Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ballers Still Practicing

Less than 24 hours after an 11-month investigation by Yahoo! unfurled a tsunami of allegations of improper benefits made by former booster Nevin Shapiro to players and former coaches at the University of Miami, Al Golden and his team returned to the practice Wednesday morning.
And the 12 current players who were implicated by Shapiro in the Yahoo! story were out there in uniform, too – albeit under a much more subdued setting.
Safeties Ray-Ray Armstrong and Vaughn Telemaque; linebacker Sean Spence; quarterback Jacory Harris; receivers Travis Benjamin and Aldarius Johnson; tight end Dyron Dye; defensive tackle Marcus Forston; defensive ends Adewale Ojomo, Marcus Robinson and Olivier Vernon; and cornerback JoJo Nicolas were all involved in practice Wednesday. The question now – as the team tries to move forward under a cloud of an NCAA investigation – is for how long.
“Right now, the only facts I’m going by are what we received from the NCAA and the university from a compliance standpoint. Until we hear an infraction or that we did break a rule, everybody is practicing,” said Golden, who also told reporters he has yet to read the Yahoo! article. “If it is determined that somebody broke rules, then certainly it will first be dealt with from a university standpoint, from an eligibility standpoint.”
Golden, the only person at UM to speak to the media since news of an NCAA investigation in Coral Gables broke Sunday night, said though the last 24 hours have been difficult he’s still focused on getting his team ready for its Sept. 5 opener at Maryland. By then, he hopes, the NCAA will have determined or let him and his staff know who might have to sit out.
“If there are guys that are going to have to sit out games, then we’ll adjust our practice accordingly,” Golden said.
“Whatever the number that is being interviewed right now or being named, that makes up less than 10 percent of our team. It’s really important to understand we have a lot of guys in that locker room that do things the right way and come from great families and have made good decisions and want to improve today and want to get better. We have to manage this team – not just the guys that if they did make a mistake [will be out].
Golden said his message to his team has been not to judge any of the 12 players potentially involved in the Shapiro allegations.
“I would hope they would learn from them,” Golden said. “We’re in an educational setting. It’s no different than if a student makes a mistake on campus. We don’t toss them out. We don’t turn our back on them. We try to educate them. And they’re all at an age right now if they were exposed to Mr. Shapiro, clearly we have to make sure we prevent that going forward.”
Golden, who already has one of the nation’s top recruiting classes in place with 24 commitments, said assistants began making calls to recruits Tuesday night. The message: Sit tight.
“I think their [high school] coaches obviously wanted to wage what the heck was going on. So our coaches got in contact with their coaches and ultimately with the recruits,” Golden sad. “Until I know what the facts are and I know what’s going on, it’s important we don’t rush to judgment and start saying things I’m not privy to. With us, we’re trying to move forward quickly.”
Golden, who took over for Randy Shannon in December, said Tuesday he had no knowledge that any investigation by the NCAA might be coming down the shoot. Asked Wednesday if he felt the university had the responsibility to inform him of it when they hired him, Golden said: “Only if they knew. If they knew this was percolating then I believe they did have a responsibility to tell me. I believe they had the responsibility to tell [athletic director] Shawn [Eichorst].”
Asked if he felt broadsided by what UM is facing, Golden said: “No. We’ll get through this.”

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