Team grows closer as NCAA probe continues

Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL. Nov 6, 2010. Linebacker Sean Spence (31); defensive lineman Adewale Ojomo (97) and defensive back Ryan Hill (13) celebrate during the first quarter of the University of Miami's homecoming football game against the University of Maryland. Miami ended up winning the game 26-20. Photo by Jessica Hodder

Throughout the Miami Hurricanes’ Media Day at CanesFest, Jacory Harris remained upbeat, smiling for the roaming packs of reporters who were beating around the bush about the validity of the Yahoo reports in which Harris was implicated by Nevin Shapiro. With his hair and beard longer than usual – he even hypothesized that he’s going “caveman-style” in lieu of his trademark flashy buzz cuts – Harris showed signs of someone not caring much about outside appearances.

“If our coaches, A.D. or compliance director isn’t telling us anything, we’re not worrying about anything,” Harris said. “When we see things in the media on ESPN that’s crazy, we just laugh at it because they’re not here with us, and I didn’t get a text message [from the coaches] about anything, so why should I worry?”

According to reports from The Miami Herald, four of the 12 current football players ruled ineligible by the University of Miami have been cleared because their benefits totaled under $100. Their punishment, to pay back the money to charity and complete some community service, serves only as a brief glimmer of hope that the infractions committee won’t cripple the upcoming season.

For the remaining eight players, who as of now reportedly include Harris and linebacker Sean Spence, their futures have yet to be determined. Coach Al Golden has requested that the NCAA expedite their review of the remaining cases in time to prepare for the Hurricanes’ upcoming game against Maryland. An answer is expected sometime early this week.

“I’ve learned I can handle pretty much anything in life,” Harris said. “No matter what you throw at me, I’m going to swing and hit it right back at you. It’s been a crazy career, but going through it has helped me a whole lot in life. I feel like I still would have been Jacory of high school, still immature, young, had I gone somewhere else and had a successful career and always been on top.”

That positivity may be the only way to combat the overwhelming negativity that has surrounded this program for the past couple weeks. Rumors ranging from postseason and television bans to the dreaded “death penalty” have hung around practices, but inside the locker rooms and out on campus players have found sanctuary.

“This is our home, this is our family,” said senior linebacker Jordan Futch. “When you see all the fans in Miami shirts, it’s great. We can still joke and play around with each other. This is our safe haven; we love each other.”

Lost among the looming NCAA rulings was the off-season battle for the quarterback position, as Harris and sophomore quarterback Stephen Morris continued sharing practice time with the first team offense throughout training camp. Any possible suspensions for Harris would solve the dilemma rather shortly, but Morris has no intentions of letting that get between him and his teammates.

“You always have to be ready for anything, no matter what,” Morris said. “If I’m starting for the Maryland game, I have to be prepared because you don’t know what’s going to happen. But when all four [quarterbacks] are together outside of the building, we never talk about the competition. It’s always fun.”

Now just days away from beginning the season with far more questions remaining than answers available, the only guarantee the players have is each other.

“Facing adversity is what tests the true measures of a man, and I feel like we’ve responded in a positive manner and we’ll only move forward from here,” McGee said. “Our brotherhood, our unity, our camaraderie is so much stronger than it was before; there’s pretty much nothing that can come between this team to divide it.”