University of Miami Abandoning Florida's High School Football Stars
Uncle Luke, the man whose booty-shaking madness made the U.S. Supreme Court stand up for free speech, gets as nasty as he wants to be for Miami New Times. This week, Luke analyzes the Miami Hurricanes' sudden aversion to Florida high school football players.
The University of Miami football program rose to prominence by recruiting gift ballers like NFL Hall of Famer Warren Sapp, two-time Super Bowl winner Ray Lewis, and the late great defensive back Sean Taylor, to name a few of the dozens of great Hurricanes who went on to have stellar professional careers. Those days seem over.
In 2010, during his first press conference as head coach Al Golden, promised Canes nation that Florida was his battleground state. He proved it a year later when his first recruiting class featured 18 student-athletes from the Sunshine State. "We want to be 80 percent Florida," Golden told the Miami Herald then.
Now, Golden has completely reversed course based on marching orders he's getting from university president Donna Shalala. During the head coach's three year tenure, as the cloud of the NCAA investigation into the Nevin Shapiro scandal hung over the program, the U has been purging the football team of talented Florida kids. While the players are being punished, nothing has happened to the former Miami sports administration that allowed the rogue booster to do as he pleased.
First, Olivier Vernon and Marcus Fortson, two underclassmen born and raised in the 305 accused of accepting improper benefits from Shapiro, skipped their senior years to enter the 2012 draft. Two other juniors from inner-city Miami schools also left early.
Then Golden kicked safety Ray Ray Armstrong off the team for allegedly being dishonest during an internal investigation that he had dinner with a sports agent. Two sophomores who graduated from Miami area high-schools left the team in January.
The same month, Golden rescinded a scholarship offer to Booker T. Washington offensive lineman Denver Kirkland, which came as a shock. Back in March, during a high school coaches' convention in Orlando, I was in the room when Golden and his staff told the coaches at Miami Central, Carol City, Booker T., Norland, and Northwestern, that he would never pull a scholarship offer he made to a student-athlete.
Even though Golden reinstated his scholarship offer to Kirkland, the young man signed with the University of Arkansas.
On National Signing Day this past Feb. 5, he only landed five players from Florida. Golden lashed out at the NCAA for hurting his recruiting of blue chip players, but there are more than enough talent-rich high school student-athletes in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach that can help the Canes compete for a national title.
Golden also passed up an opportunity to hire Miami Central head coach Telly Lockette, who has built a program that has gone to the state championship three straight years. Adding Lockette as UM's running backs coach would have given the Canes the inside track on all the top recruits in south Florida moving forward.
Instead, Golden gave the job to ex-Hurricanes free safety and current team football operations manager Hurlie Brown.
The University of Miami has done everything possible to get the NCAA to back off. The school has even punished the current players, who had nothing to do with the scandal, by self-imposing bowl bans the last two years. The student-athletes are the only ones falling on the sword. They should not get any penalties.
If anything, the NCAA needs to focus on the guy who was at the center of the Shapiro controversy, but fled Coral Gables just as the investigation was getting underway. I'm talking about Kirby Hocutt, Miami's former athletic director who left to take the same job at Texas Tech. Shapiro had him in his pocket.
I'll never forget the time I met the disgraced booster in his suite at Sun-Life Stadium. Hocutt popped into say hello and Shapiro ordered him to fire then-head coach Randy Shannon. Hocutt was well aware of Shapiro's bullshit and didn't do anything about it. The NCAA should give him the death penalty by banning him as athletic director for life.
The way things are headed, the men's basketball team will be in the Final Four before the football team competes again for a national title.
Follow Luke on Twitter: @unclelukereal1.
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