round Dolphins possibility - to Anquan Boldin..... Joe Zagacki, the voice of UM on radio, makes a cameo on CBS' Hawaii 5-0 at 10 tonight, describing a Peyton Manning touchdown.
Note: This buzz column leads with the second of our two-part series on the Marlins, aimed to coincide with the start of spring training and to familiarize readers with the team. If you are angry with the Marlins to the point you have lost interest, or didn't have interest to begin with, then skip down to chatter for Canes, Heat and Dolphins.
SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Marlins pitching chatter:
### With Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Anibal Sanchez gone, here’s what’s left of a starting rotation that reported to spring training last week:
An ace (Ricky Nolasco) who allowed the third-most hits and fourth-most runs in the National League in 2012; a No. 3 starter (Henderson Alvarez, via Toronto) who relinquished the second-most hits and suffered the AL’s fourth-most losses; and a No. 4 starter (Nate Eovaldi) who suffered the NL’s fifth-most losses. In fact, only one projected starter (Jacob Turner) allowed a batting average below .275.
You want the glass-half-full view instead? Here it is: Jose Fernandez, MLB.com’s No. 7 prospect, could arrive in Miami by July after dominating A-ball last year (14-1, 1.75 ERA, 158 strikeouts, 89 hits in 134 innings).
Jack McKeon said Fernandez will be a No. 1 starter and Larry Beinfest said: “You won’t find better power [pitching] in the minors than Fernandez. I can’t remember any guy in our system” who had stats as dominating.
More glass-half-full: The Marlins should snag a decent prospect or two by trading Nolasco this summer.… Some scouts believe Eovaldi and Alvarez have sharp enough stuff to become solid starters…. The Marlins have three highly-regarded lefties on the way: Justin Nicolino (72nd among all prospects by MLB.com), Andrew Heaney (81st) and Adam Conley.
And there’s this: Turner has the Marlins excited because of his excellent work after the Detroit trade. Ignore the 1-4 record. He had a sterling ERA (3.38) and batting average against (.208; .189 vs. lefties).
“He still needs polishing, but we really like him,” said a general manager from another NL team. “He can be a middle of the rotation starter, maybe better.”
### Former manager Ozzie Guillen believed Eovaldi had more electric stuff than Turner, but the results didn’t show it. Eovaldi allowed 97 base-runners in 63 innings in 12 Marlins starts (3-7, 4.43 ERA) after going 1-6 for the Dodgers. Batters hit .284 against him, lefties .333.
"I don’t love his arm action; it seems like a strain for him to throw,” the opposing GM said. “Maybe he’s a third or fourth starter.”
But Eovaldi said he corrected a mechanical issue late last season, and the Marlins believe he’s ready to blossom. “You know how people say God came down and blessed you with a lightning bolt as an arm?” catcher Rob Brantly said. “You can say that about Eovaldi.”
### The Marlins believe Alvarez also is better than his 2012 work in Toronto suggests (9-14, 4.85). But this is alarming: He allowed an absurd 270 base-runners in 187 innings -- including 29 homers, a .290 average, and .342 against cleanup hitters.
So why do the Marlins like him? “He has explosive stuff at times and a complete repertoire,” Beinfest said. “He just needs to throw strikes.”
### The Marlins expect more from Nolasco than he provided last year (12-13, 4.48) -- both to stabilize the staff and boost his value, with Nolasco expecting to be traded by July. He again allowed too many base-runners (261 in 191 innings), including 9 hits in 14 at-bats with the bases loaded.
### Wade LeBlanc (2-5, 3.76 ERA) is the favorite for the fifth spot, but don’t rule out Brad Hand (11-7, 4.00 at Triple A), Alex Sanabia (6-7, 3.93 at Triple A) or non-roster invitees John Maine (41-36 lifetime, but out of the majors since 2011), Kevin Slowey (39-29) and Mitch Talbot (12-19).
### The Marlins are comfortable with Steve Cishek closing after last season, when he had 15 saves and allowed a .183 average with runners in scoring position. But bullpen depth beyond Cishek is worrisome.
