Since Yahoo Sports dropped an atomic bomb on the University of Miami’s football program just under a year ago, the one saving grace for the school has always been that none of the allegations in that initial report linked current head coach Al Golden with the man at the center of the investigation, Nevin Shapiro. After being hired by Miami in mid-December 2010 Golden has aggressively distanced himself from all things Shapiro, and has seemingly taken a hardline stance on discipline in the Miami program. He has suspended and dismissed a handful of players for improprieties, most recently safety Ray-Ray Armstrong, arguably Miami’s best defensive player entering the 2012 season, who is now gone from the program.
However, even Golden’s ahem, golden image appears to have taken a hit on Friday afternoon. It comes after Yahoo released another damning report today linking Golden with a former aide of Shapiro’s just days after the coach was hired.
The report centers around former Miami equipment manager and Shapiro associate Sean “Pee Wee” Allen, who stayed with the program through August 2011, and according to the report illegally helped contact and attempt recruit players to Miami, all while Golden and his staff were acutely aware, and often times assisted Allen in the process. If the allegations are true, it is a new, and potentially damning twist in the investigation into the University of Miami, with ramifications that could cost another head coach his job.
Less than one week after the University of Miami hired Al Golden as coach, members of Golden's coaching staff began using Sean "Pee Wee" Allen – a then-equipment manager and onetime right-hand man of convicted Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro – to circumvent NCAA rules in the recruiting of multiple Miami-area players, Yahoo! Sports has learned.
Golden, hired by Miami in mid-December 2010, had direct knowledge of Allen's improper involvement with Miami recruits, according to a former Hurricanes athletic department staffer and federal testimony given by Allen in Shapiro's bankruptcy case. Additionally, multiple sources interviewed by NCAA investigators have told Yahoo! Sports that Allen has become a focal point in the association's probe into Miami athletics. The sources said investigators focused on Allen's role in providing impermissible benefits to Hurricanes players, as well as his contact with Miami recruits.
The report then goes on to list a litany of recruits that Allen made contact with on behalf of the University of Miami. His role with the recruits ranged from simple phone calls to transportation and in some cases, even Allen even provided tours of Miami’s athletic facilities to some of the players. And the worst part is according to the report, it all happened with the knowledge and assistance of the University of Miami’s staff. According to Yahoo, some of the names Allen was involved with were those familiar to college football fans, including current Louisville starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, highly-coveted Florida State sophomore running back Devonta Freeman and current Miami freshman hot-shot Randy “Duke” Johnson.
Now, the allegations are bad news for the University of Miami for a few very distinct reasons.
The first, and most obvious one is Allen’s association with Shapiro, the convicted Ponzi-schemer who not only conned the people of South Florida out of hundreds of millions of dollars, but as it pertains to what we do here at Crystal Ball Run, put a lot of that money back into the pockets of the Miami football program, the players in specific. According to Yahoo, Allen worked at times for Shapiro’s marketing company, and also connected Shapiro to recruits all the way back to the mid-2000’s. While Shapiro currently sits in jail, the NCAA continues to investigate both he and his role with the Miami football program. According to Yahoo, Allen has already turned over phone and financial records to the courts following Shapiro’s arrest last year.
That is really secondary though to the two bigger issues here.
The primary one is that as an equipment manager, Allen not only had zero autonomy to contact recruits on behalf of the University of Miami, but actually broke NCAA rules in doing so. According to 11.7 (as cited by Yahoo), equipment managers such as Allen cannot engage in recruiting calls or assist in off-campus recruiting unless they are designated and counted as an assistant coach, and furthermore anyone that "assisted in providing benefits to enrolled student-athletes or their families" is considered a booster under bylaw 13.02.14. And you don’t need me to tell you what the NCAA thinks of boosters.
Most importantly though is this: Friday’s Yahoo report is the first implication that we’ve seen linking Golden and his staff, and any wrongdoing in the eyes of the NCAA.
According to Yahoo’s report Allen began making calls on behalf of the school as early as December 2010, just weeks after Golden was hired. The most direct allegations allege that Allen picked up superstar cornerback recruit A.J. Leggett and delivered him directly to Golden in the Miami football offices, and in a separate incident, Allen also drove Bridgewater (currently at Louisville) to a restaurant where Golden and members of the Miami staff were, after the quarterback decommitted from the school. In addition, there was also heavy phone call correspondence between Allen, Miami assistant Michael Barrow and Florida State recruit Freeman in the day prior to Freeman enrolling at Florida State.
And simply put, if the contents of this report hold to be true, it’s damning for Golden. From the beginning he has maintained he had no knowledge of what happened at the school prior to his arrival, and if anything, Golden has actually been praised for righting the ship at Miami under such extreme circumstances. Golden was especially lauded for landing one of the top recruiting classes in the country last February, all despite the continuing NCAA investigation.
But with this report, it puts Golden squarely on the hot-seat with the NCAA and likely the University of Miami too. This is a program that simply cannot afford any additional bad exposure, and having Golden use an “off the books recruiter” (as Allen was called in the Yahoo report) is not an allegation that the school needs right now.
And for Golden, proving his innocence might be tough in this particular case. Remember, Allen wasn’t some rouge booster sitting in a luxury box like Shapiro, but instead a member of Golden’s staff, a person Golden seemingly had interaction with every day, or at the very least on occasion. More importantly, it’s tough to imagine that Golden didn’t know that Allen wasn’t allowed to recruit for him, in Allen’s role as an equipment manager.
One more final thing to consider is the timing of Allen’s departure from the program in August 2011. It is a seemingly innocuous nugget, but by our math is right around the time that the initial report linking Shapiro to the Miami football program came out. This seems like more than a random coincidence.
Either way, Al Golden has some explaining to do.
And Miami has another big problem on their hands.
For all his articles and opinions on college football, be sure to follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.