PLEASE CHECK OUT OUR POST UNDER THIS ONE FOR NOTES, QUOTES AND THOUGHTS AFTER THE HEAT'S GAME 4 LOSS ON TUESDAY NIGHT
WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
As UM approaches its mid-June hearing before the NCAA's infractions committee, several players are alleging that intimidation tactics were used in interviews conducted with them by former NCAA investigator Rich Johanningmeier, who twice has been accused of unethical behavior in court filings involving other NCAA cases.
Meanwhile, in a related matter, Canes defensive end Dyron Dye interviewed for a third time with the NCAA on Tuesday, trying to ward off a potential unethical conduct charge, but he was not told when the NCAA will rule on his eligibility for his senior season.
A synopsis of the latest NCAA twist:
According to sources, Dye and former UM players Olivier Vernon, Eric Moncur, Randy Phillips and Jacory Harris signed affidavits on behalf of former UM assistant coach Aubrey Hill, who faces NCAA charges. (The father of former UM safety Ray-Ray Armstrong said his son declined to sign the letter because he wants to move on.)
Like Dye and Harris, Vernon is taking issue with the NCAA’s interview tactics.
“The NCAA treated us like criminals,” Vernon said Tuesday at a Dolphins charity event, adding that he signed Hill's affidavit on the suggestion of Phillips, who was close with Nevin Shapiro and also has a good relationship with Hill.
"When [Johanningmeier] asked the question, he made it seem like he wanted you to answer it as to where you did something wrong," Vernon said. "He flipped it on us… Sometimes you blurt out something that you were pressured into saying. He pressured us a lot more.”
In his affidavit for Hill that was obtained by The Associated Press and The Miami Herald, Dye said Johanningmeier "continually threatened me if I did [not] comply with him.. I felt intimidated by Mr. Johanningmeier and I was also concerned regarding the possibility of losing my scholarship and athletic eligibility....
"I felt compelled to testify in a manner that would be consistent with the manner in which Mr. Johanningmeier was directing me in order to keep my eligibility…. I feel it is unfair the NCAA has twisted my testimony to use it negatively against coach Hill.”
He added that “I have learned that Mr. Johanningmeier has employed similar intimidating tactics during interviews with student-athletes.”
Harris echoed those sentiments.
Citing pressure from Jonhanningmeier, Dye changed parts of his story in his second 2011 interview. The NCAA scheduled Tuesday's interview to explore what it perceived as discrepancies between Dye's affadavit and his second NCAA interview.
Dye said contrary to claims in UM's Notice of Allegations, he did not stay at Hill's home, was not provided meals by Hill including joining him for a meal at Grazie Italian Cuisine; did not get transportation from him "halfway between Orlando and Miami during an unofficial visit."
He also said "to my the best of my knowledge," Hill "did not arrange for Shapiro to pay for bowling, beverages and meals at Lucky Strikes" on Miami Beach --- another charge against UM and Hill in the Notice of Allegations.
It's notable that Johanningmeier, who retired in May 2012, and the NCAA previously were sued for defamation by two former Alabama coaches; a $30 million judgment for one coach was tossed by a court on technical grounds.
And he is also targeted in an ongoing lawsuit by former Mississippi State coach Jackie Sherrill, a suit in which Johanningmeier is accused of knowingly making false claims and using information from a biased Mississippi booster.
The interview with Dye was conducted by the NCAA’s Brynna Barnhart, notable because UM previously asked that she be removed from the case on grounds she “repeatedly misled the university.” The NCAA denied that request, calling it “insulting and incredulous” that UM would “attack her.”
According to UM, Barnhart told UM that she was told Kyle Wright called the NCAA to incriminate UM; Wright has vehemently denied that, asserting the NCAA called him.
UM also has accused Barnhart of lying to former basketball assistant coach Jake Morton, telling him Frank Haith said something that Haith never said, in an unsuccessful attempt to get him to turn on Haith.
Dye’s attorney, Darren Heitner,said of the interview Tuesday: “Based on all the information provided, our hope is the NCAA acts in a way that is just and proper.” Heitner declined to comment further.
The father of UM quarterback/baseball standout David Thompson said Tuesday that his son “is struggling greatly with the decision” about whether to play both sports or focus only on baseball.
David Thompson said he continues to experience pain “now and then” in his right (throwing) shoulder after labrum surgery last June. He said he will have an MRI after baseball season and won’t decide his longterm plans until after that. Ed Thompson, David’s father, said the issue appears to be tendinitis and the solution is “rest and therapy.”
Ed Thompson said David “will be talking with the coaches and trying to make the best decision. In his heart, he wants to do both. He loves [Al Golden]…. He’s much more of a proven commodity in baseball than football and people say, ‘What will he be able to accomplish if he just focuses on one sport?’ But he loves football. It’s going to be a difficult decision.”
Thompson hit .285 with six homers and 43 RBI this season. UM opens NCAA Tournament play against Oklahoma State on Friday.
### Delvon Simmons, rated the nation’s fifth-best defensive tackle in the 2011 class, received his release from Texas Tech and is strongly considering enrolling at UM, one of his former assistant high school coaches said Tuesday. McKeesport (Pa.) High’s Todd Blackwell said UM and USC are the top contenders for Simmons, who visited UM over the past few days. “He liked the campus,” Blackwell said. “He has all the tools to be an NFL player - real quick off the ball.”
Simmons – who had 27 tackles and two sacks as a starter last season – would be required to sit out next season but would have two years of eligibility left.
### UM also is pursuing basketball transfers, and Sheldon McClellan, who is leaving the University of Texas, is visiting UM Thursday. UM is cautiously optimistic; Miami is his only scheduled visit for now, though Oregon and Marquette are in the mix. McClellan, ranked the No. 15 shooting guard by rivals.com in the 2011 class, averaged 13.5 points but shot just 38.2 percent. He also would be required to sit out next season.
### Who has surprised and emerged in Dolphins offseason practices? Receiver “Armon Binns,” tight end Dustin Keller said. “He’s getting open” a lot…. The Dolphins got a modest, but not a big, spike in ticket sales from their offseason moves. They’re on pace to top last year’s 41,000 season ticket count.
### While Marcell Ozuna impresses, the Marlins’ other top outfield prospects --- who one day could flank Ozuna if Giancarlo Stanton is inevitably traded - have slumped recently: Christian Yelich (.270) and Jake Marisnick (.245) entered Tuesday in 0-for-16 and 1-for-16 slumps at Double A.
### Again, please check out the last post for postgame chatter from the Heat's Game 4 loss tonight.