College football notebook

Miami eyes athletes’ eligibility

Associated Press / August 23, 2011

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The probe into Miami athletics is growing, with the university looking into the eligibility of 15 athletes who may have accepted improper benefits from a rogue booster.

Miami president Donna Shalala did not reveal any names of the players under investigation as she released a video statement yesterday. The booster, convicted Ponzi scheme architect Nevin Shapiro, told Yahoo! Sports for an article published last week that 12 current football players and one men’s basketball player got money, gifts, and other items from him.

“We cannot let the actions of some define the many,’’ Shalala said.

The football players who were named by Shapiro in interviews with Yahoo! Sports are Jacory Harris, Vaughn Telemaque, Ray Ray Armstrong, Travis Benjamin, Aldarius Johnson, Marcus Forston, Olivier Vernon, Marcus Robinson, Adewale Ojomo, Dyron Dye, JoJo Nicholas, and Sean Spence. Shapiro also alleged to Yahoo Sports that he paid $10,000 to ensure that basketball player DeQuan Jones signed with the Hurricanes.

Most, if not all, of the current football players Shapiro named would likely be major contributors if they get to take the field.

Citing the ongoing investigation, school officials would not say yesterday if any of those players have been cleared to play, or who the additional names linked to the investigation are.

“The Miami athletic compliance staff, in a joint effort with the NCAA, is now beginning the process of reviewing the eligibility of 15 current student-athletes,’’ Shalala said. “With the season fast approaching I know our players, coaches, and fans are eager to know the results. The process, however, must be deliberate and thorough to ensure its integrity.’’

The university wants to decide the status of the football players by the end of this week. Football coach Al Golden is planning to release a depth chart in the coming days for the Sept. 5 opener at Maryland, a process that would become very difficult if Harris, Spence, Forston, Telemaque, Armstrong, and Benjamin - some of the team’s on-field leaders - are ineligible.

If Miami uses any player later deemed ineligible by the NCAA, then the Hurricanes run the risk of having to retroactively vacate games.

Miami’s football team held a closed scrimmage yesterday, which Golden said would be the final audition of sorts for players trying to make the 60-man travel roster to Maryland.

Golden and other members of the football program will be unavailable for comment until Thursday, school officials said.

Five months ago, NCAA officials began investigating claims that Shapiro, now serving a 20-year prison sentence for masterminding a $930 million scam, provided 72 football players - 65 of whom suited up for the Hurricanes - with cars, money, gifts, and even prostitutes between 2002 and 2010.

Overhaul urged ACC commissioner John Swofford said college athletics need a major overhaul, that tweaking the status quo isn’t going to get it done. “Over the years what’s happened is you try to put in a rule that keeps those that would cheat from cheating, and you end up trying to close every little loophole,’’ Swofford said. “I think we need to be addressing the felons, if you will, as opposed to the jaywalkers and get ourselves out of this maze of rules that are unenforceable.’’ A quarter of Swofford’s ACC schools are mired in NCAA troubles . . . LSU starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson and three teammates have decided to meet with Baton Rouge, La., police at an undisclosed time and location today. Police have asked Jefferson, along with offensive lineman Chris Davenport, defensive lineman Josh Johns, and receiver Jarvis Landry, to offer their recollection of a bar fight last Thursday night that allegedly involved them. Four people were injured in the scuffle, none of them players, and one person’s injuries were serious enough that two players could face felony battery charges, Police Sergeant Don Stone said.