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2 posts from February 20, 2013

February 20, 2013

Thursday update: Ireland updates free agency; UM case could be delayed again

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."

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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:

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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.

Pre-Combine look at Dolphins' first-round options; Heat, Canes chatter

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.”

CHATTER 

### 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.