When the bomb went off Tuesday in the heart of Miami football, the shrapnel seemed to explode across the entire country. In the immediate blast zone, there were the "Shapiro 12," a dozen current Hurricane players who allegedly accepted all manner of improper benefits from ex-booster turned convicted Ponzi-schemer Nevin Shapiro and subsequently showed up to practice this morning with the shadow of their remaining eligibility burned into the walls. Then, a little further away from ground zero, there were the dozens of former 'Canes who had wandered into Shapiro's opulent sphere during their stint at the U, and wandered out relatively unscathed.
Then there was the collateral damage: Seven active players currently enrolled at other schools who allegedly received the Shapiro treatment as recruits or, in two cases, as one-time 'Cane players themselves. In their case, it was more difficult to gauge the immediate damage from the reports, and as the day wore on Wednesday, the NCAA wasted little time giving most of the fringe characters the all-clear. To wit:
Former Miami linebacker Arthur Brown and his much-hyped younger brother, Bryce — now both at Kansas State — were reportedly treated to a $532 lunch at Smith & Wollensky steakhouse during a recruiting trip for Bryce in March 2008 (Arthur had signed with Miami the previous month), along with their parents, family "adviser" Brian Butler and then-Hurricane safety Randy Phillips. Bryce, his parents and Butler were put up in two hotel rooms the same weekend at a cost of $1,110. Arthur also allegedly accepted assorted food, drinks, transportation and other favors at Shapiro's mansion, a local strip club and other establishments. Today, Brian Butler confirmed the lunch and hotel rooms on Shapiro's dime, telling the Wichita Eagle that they took Shapiro for "just a fan who helped players from out of state," not a booster.
Good enough for the NCAA, apparently, which quickly cleared both brothers to play, according to statement from Kansas State:
"Regarding Arthur Brown and Bryce Brown, the NCAA staff has informed the institution that it has no concerns about their eligibility to compete at K-State."
So that's that, I suppose.
Elsewhere, former 'Cane quarterback Robert Marve, now at Purdue, allegedly accepted cash, dinner, drinks and VIP access at three different strip clubs during his stint at the U. No problem there, according to Purdue:
"Purdue University has been in communication with the NCAA regarding Tuesday's media report that mentions Robert Marve. There are no issues with Purdue or eligibility issues with Robert. Purdue will have no further comment on this matter."
So that's that.
Marve's former high school teammate, current Georgia tight end Orson Charles, allegedly visited Shapiro's mansion along with Marve and their high school coach on a recruiting trip, including a tour. Georgia says the NCAA will allow it:
"The University of Georgia is aware of the article mentioning Orson Charles and has been in communication with the NCAA. There are no issues with UGA or eligibility issues with Orson Charles. UGA will have no further comment regarding this matter."
So that's that.
For the players who weren't explicitly cleared, there were no outward signs of concern. Current Central Florida quarterback Jeff Godfrey, the reigning Conference USA Freshman of the Year, allegedly stopped by Shapiro's mansion and his luxury box at LandShark Stadium as a recruit in 2009, picking up a pair of Air Jordans and a dinner at Benihana. UCF coach George O'Leary is certain there's nothing to see here:
"Someone came to me last night about it," O'Leary told reporters after practice. "I didn't read any article about it. I spoke to Jeff, and I'm comfortable with the answers he gave me. And if I know any more, I'll let you people know. But right now, I spoke to him last night and I was comfortable the answers I [got] when I asked the tough questions and we'll go from there."
He emphasized that he encouraged Godfrey to be honest about any interaction with Shapiro.
"The one thing I always tell the players is make sure you're not lying to me," O'Leary said. "Just tell me the truth and I was comfortable with the answers he gave me."
And at Florida, as at Miami, three different Gators implicated by Shapiro — wide receiver Andre Debose, offensive lineman Matt Patchan and wide receivers coach Aubrey Hill — were all practicing as usual this afternoon. Patchan and three members of his family allegedly toured Shapiro's mansion on a recruiting trip that had reportedly arranged and attended by two assistant coaches, both now working for Nick Saban at Alabama. Ditto Debose, who reportedly toured the mansion with fellow targets Ray-Ray Armstrong and Dyron Dye, took a ride in Shapiro's Mercedes and later hit the town with one of Shapiro's colleagues and "approximately $2,000 to $3,000 in cash" from Shapiro — all with Aubrey Hill, then wide receivers coach at Miami, allegedly along for the ride.
Based on the reams of documentation and other corroborating evidence backing up the allegations, the only plausible stance that could absolve all of these cases is one that says either a) Violations committed at/on behalf of one school can't follow a player to another school (which should make future transfer stories an awful lot more interesting), or b) The statute of limitations on recruiting violations has been reduced from four years to two.
Otherwise, the NCAA would have to have devised a brand new strain of bureaucratic logic that somehow absolves these particular players of charges that would get almost anyone else declared ineligible and facing suspension or worse. But we know it would never resort to just making up the rules as it goes along.