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How Much Trouble are SEC Players and Coaches Named In Miami Report In?

As I went over yesterday, some of the coaches and recruits named in Yahoo! Sports' explosive report on Miami are currently at SEC schools. The natural question for the conference is, what kind of trouble are these people in?

First of all, it's hilariously early in the process. Second, Dan Wetzel said on Finebaum yesterday that Yahoo! Sports only printed what it could corroborate. Nevin Shapiro alleged more than what is in the report, but the website couldn't publish it. NCAA investigators can do more than what Charles Robinson, Wetzel, and Rand Getlin could do however because they can force current coaches and players to sit down for interviews.

As hard as it is to fathom, the final list of allegations from the NCAA could be longer that what Yahoo! Sports printed. It also could be shorter, because if some of the sources corroborating things for Robinson and company don't talk to the NCAA, then the case gets weaker. George Dohrmann, who wrote the infamous "How Deep It Went" article on Ohio State, said a month ago that his source wouldn't talk to the NCAA so therefore the "players walk[ed]".

So with all that said, two more caveats apply before we continue:

  1. I am not an expert on NCAA enforcement. I'm an interested blogger/fan doing the best he can.
  2. Every NCAA case is unique, therefore the association does not necessarily follow precedent.

The Players

Here is what is alleged against recruits who ended up signing with SEC programs in order of what I think is least serious to most serious:

  • Orson Charles, Georgia: Visited Shapiro's mansion with his high school coach and former high school teammate/then-current player Robert Marve. Had contact with Shapiro later at a Miami football camp.
  • Matt Patchan, Florida: Visited Shapiro's mansion with members of his family, two coaches (Jeff Stoutland and Joe Pannunzio), and several then-current players. Received a meal while at the house.
  • Bryce Brown, Tennessee: Met Shapiro at a hotel where Shapiro provided him, his family, and his adviser (who Shapiro called an "agent") Brian Butler with an expensive free meal and free hotel rooms.
  • Andre Debose, Florida: Visited Shapiro's mansion, where he got a ride in Shapiro's $200,000 Mercedes. Had a night at nightclubs and a strip club conducted by equipment assistant Sean Allen that was paid for by Shapiro. Visited Shapiro's house on a separate occasion where he received food and drinks. Entertained by Shapiro at a bowling alley where he received free food and drinks.

My completely non-professional opinion is that Charles and Patchan don't have much to worry about. They never met Shapiro without someone from the university (either player or coach) present, which sounds to me more like an institutional problem than anything. I wouldn't be surprised to see Patchan have to pay the value of the meal he received to charity or something, but there's precedent (for whatever that's worth) for recruits getting similar exposure to a booster without missing any time. More on that later.

UPDATE: The NCAA has told UGA that Charles has no eligibility issues.

UPDATE 2: Brown, Patchan, and Debose have been cleared by the NCAA and have no eligibility issues.

With Brown, the level begins to ramp up. It's not just that he received a free meal and hotel stay with his family on his visit. The NCAA could easily make the case that he and his family should have known better due to Shapiro's involvement with his older brother Arthur. There is evidence of a relationship between the Brown family and Shapiro, though Bryce personally apparently had limited contact due to the fact that he never attended Miami.

That limited contact is why I list Debose as having the most serious allegations. If all of this is true, then he quite clearly had a relationship with Shapiro. He didn't visit the mansion once or get a free meal and hotel room once. He met with Shapiro on three occasions and received somewhere in the neighborhood of $1000 or more in impermissible benefits. The Orlando Sentinel reached Debose's father for a comment last night. He said he hadn't heard of Shapiro and wasn't aware of his son receiving any impermissible benefits.

The Coaches

Just like last time, this is what is alleged against the coaches in what I think is order of least to most severe:

  • Jeff Stoutland, current Alabama offensive line coach: Attended, but did not arrange, Patchan's visit to Shapiro's mansion.
  • Aubrey Hill, current Florida wide receivers coach: Attended, but did not arrange, Debose's visit to Shapiro's mansion. That visit also included current Miami players Ray-Ray Armstrong and Dyron Dye.
  • Joe Pannunzio, current Alabama director of football operations: Two sources finger him as the one who arranged Patchan's visit to Shapiro's mansion. Shapiro himself would not comment on Pannunzio.