The Marlins believe 6-11 Jon Rauch will be better as a set-up man than closer. His career saves-to-blown-saves ratio (62 to 31) is abysmal, but batters hit .209 off him with the Mets last year. “His stuff is still good and he knows the division well,” Beinfest said…
The Marlins once thought Ryan Webb and Mike Dunn might be future closers. Forget that. Webb was battered -- .295 average against (up 40 points from 2011) and .338 at Marlins Park. Opponents’ batting averages against Dunn has risen annually - .200 to .211 to .224 to .283, and control remains an issue at times. “Their pure stuff is so good, but it’s time for them to do it,” Beinfest said.
### The Marlins hope Chad Qualls (51 career saves) has something left at 34, and keep an eye on hard-throwing right-handers Jose Ceda, Evan Reed and A.J. Ramos (36 hits, 89 strikeouts in 68 innings at Double A). Marlins players rave about Ramos’ stuff.
### Bottom line: “If our pitching produces the way we think it can, we’re going to be OK,” Beinfest said. But at least two and maybe four members of the likely 2015 rotation will begin the year in the minors.
### Though the NCAA hasn’t yet publicly released results of the investigation into its improper handling of a portion of the UM case, an NCAA source says UM has a good sense of what’s in the report, including confirmation of the NCAA agreeing to pay Nevin Shapiro’s attorney for her legal services.
UM and the NCAA spoke last week about two issues they’re still debating --- how the NCAA’s misconduct will affect the forthcoming notice of allegations and how the case will proceed from here.
UM continues to push for a settlement --- without having to appear before the infractions committee –-but NCAA president Mark Emmert knows he needs the blessing of two NCAA committees to take that highly unusual step, and whether that will happen is still very much up in the air.
One person in contact with the NCAA said a settlement cannot be ruled out, though several NCAA experts (such as John Infante) have said it's unlikely because there's no precedent for a settlement in a recruiting case. Remember, Emmert bypassed the usual protocol only in the Penn State case, which involved Jerry Sandusky's child molestation.
The 35 presidents on those two committees could balk at a UM settlement. But some believe they could be pursuaded if Emmert makes a convincing case why this matter should be resolved quickly. Emmert also could tell UM it must go before the infractions committee but instruct the infractions committee to expedite the process.
“Hopefully, we’ll get to a conclusion here very quickly,” UM coach Al Golden said.
And how long could this go on if the NCAA doesn’t settle?
For perspective, consider that after receiving its allegations in November 2011, Central Florida didn’t get its penalties for nearly nine months (July 31). UCF appealed its one-year football bowl ban in September, and is still awaiting a decision – 15 ½ months after getting its allegations.
That’s an absolute worst-case scenario UM could face if it appeals --- a saga that drags into a fourth year and past next February's football signing day. But Donna Shalala told Trustees recently that this NCAA mess cannot affect another football and basketball recruiting class.
By the way, UM has no current plans to sue the NCAA, though it has not been ruled out. And UM expects to receive its notice of allegations very quickly after the NCAA publicly releases the report on the investigation into the NCAA's misconduct in the UM case.
### UM forward Julian Gamble, on the difference between coach Jim Larranaga and predecessor Frank Haith: When players make mistakes, Haith would need to reach “a boiling point, where we can’t take it anymore” before correcting it.
By contrast, “Coach L won’t take it once. If we’re not cutting hard enough or fumbling the ball or [whatever], he’ll stop practice and make us do it over. [But] his demeanor is calm and poised.”
### Though four of the Heat's five most effective lineups this season have had just one natural power rotation player -- and though that lineup helped Miami win a title -- doubters remain, even beyond Charles Barkley. When the Heat goes small against big teams, “it helps you,” Dwight Howard said. “[You] have to pick them apart.”
Lakers forward Antawn Jamison insisted “there’s an opportunity to beat that lineup – for us, if Pau Gasol is healthy, and Chicago with Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. But only two teams can put that big lineup out there to [beat] Miami’s small lineup.” Barkley includes the Spurs in that group.
### Not only is LeBron James shooting an incredible 56.5 percent, but players he’s defending are shooting just 37.6 – behind only Paul Pierce among qualifying small forwards, according to synergysportstech.com.
### Several Dolphins people, including Ryan Tannehill, have reached out to Matt Moore, hoping he will re-sign. Keep in mind that Cleveland offensive coordinator Norv Turner is a big fan of Moore, who will test free agency to see if there's a starting job available in a situation that's appealing to him. But he hasn't ruled out coming back to Miami. Kyle Orton earns - on average - $3.5 million per year to back up Tony Romo in Dallas, so quality backup quarterbacks like Moore aren't cheap.