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Miami players say NCAA investigation, scandal claims not keeping them from football work
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) ' A pair of Miami football players say the NCAA investigation and scandal claims are not keeping them from trying to get ready for the season.
Running back Mike James and center Tyler Horn are the first Hurricanes to meet reporters since convicted Ponzi-scheme architect Nevin Shapiro made claims about the program to Yahoo Sports for a story published Tuesday.
Horn says the Hurricanes "have no control" over what may happen now. He and James spoke shortly before Friday morning's practice.
Shapiro says he provided cash, cars, prostitutes and gifts to 72 football players and other athletes from 2002 through 2010. The NCAA is investigating, and Miami athletic director Shawn Eichorst said Thursday there will be tough times ahead, but the program will be left stronger as a result.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) ' Miami athletic director Shawn Eichorst issued a four-paragraph statement about the messy state of things surrounding the Hurricanes, closing his message by saying "there will be a better day."
He did not say when.
That's one of many questions lacking answers in this scandal.
Eichorst and some players ended their silence Thursday, speaking out for the first time publicly since convicted Ponzi scheme architect Nevin Shapiro's claims of providing cash, prostitutes and other gifts to Miami players for nearly a decade were published by Yahoo Sports. And those messages came as Shapiro's attorney defended her client's accusations that he bankrolled a wild lifestyle for Hurricane players.
"There are tough times ahead, challenges to overcome and serious decisions to be made, but we will be left standing and we will be stronger as a result," Eichorst wrote. "I understand there are unanswered questions, concerns and frustration by many but this Athletic Department will be defined now and in the future, by our core values, our integrity and our commitment to excellence, and by nothing else."
In perhaps an ironic twist, Shapiro's attorney, Maria Elena Perez ' a University of Miami graduate ' said she agrees that the Hurricanes will be "left standing" when this process ends.
"I think there will be a football program after this," Perez said. "If they shut down this football program, too many people will lose too much money."
But Perez said the allegations were not made up and speculated more could be triggered by Shapiro's story. The attorney said Shapiro, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence for masterminding a $930 million Ponzi scheme, is aware of the fallout from his story and suggested more allegations may still be coming.
"I believe inevitably there will be more," Perez said. "Whether that comes from Nevin or from outside sources who have additional information about this, I can't tell you. But I believe that there will be more."
The Hurricanes went through two practices Thursday, and coach Al Golden ' clearly weary of fielding questions on the NCAA investigation ' said he's hoping their focus is on football and nothing else.
Late Thursday night, team officials announced that Golden would not speak to reporters Friday, but center Tyler Horn and running back Mike James would be able to field questions.
Choosing Horn and James to take the first questions posed to players since the scandal broke was not coincidental. Not only are they among the more loquacious Hurricanes, but neither is among the current players implicated by what Shapiro told Yahoo Sports.
Though Golden said his team decided on its own to limit usage of social media such as Facebook and Twitter during training camp, some Miami players felt Thursday was the right time to speak out.
Defensive back Brandon McGee tweeted before the morning practice, "Know this for sure everyone hurts! We all feel pain!" Between sessions, running back Mike James wrote "You have to appreciate the process and accept the struggle."
Two of the current players implicated in the Shapiro scandal ' quarterback Jacory Harris and defensive back JoJo Nicholas ' were not in uniform Thursday morning, for reasons that school officials said didn't involve the investigation. Harris was on the field in shorts and a T-shirt, whistle dangling from his neck, serving as a player coach for the morning. Golden has used several players in that role in recent days.
Nicholas was tending to a family matter and was excused. Harris was in uniform for the afternoon practice, which was closed to reporters.
"These are not times for pity and reflection," Eichorst said. "All of my efforts and energy are committed to ensuring the integrity of the NCAA investigation, demanding the full cooperation of our employees and student-athletes and providing unwavering support to our more than 400 plus student-athletes and more than 150 coaches and staff."
Miami joined a 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.
Shapiro began making his allegations about a year ago. He told Yahoo Sports that 72 football players and other athletes at Miami received improper benefits from him in the past decade.
Yahoo Sports published its story Tuesday, saying it spent 100 hours interviewing Shapiro over the span of 11 months and audited thousands of pages of financial and business records to examine his claims, some involving events nearly a decade ago.
The NCAA's four-year statute of limitations doesn't apply when there is a pattern of willful violations that continues into the past four years.
AP Sports Writer Betsy Blaney contributed to this report.
Link to YahooSports: http://sports.yahoo.com