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Golden: Critical Time for ‘Canes, Moving Forward

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UM coach Al Golden. (Source: CBS4)

UM coach Al Golden. (Source: CBS4)

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CORAL GABLES (CBS4) — For Miami coach Al Golden, the waiting game continues. But Golden is speaking about the latest investigation tied to Nevin Shapiro and the Miami Hurricanes and what he’s doing to keep players focus.

The only certainty on his schedule is Sept. 5 — the date of the Hurricanes’ season-opener at Maryland. A depth chart will be completed sometime in the coming days, a process that grew more difficult when several presumptive starters had their eligibility jeopardized after being implicated by former booster Nevin Shapiro for allegedly accepting extra benefits.

“I’m like you guys,” Golden said. “I’m waiting for information. I’m confident that our kids did a great job in terms of being open and honest.”

Golden doesn’t know when Miami president Donna Shalala and athletic director Shawn Eichorst will decide if it’s worth the risk of using players who may eventually be declared ineligible by the NCAA. So when Golden says he doesn’t know which 60 players he’s taking to Maryland, he means it.

“We’re just moving forward,” Golden said. “We’ll deal with whatever comes down or whatever the issues are as they come. Right now, we’re moving forward and we’re going to select our team accordingly. You know, I know you guys obviously are here because there’s a sensational story out there, but this is a critical time for our football team.”

Though neither the university nor the NCAA will confirm, it’s believed the 12 current players named by Shapiro — Jacory Harris, Vaughn Telemaque, Ray Ray Armstrong, Travis Benjamin, Aldarius Johnson, Marcus Forston, Olivier Vernon, Marcus Robinson, Adewale Ojomo, Dyron Dye, JoJo Nicholas and Sean Spence — have all met with investigators in recent days about Shapiro’s allegations, which were published by Yahoo Sports on Tuesday.

Shapiro claims he provided 72 players over a nine-year span with cash, cars, prostitutes and other gifts. Those allegations could bring major sanctions from the NCAA, which has spent the past five months investigating the claims.

University officials have confirmed the NCAA had investigators on campus for several days, starting on Monday.

Shapiro first made some allegations a year ago, though at least one of the names he listed then was not among the 72 he cited in a series of interviews with Yahoo Sports.

Miami has made four players available for interviews since the scandal broke publicly. None of the current 12 players listed in the article have been available for comment. On Saturday, linebacker Jimmy Gaines — who plays the same position as Spence, someone he cites as a mentor — said his teammate has seemed unaffected by the situation.

“Sean’s the same guy,” Gaines said. “You wouldn’t even know. He’s been focusing still. He’s still our leader. He’s still doing the things that he’s done before, before everything has happened.”

Golden said Harris and Stephen Morris at quarterback are still alternating with the first-string offense, a clear sign that no determination has been made about a starter at that position. Harris, Golden said, has been “nothing short of excellent.” And Spence was among the few players wearing a black jersey in practice Saturday, an honor reserved for those players who are excelling at the highest level in Golden’s system.

“I’m waiting for information,” Golden said. “I’m confident that our kids did a great job in terms of being open and honest. That’s going to allow everybody to move forward.”

Miami players and coaches will not be available to reporters again before Thursday, barring any change in schedule. Most of that gap was announced weeks ago, a break of sorts to coincide with the start of the academic year.

A number of former Miami players have spoken out in recent days about Shapiro, and Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen added his name to the chorus of those offering a similar refrain: “Consider the source,” Olsen said.

“It’s obviously unfortunate,” Olsen added. “Miami means a lot to all of us who went there. It’s pretty well-documented the kind of family that we have there and the tight-knit group that we all are. To see your fellows that you really care about go through something like this and the allegations that have been proposed are hard. But at the same point, we have to remember where all this is coming from, a convicted felon who’s made his bed by being a liar.”

Late Friday, the chairman of the university’s board of trustees released a letter saying it’s “especially important that the alleged misconduct not overshadow our current leadership and institutional values.”

Leonard Abess’ letter also served as a strong vote of confidence for Shalala, who told the student newspaper, The Miami Hurricane, that she has no intention to leave the school anytime soon.

“Without a doubt these allegations are troubling and demand a thorough and honest evaluation of Hurricane Athletics,” Abess wrote. “President Shalala has taken a strong position, insisting on full cooperation with the ongoing NCAA investigation. The process will be long, and in the ensuing months the Board of Trustees and the university administration will provide both leadership and unwavering support for our great institution.”

Shapiro is serving a 20-year prison sentence. He has also been ordered to pay more than $82 million to bilked investors. His claims pushed Miami onto the growing list of schools with major football programs to be investigated by the NCAA for rule-breaking in the past 18 months. Others include Southern California, Ohio State, Auburn, Oregon, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and LSU.

(© 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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