Yahoo! Sports' report on alleged NCAA violations at the University of Miami is sending shockwaves through the college football world.
The probe focuses on Hurricanes booster and convicted Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro, who said he provided benefits to 72 players over an eight-year span at Miami.
"The most difficult issue for Miami," Yahoo's Dan Wetzel wrote Tuesday, "the one that will cause the NCAA hammer to drop harder and swifter than any other is this: did school officials know, or should they have known, of Shapiro's actions?"
That deniability has been the excuse for several schools embroiled in scandals recently.
"Just this year Ohio State was able to avoid a lack of institutional control charge by arguing only then-head coach Jim Tressel knew of violations within the program," Wetzel wrote. "North Carolina was able to do the same by cordoning blame solely on associate head coach John Blake. Plausible deniability is a school's best friend in the NCAA's enforcement process."
If the Yahoo reports are true, however, Miami would have a much harder time denying knowledge of Shapiro's actions, as he was a well-known booster and donor to the university. Yet according to SI.com's Stewart Mandel, former Miami athletic director Paul Dee is trying to do just that.
"The same guy whose committee lamented the access outsiders had to the Trojans' locker room and sidelines also told the Palm Beach Post that, '[Shapiro] would come by, ask to go out to practice and we would send one of our staffers to accompany him,'" Mandel wrote Tuesday.
Dee is also notable for chairing the committee that penalized USC's football program for infractions regarding Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo. USC, new division foe of the University of Utah in the Pac-12 South, lost 30 scholarships and is banned from postseason participation for two years.
"If USC got a two-year bowl ban and 30 docked scholarships," Mandel wrote, "what should Miami get for an encyclopedia of allegations so tawdry as to make USC look like a bubble-gum shoplifter?"
Fox Sports' Thayer Evans wrote Wednesday that the Miami case is just the latest in a series of NCAA blunders.
"What is becoming most apparent is that in college athletics, no one is in control," Evans wrote. "It's become 'Cheaters Gone Wild, College Edition.'"
Where the NCAA will go from here is unclear. ESPN reported last week that the NCAA was considering changes to its rulebook that would include tougher penalties for cheaters and higher academic standards. But the Miami allegations may throw those plans into disarray at a time when college football needs change the most.
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