Cumberland Times-News

Local Sports

February 20, 2013

NCAA says 3 former coaches misled probe

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — The NCAA believes former Miami assistant coaches Clint Hurtt, Aubrey Hill and Jorge Fernandez provided false or misleading information during the probe into the Hurricanes’ athletic department.

The NCAA said all three violated “principles of ethical conduct” as part of the notice of allegations served against the Hurricanes, according to a person who spoke to The Associated Press Wednesday on condition of anonymity because the allegations have not been released publicly.

Hurtt and Hill were members of Miami’s football staff. Fernandez worked on the men’s basketball staff.

Several other coaches are named or referenced in the allegations, including Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith, who is alleged of failing “to promote an atmosphere for compliance.” But only Hurtt, Hill and Fernandez are facing the ethical-conduct charge, commonly known as NCAA Rule 10.1.

Hurtt is currently on the staff at Louisville. Hill is not working as a coach at this time, and Fernandez spent last season as an assistant at Marshall, resigning last May.

The notice of allegations was delivered to Miami on Tuesday, and the university is facing the charge that it had a “lack of institutional control” — one of the worst things the NCAA can levy against a member school. The charge revolves around how the school allegedly failed to monitor conduct of Nevin Shapiro, a rogue booster and convicted felon who provided cash, gifts and other items to players on the football and men’s basketball teams.

University President Donna Shalala said Tuesday night that the Hurricanes have suffered enough already through self-imposed sanctions. Through a university spokesman, she declined further comment Wednesday.

The NCAA said Hurtt and Hill committed the same violations, at least related to the ethical-conduct matter.

The sanctions portion of this saga could take several months. The NCAA has asked some of the people who are facing major charges to respond by May 20, which means that under ordinary circumstances a hearing before the Committee on Infractions would then take place, followed by the issuing of penalties even later.

The NCAA alleged both provided meals, transportation and lodging to either recruits, current players, or both in either 2008 or 2009. Both were interviewed by the NCAA during the course of its probe and allegedly denied providing those extra benefits, statements the NCAA said were contradicted in each case by what players told them separately.

Hurtt also took a $2,500 personal loan from Shapiro, which was repaid. The NCAA also believes he sent about 40 impermissible text messages to recruits, which typically is a secondary, or minor, violation.

Fernandez, the NCAA alleged, “knowingly provided extra benefits” in the form of an air ticket. The NCAA said Fernandez denied using air miles for the tickets for a men’s basketball player and a high school coach, despite evidence to the contrary.

In February 2012, Miami center Reggie Johnson was ruled ineligible by the school after an investigation revealed that members of his family accepted “impermissible travel benefits” from a member of the school’s former coaching staff, without specifying Fernandez or anyone else by name. The university said Johnson was not aware of the benefits, personally accepted nothing and that his family had been told they were allowed.

Johnson was reinstated quickly last season, and remains a key part of this season’s team — now ranked No. 2 in the nation and leading the Atlantic Coast Conference. The ongoing cloud of the scandal is not hurting the Hurricanes, basketball coach Jim Larranaga said Tuesday night.

“If it was overshadowing what we were doing, this room would not be packed,” Larranaga said after his team beat Virginia. “We’re getting so much exposure. We can only focus on the things we have control over. We have nothing to do with the investigation.”

Several other former Miami coaches are named in the allegations as well, including one-time men’s basketball assistant Jake Morton, who the NCAA said, among other things, accepted “supplemental income” of at least $6,000 from Shapiro. Morton is now on the staff at Western Kentucky.

Haith’s charge is specific to how he handled things when Shapiro allegedly wanted money in exchange for not going public with accusations that he paid to help the Hurricanes recruit a player.

“After learning of the threat, Haith failed to alert anyone in the athletics department administration about Shapiro’s threat, ask reasonable questions of Morton to ensure that Shapiro’s claim lacked merit or disclose the fact that Morton engaged in financial dealings with Shapiro,” read Haith’s portion of the notice of allegations, which Missouri revealed Wednesday. “Rather, Haith gave Morton funds that Morton then provided to Shapiro.”

Missouri has been told by the NCAA that it, as an institution, does not face any possible sanctions, but that Haith’s ability to coach may be affected “if he is found in violation by the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions or the NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee.”

Some of the allegations in the letter the NCAA delivered Tuesday to Miami are more than 10 years old, including a claim that Shapiro bought a suit for former Miami star running back Willis McGahee to wear to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in 2002.

Other allegations include that he paid for dinners at Benihana, televisions, sneakers, Miami Heat tickets, bowling parties, one player’s engagement ring, a used washer-dryer set for current New England Patriots lineman Vince Wilfork, and that he directed his girlfriend to give two former Hurricanes no-show jobs for a couple of months.

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