Georgia tight end Orson Charles has been mentioned in the mess that Yahoo! Sports is reporting about the University of Miami and its relationship with a notorious booster named Nevin Shapiro. Shapiro is a convicted felon who, in several prison interviews, claims he provided impermissible benefits to dozens of Miami players and recruits.
Charles is listed among those recruits with whom Shapiro claims to have had impermissible contact. But, on face value at least, it doesn’t look like he is anything but a bystander in all this.
The bombastic report, written by Yahoo! Sports reporter Charles Robinson, merely alleges that Charles was escorted by a Miami assistant coach to Shapiro to be given “a recruiting pitch.” As we all know, Charles rather famously signed with Georgia. Shapiro is incarcerated in federal prison in Atlanta after being convicted for his role in a $930 million Ponzi scheme.
Current and former Miami players and student-athletes from all over are implicated by Shapiro and other sources in the extensive report, which includes thousands of supporting documents such as bank statements, hotel folios, cell phone records and corroborating quotes from athletes. Here’s the specific passage in which Charles is mentioned (along with several other recruits):
Among the specific incidents, Shapiro or other sources say Hurtt, Hill, Stoutland, Pannunzio and Allen all delivered top-tier recruits to Shapiro’s home or luxury suite so the booster could make recruiting pitches to them. Among the players who were ushered to Shapiro while they were still in high school: Eventual Miami commitments Ray-Ray Armstrong, Dyron Dye and Olivier Vernon (prompted by Hurtt); eventual Florida commitments Andre Debose (Hurtt) and Matt Patchan (prompted by Stoutland and Pannunzio); eventual Georgia commitment Orson Charles (Pannunzio); and eventual Central Florida commitment Jeffrey Godfrey (Allen).
A hot-link on Charles’ name carries readers to a page that provides more details of on Charles and his encounter with Shapiro, including Shapiro’s account of the meeting:
“Orson Charles was a tight end out of Plant City [High School] who was Robert Marve’s teammate. And because I had a real close relationship with Robert, Robert’s high school coach, Robert Weiner, came to Miami, Marve brought him to my house and he was with Orson Charles. I showed [Charles] my closet. The reason why I show all the kids my closet is because that’s where I had like 50 to 70 UM game-worn jerseys of all the best players in the last however long. That was our first visit. I saw him a second time and I think it was a Miami football camp.”
Charles’ name is also on a list of players Shapiro mentions that appears next to the text of the story. Again, click HERE to read the entire report from Yahoo!Sports. Here’s an Associated Press story on Charles’ connection and here’s a link to The AP report about the story.
UGA officials did not return messages sent late Tuesday night seeking comment about Charles. Wednesday morning Athletic Director Greg McGarity said via email UGA is checking into it.
If and when they respond, I suspect they will say something similar to what Alabama spokesperson Doug Walker said: “The University of Alabama is aware of the story, but we will have no further comment.”
Joe Pannunzio was the tight ends and special teams coach at Miami under former head coach Randy Shannon and is now the first-year director of football operations at Alabama. Bama’s new offensive line coach, Jeff Stoutland, is also implicated in the Yahoo! Sports report.
Charles, a junior from Tampa, is a preseason All-SEC first-team selection expected to be one of the Bulldogs’ main offensive weapons this season. He had 49 career receptions for 796 yards and five touchdowns.
We’ll try to sort all this out from Georgia’s end on Wednesday.