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Bama’s Pannunzio Further Implicated In Miami Case

Alabama’s first-year director of football operations, Joe Pannunzio, has been further implicated in the University of Miami scandal that grabbed headlines last month.  As the NCAA digs into everything that happened at The U, they’re finding that “a few former players” are rolling over on past Hurricane assistants… including Pannunzio.

The father of one current Miami player told The Miami Herald this week that his son told investigators that he met cash-tossing booster Nevin Shapiro via Pannunzio:

“How did my son meet this creep?  He would never have met Shapiro without Pannunzio.  To have one of the coaches deliver him up to this guy, it’s incredible.”

Nick Saban said in August that Pannunzio and fellow ex-Hurricane assistant Jeff Stoutland — now Bama’s O-line coach — both passed background checks before being hired last offseason.

Anybody wanna bet that Pannunzio and Stoutland won’t be working in Tuscaloosa after this season?  (From the looks of him, Pannunzio might be able to land a gig taping guns behind old-fashioned toilet boxes for the Corleones.)

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Saban Says His Ex-Miami Coaches Passed Background Checks

Nick Saban addressed the Yahoo! Sports investigation into the Miami football program yesterday.  Two recent Tide hires — director of football operations Joe Pannunzio and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland — were implicated in the report and accused of rulebreaking by ex-Canes booster Nick Shapiro.

Saban made it clear that Alabama did background checks on both coaches before hiring them:

“I’m going to address this and that’s it.  All this stuff about Miami, I know nothing about Miami.  I don’t have time to deal with what’s going on in Miami.  I know what goes on in this program and that we do things correctly.  We do have people in this organization who worked (at Miami).  Before those people were ever hired here, we do an NCAA check to make sure that they pass all compliance criteria and don’t have any red flags relative to compliance history, and we certainly did that in both of these cases.

If any of these people had any wrongdoing, I’m sure the NCAA will investigate it in due time and if they did anything wrong, I am sure they’ll get the appropriate punishment, which we would do if we had any internal problems in our organization.  But we’re going to continue to control and manage and monitor what we do in our organization and do it correctly and that’s basically all we can be concerned about.”

This brings us back to a point we made yesterday.  Players can be deemed retroactively ineligible if it’s found that they took illegal benefits in high school or cheated on their standardized tests, for example.  (Ask a Memphis fan and you’ll learn that this can happen even after the NCAA has cleared a player.)  If this happens, a school can be forced to forfeit games for playing an ineligible player… that it didn’t even know was ineligible.

But when it comes to coaches, schools are A-OK as long as the coaches in question haven’t been cheating while in their employ.  We’re not suggesting Alabama, for example, should be docked wins if it’s found Pannunzio or Stoutland cheated while at another program.  It shouldn’t.  But we did want to point out once more that what’s good for the goose isn’t always what’s good for the gander when it comes to the NCAA rulebook.

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Now The Focus Turns To Coaches Involved In Scandal

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.


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