If the claims of convicted felon Nevin Shapiro are to be believed, he gave money, cars and assorted impermissible benefits to 72 Miami football players and other athletes over a nine-year period (2002-10). The Hurricanes are expected to be hit with NCAA probation as a result of this.
But what happens to all of those former Miami players? Nothing. That’s why Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson believes there needs to be some type of legislation that follows an athlete and acts as a deterrent for those taking illegal benefits.
“In my mind it’s not going to change until you do something to the people who are involved in [receiving things],” Johnson said. “You can maybe smear their name, but what happens to them? They still get to sign big contracts. The guys who are left to get punished are the guys who didn’t know what was going on.”
This is a little bit of a sensitive topic at Tech. The Jackets were put on probation and forfeited their 2009 ACC championship (pending appeal) because the NCAA believed Tech obstructed the investigation into whether former players Demaryius Thomas and Morgan Burnett received extra benefits. It never actually was proven either player took something. But ultimately the program paid the price for an investigation stemming from the perceived actions of the two players.
The NFL recently made an example of former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor for five games prior to the supplemental draft, which is believed to be a carryover from the five games he would’ve missed at OSU. But in general, getting NFL and NBA teams to sign off on disciplinary actions for illegal actions committed in college will be be difficult.
Miami has declared eight players, including quarterback Jacory Harris, ineligible for the Sept. 5 opener against Maryland. There’s a chance the NCAA may reinstate some players. But Johnson’s issue is with programs paying a price for departed players. In the case of Miami, former stars Devin Hester, Willis McGahee and Antrel Rolle were among the players Shapiro claims to have given gifts to while they were there.
Johnson again: “If I’m a guy who comes up and I didn’t have a whole lot, I didn’t have a lot of money or possessions, you can see why kids say, ‘Well, they’re going to give me $2,000 and I needed the money. I had a kid or I had this or that.’ Unless there’s some deterrent, [why not]? If this goes back to 2002, nothing’s going to happen to those players. It’s going to happen to 80 percent of the kids who were there and didn’t know anything about it.”
He also believes that any coaches or administrators aware of improper benefits should pay a price but believes that’s usually not the case.
“As a head coach you’re ultimately responsible for everything that goes on, but at the same time how realistic is that?” he said. “You can watch to see what kind of car they drive or this, that or the other. But all you can really do is teach them what’s right and what’s wrong and ultimately you just have to hope what they do is right.”
Do you agree with Johnson? Should punishments follow former college stars into the pros?
By Jeff Schultz