If the allegations are true, these guys are in trouble for witnessing recruiting violations and not reporting them. Hill might be in slightly worse shape than Stoutland is because Hill was with three recruits at Shapiro's house while Stoutland was only with one. I don't know if the NCAA draws a distinction between merely attending an illicit visit to a booster's house and arranging said illicit visit, but if it does, then Pannunzio is in bigger trouble than Stoutland or Hill.

Crucially, all three were involved in just one incident (that we know of). They could argue in their defense that these were isolated incidents that are out of character for them. How far that will go I don't know, but they don't appear to have a pattern of taking recruits to Shapiro's home.

The Precedent, Not that the NCAA is Bound to Follow It

The most applicable NCAA bylaw that was broken is 13.01.4, which prohibits any "representative of the institution's athletic interests" from participating in recruiting. Bylaw 13.02.14 defines who is a representative, and Shapiro fits several of the definitions.

I searched the NCAA's major infractions database for cases involving 13.01.4 among I-A schools. I also kept it down to cases that included football. Two cases that were largely basketball-related came up, the Dave Bliss mess at Baylor and the case that got Jim O'Brien fired from Ohio State.

Four primarily football-related cases did come up. You may have heard of them. The oldest was the Albert Means scandal, then Rick Neuheisel's March Madness pool, then Jackie Sherrill's misdeeds at Mississippi State, and finally the Reggie Bush scandal at USC.

It's tempting to go straight to the USC case, as the NCAA found former assistant coach Todd McNair to have known about the Bush family's impermissible benefits. However, Bush was already enrolled in school at the time, and the NCAA determined that McNair provided "false and misleading" testimony. When you lie to the NCAA, the game changes entirely. Plus, no one here got anywhere near the $290,000 that Bush's family was found to have received.

It's also tempting to go to the Means case, but that applies more to what's coming for Miami than the players and coaches listed above. No assistant coaches were involved in the payments for Means, and Means himself didn't receive a dime of it.

The Mississippi State case even is not a good parallel here, because the assistant coaches found guilty of violations were breaking lots of rules beyond just allowing impermissible contact with boosters. That fact makes it impossible to separate out which penalties were specifically for the booster contact.

While everyone knows it as the Neuheisel bracket pool scandal, Washington's '04 case it did involve recruiting violations too. During his first year Neuheisel specifically asked his AD Barbara Hedges if there were any boosters who had a yacht he might use during recruiting to transport recruits between campus and his home. The school charged recruits too low a rate for boat usage (the local "ferry rate" instead of the full rental rate), and Neuheisel neglected to tell "those in a position of authority" that the booster would be personally driving the yacht. That, of course, led to impermissible contact between the recruits and the booster.

So instead of assistant coaches escorting players to a booster's mansion, you had a head coach transporting players on a booster's yacht. Those aren't exactly the same, but they're fairly close. Furthermore Hedges witnessed recruits and their families interact on the booster's yacht at Neuheisel's home on two occasions, but she assumed compliance had cleared it and didn't check into it. These violations are potentially worse because the AD herself was aware and did nothing.

The school thought these violations would be secondary, but the NCAA declared them major due to them not being isolated or inadvertent. Nonetheless, Neuheisal did not personally get any penalties from these violations specifically, and none of the recruits had to sit out games. The school did get recruiting restrictions and had to ban the use of watercraft in recruiting for two years.

That result is why I think Charles and Patchan are safe. They are pretty much in the same boat (zing!) as the yacht passengers who didn't miss any time. The three assistant coaches involved don't appear to have done anything worse than Neuheisel did, and Slick Rick didn't get a show cause over either these violations or his gambling charges. The coaches might get some personal recruiting restrictions, but I don't anticipate much more than that.

Brown and Debose are in worse shape. Brown was involved in a pattern if you count his family along with him, and nothing is isolated or inadvertent about Debose's alleged dealings with Shapiro. I anticipate that they'll have to sit some games. I don't know if Tennessee or Florida will have to vacate wins they participated in, but I don't know how you could have expected those schools to know what went on at Miami. I can't think of a similar case, so we'll just have to see.

All in all, Miami is in a world of hurt right now. The SEC players and coaches involved are accused of relatively minor infractions compared to the rest of the case. As I said way up at the top though, this is only the beginning of the process. This ball of yarn is going to take years to unwind.