CORAL GABLES (AP) — Miami center Reggie Johnson has been declared ineligible by the Hurricanes after an investigation revealed that members of his family took travel benefits that the university said were approved by a member of former coach Frank Haith’s staff.
The Hurricanes have asked the NCAA for a speedy decision on whether Johnson can be reinstated.
“The University of Miami … is seeking his immediate reinstatement,” read a statement distributed by school officials about an hour before the Hurricanes — who are on the NCAA tournament bubble — were to host No. 15 Florida State.
Raphael Akpejiori was to start in Johnson’s place against the Seminoles. Johnson has been aware of the investigation for several days, but he and his teammates were not told of that he was declared ineligible until Sunday.
Johnson is averaging 10.6 points and 6.9 rebounds this season for Miami, which was rocked last summer when allegations made by former booster and convicted Ponzi scheme architect Nevin Shapiro — mostly involving the football program — were unveiled in an article published by Yahoo Sports. Shapiro’s claims sparked a department-wide investigation into compliance practices, and that inquiry uncovered the matter involving Johnson’s family.
Shapiro is not linked to the current situation.
“In the process of the ongoing joint NCAA-UM inquiry, it was discovered that members of Johnson’s family received impermissible travel benefits from a member of the former basketball coaching staff,” the university’s statement said. “Johnson was unaware of the benefits and his family was told they were permissible by that member of the former basketball coaching staff.”
A message left for Haith, now the coach at Missouri and a national coach of the year candidate, was not immediately returned. Haith is not named in the university’s statement, nor is there any reference to which coach is to have allegedly approved the travel benefits for Johnson’s family.
In matters like this, schools are the ones who typically declare athletes ineligible, then appeal to the NCAA to reinstatement. That was the order of events last fall when members of the Hurricanes’ football team were found to have accepted so-called “extra benefits” such as cash, nightclub access and lavish meals from Shapiro. The NCAA reinstated those players, though many had to serve suspensions that ranged from one (in most cases) to up to six games.
While Shapiro’s claims made last August were primarily about football, there was a basketball tie in which he said he paid $10,000 to help ensure that DeQuan Jones signed with the Hurricanes. Shapiro also told Yahoo Sports that Jake Morton, who was on Miami’s staff at the time as an assistant coach, was involved with that transaction.
Haith has denied Shapiro’s claim repeatedly in recent months.
In November, Miami announced that Jones would sit out the season because of the investigation, but the university changed course in December and said Jones could play, adding that decision was made in consultation with the NCAA.
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