If you thought Nevin Shapiro was Miami's only troublemaker -- guess again.
According to this article by CBS Sports.com Senior Writer Dennis Dodd, former Hurricanes Robert Marve and Arthur Brown and four other former Hurricanes recruits who are now at other schools (also implicated by Shapiro for taking impermissible gifts while at UM) are the people who will probably serve as the NCAA's best informants during its investigation.
According to Dodd, their payoff for revealing their own indiscretions and those they witnessed others doing is limited immunity -- essentially becoming an informant in exchange for avoiding punishment themselves. CBS Sports spoke to NCAA vice president of enforcement Julie Roe Lach, who basically spelled it out that way without specifically talking about UM.
"The enforcement staff has been given, by the membership, a pretty important investigative tool," Roe Lach told CBSSports.com in an exclusive interview.
"Limited immunity" is a little-known procedure granted to NCAA investigators to get information from a player "when such an individual otherwise might be declared ineligible for intercollegiate competition," according to the NCAA Manual.
Roe Lach put it another way: "When we think that's really our only shot of getting that information."
Marve was among the 72 current or former UM players named in the Yahoo! report who allegedly took extra benefits from Shapiro. He is alleged to have taken a cash gift, received access to VIP nightclubs and a strip club and treated to at least two dinners at pricey restaurants.
And like Brown (now at Kansas State with his younger brother Bryce), Florida's Matt Patchan and Andre Debose and Georgia's Orson Charles, Marve has been cleared in the last week by the NCAA of having any eligibility issues according to their respective schools.
Monday, UM President Donna Shalala said in a video statement that 15 student-athletes -- she didn't specify which sports -- had their eligibility in question. Yahoo! fingered 12 current football players (quarterback Jacory Harris, receivers Travis Benjamin and Aldarius Johnson, tight end Dyron Dye, defensive linemen Marcus Forston, Olivier Vernon, Adewale Ojomo, and Marcus Robinson, linebacker Sean Spence, safeties Vaughn Telemaque and Ray-Ray Armstrong, cornerback Jojo Nicolas) and basketball forward DeQuan Jones as student-athletes who broke rules.
Charles Robinson, who has been involved with nearly all of Yahoo!'s investigations into college programs who broke rules of late, told Yahoo! radio host Tim Brando Monday that he believed former Alabama defensive tackle Marcel Dareus was given limited immunity to get information on the North Carolina players who attended a party with an agent. Dareus was suspended just two games last season after talking to the NCAA and required to pay back the $1,787.17 received in impermissible benefits to the charity of his choice. But unlike most of those Tar Heel players implicated, he got to play last season.
"I can't say this with absolute certainty [but] to me, [the fact players implicated at other schools have been cleared] suggests [the NCAA] has already reached out to those players at other schools and they've cooperated with the NCAA," Robinson said of the situation at UM.
Just my opinion, but at this point I would have to guess none of the current 15 student-athletes at UM are going to be cleared, not when the school is trying to play nice and not with the NCAA allegedly making these "limited immunity" deals with former recruits and players. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if UM decides on its own to hand out the punishment in an attempt to gain favor with the NCAA.
The opinion of most experts, though, like Robinson, is that the NCAA is more concerned about going after the big fish. And in this case, the 72 players implicated by Shapiro and their transgressions are really sardines. As Robinson said Monday, the NCAA can't make athletes no longer in college talk about anything. The big fish the NCAA is after are UM's administration and its former coaches.
Former basketball coach Frank Haith, assistants Jake Morton and Jorge Fernandez and former football assistants Joe Pannunzio, Clint Hurtt, Jeff Stoutland and Aubrey Hill have to be at the front of the big fish line at the moment. Would the NCAA cut a "limited immunity" deal with one of them? Probably not. But if their testimony could prove higher ups such as former athletic directors Paul Dee, Kirby Hocutt and Shalala knew of Shapiro and other improprieties, well, what makes you think they wouldn't?
Look, I'm not trying to defend Shapiro by any means (he's a convicted felon for crying out loud), but in the end this is all going to come down to what the NCAA determines on its own that Miami did wrong, not what Yahoo! reported or Shapiro alleged. Many of you have tried to find holes in Yahoo!'s 11-month investigation. I did too. But it appears pointless.
UM isn't going to court to defend itself from Shapiro or Yahoo!. There won't be an impartial jury that gets to listen to Tyrone Moss, Randy Phillips, Devin Hester (or any of the other former Canes who allegedly partied on Shapiro's dime) try and explain or defend themselves. The NCAA doesn't care about any of that because they are the judge, jury and executioner.
And right now, college's governing body doesn't care how it gets its information -- cutting breaks for guilty parties elsewhere to get after the guys still wearing orange and green. That should tell you one thing: they want to nail UM. And this is only the beginning. They've started with the sardines. The big fish -- and the real trouble -- is next.