While the NCAA is clearing Nevin Shapiro-named players left and right, Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News has turned his attention to the ex-Miami coaches accused of rules violations in the Yahoo! Sports report. Specifically, Solomon tracked down attorney Michael Buckner — who often deals in NCAA cases — and asked him about how Alabama should handle the cases of director of football operations Joe Pannunzio and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland.
Buckner’s answers would also likely apply to Florida’s handling of receivers coach Aubrey Hill, who was also named in the Miami investigation.
“If I was Alabama, I would conduct my own internal inquiry in conjunction with the enforcement staff. If there are alleged activities going on with current staff members at other schools, are they continuing those activities at Alabama? Alabama can’t afford any significant allegations at this point since they’re on probation.”
While Florida isn’t on probation, they should obviously want to know what type of activities Hill has been up to since joining Will Muschamp’s staff.
Focusing again on Bama’s new coaches, Buckner said:
“If what was in the report was true, then I think (Stoutland and Pannunzio) would be prominent in any notice of allegations. Whether that rises to a major for them, that’s the question. Normally, that would just be a secondary, although the enforcement staff can use patterns of secondaries to be a major. It’s what’s not in the story that the enforcement staff is going to have to uncover.”
Here’s what’s interesting about all this from our perspective — had the NCAA not cleared so quickly the players named in the Miami probe, it probably would have been best for Georgia and Florida to sit Orson Charles, Andre Debose and Matt Patchan until they all received proper NCAA clearance. Had the schools played those athletes and the NCAA later ruled that they were ineligible, the schools probably would have been forced to vacate or forfeit games. (Since the NCAA has deemed them all eligible, this is no longer a concern.)
However, in the case of coaches, there is no such threat of forfeited victories. So as long as Alabama and Florida are sure that their coaches are clean in their current work, those schools need not worry about what the NCAA might dig up on Stoutland, Pannunzio and Hill from their Miami days. Their actions in Coral Gables won’t come back to harm their current employers (except in terms of reputation).
Consider that another little oddity of the NCAA rulebook.
In theory, players caught cheating can be ruled retroactively ineligible and schools playing them can be made to forfeit games… thus it’s usually safer to sit players facing questions. Coaches caught cheating can not be ruled retroactively “ineligible,” so schools might as well keep them on staff until the NCAA’s findings are in.