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SEC Players Involved in Miami Scandal Probably Eligible Due to Immunity

Four players who received improper benefits from Nevin Shapiro as recruits eventually signed with SEC programs: Orson Charles at Georgia, Bryce Brown at Tennessee (now at Kansas State), and Matt Patchan and Andre Debose at Florida. The NCAA has told their schools that none have eligibility concerns for this fall.

I spent a pretty good amount of time going over their situations shortly after the news broke. Patchan and Charles merely visited Shapiro's house, with the former also receiving a meal there. They were escorted by Miami players and, in Patchan's case, coaches too. I had no doubt that those two would be cleared as those are weak violations that, given Miami player and coach involvement, would be tough to pin on the recruits.

Brown and his family received a pricey meal and free hotel stay, while Debose met with Shapiro on a number of occasions and received benefits in the neighborhood of $700-$1000. I honestly was surprised that they got off with no penalties. It seemed to me like a classic case of setting a bad precedent, whereby it sent a message to recruits that they can take whatever they want from boosters and not have to worry about it.

According to CBS's Dennis Dodd, the story is a bit more complex.

NCAA vice president of enforcement Julie Roe Lach, she of the "You'll know when we're finished, and we're not finished" fame, strongly hinted that all of the current players not at Miami were offered "limited immunity" in return for complete cooperation. When offering immunity, the NCAA hopes to get more information that it otherwise might in return for restoring athletes' playing time. After discussing what that concept entails, she finished by saying "You can't transfer to escape a penalty."

We saw an example of this concept last summer when Alabama's Marcell Dareus, who attended Marvin Austin's infamous South Beach party, got the standard four-game suspension for impermissible benefits above $1000 cut in half for his cooperation with the investigation. I don't know what precisely the players caught up in the Miami scandal would be facing otherwise, but it appears that their testimony has set them free.