Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition
Hurricanes given 1-year probation
NCAA imposes sanctions on Miami for recruiting violations
The Miami Hurricanes women’s basketball program was hit with a variety of Level II sanctions for recruiting violations between coach Katie Meier, two transfer prospects and a booster, the NCAA announced Friday.
The athletic department has been placed on probation for one year and fined $5,000, plus 1 percent of the school’s women’s basketball budget. The women’s basketball program was also hit with recruiting restrictions — a 7 percent reduction in the number of official visits, a reduction of nine recruiting-person days and a prohibition on recruiting communications by all UM women’s basketball staff members from March 13 through April 2, 2023. Meier also received a three-game suspension, which she served at the beginning of this season.
The sanctions were part of a negotiated resolution between the NCAA’s enforcement staff, the school and Meier.
The NCAA did not identify the booster or the student-athletes, but it did reference an April 13 Twitter post by the “booster” that included a photo of the booster, the recruits and their parents. Prominent Miami supporter John Ruiz posted a photo of himself with Haley and Hanna Cavinder and their parents on April 13.
The settlement does not require Ruiz to disassociate with the school, nor did it punish any players.
The NCAA investigated the UM athletic department “across multiple sports,” but found only the women’s basketball recruiting violations, according to a university statement. The probation terms do not directly target the Hurricanes’ football or men’s basketball programs, which have several athletes who have signed NIL deals with Ruiz’s companies.
“The NCAA enforcement staff conducted a nearly four-month comprehensive investigation across multiple sports, seeking to determine if violations related to NIL had occurred,” the University of Miami said in a statement. “That investigation included a review of all communications, among other records, between institutional staff members and a representative of the institution’s athletics interests as well as dozens of interviews. Ultimately, the only violation in the case resulted from Coach Meier’s communications with a representative of the institution’s athletics interests. The University, student-athletes, coaches, and administrators cooperated fully with the NCAA enforcement staff throughout the investigation.
“Coach Meier and the University have accepted responsibility, and this Negotiated Resolution allows us to move forward and is in the best interests of Coach Meier, our student-athletes and our University. However, the University encourages the membership to review NCAA bylaws that have been on the books for decades and may no longer be applicable or realistic in today’s environment. The sanctions that we ultimately agreed to, to bring this to a close, are not [commensurate] with the violation or its intent. Coach Meier is an outstanding coach, role model, teacher and valued member of the Hurricane Family and we stand fully behind her, her program and our ongoing departmental compliance efforts.”
According to the resolution report, Meier met Ruiz and some of his family members at a university event for donors and prospective donors on April 7, 2022. At the event, Ruiz and his two sons approached Meier and discussed the Cavinders’ upcoming official visit and the possibility of doing business with them. The investigation did not determine how Ruiz knew Miami was recruiting the Cavinders.
Meier told the NCAA that she did not know Ruiz was a representative of UM’s athletic interests, but she knew he was a prominent businessman and an “NIL guy.”
On April 11, she exchanged text messages with Ruiz about the twin basketball players and agreed to connect Ruiz with the Cavinders before their official visit to UM. On April 12, Meier called Ruiz to learn more about his work. According to the report, she later told the NCAA that at the time she did not think it would be a “bad thing” if the Cavinders got to know Ruiz.
Also on April 12, Meier instructed an unidentified assistant coach to tell the Cavinders that Ruiz was a legitimate businessman, the report said. The assistant coach followed the instructions, and the Cavinders agreed to talk to Ruiz. Meier texted Ruiz and said the Cavinders would “love to talk to him.” Ruiz asked Meier to connect him with the Cavinder family so he could invite them to dinner the next day, and Meier said she would do so, according to the report.
Meier later told the NCAA that Ruiz asked her to connect him with the Cavinders, which made her feel “uncomfortable.” However, she did not communicate with Miami’s compliance department to check whether her actions conformed to NCAA rules, the report said.
Meier and Ruiz spoke by text message on April 13, discussing a message sent by the Cavinders’ agent to Ruiz, the report said. Meier said she would make sure the Cavinders knew who Ruiz is, and Ruiz said he was “here to help” and wanted women’s basketball “to be huge for UM.”
The Cavinders and their parents visited Ruiz’s home on April 13, where Ruiz “provided the family a tour of his home and a chef-prepared dinner.
During the meeting, the booster promoted the institution when he talked with the family about his children’s experiences at the institution, including his sons’ prior participation on the baseball team, and his admiration for the institution and the city of Miami,” according to the report.
Ruiz posted a picture of the Cavinders from the dinner on Twitter on April 13. Meier said she was not aware of the dinner until Ruiz sent her the picture. The Cavinders told the NCAA that the dinner did not impact their decision to go to Miami.
The Cavinders took an official visit to Miami on April 15 and committed to UM on April 21. The NCAA became aware of the possible violations in May.
Meier told the NCAA that she believed at the time she was allowed to make introductions and share factual information with third parties involved in NIL, but after receiving subsequent guidance, she agreed that her communications with Ruiz were impermissible.
Boosters like Ruiz are not authorized recruiters and are not allowed to have in-person, off-campus contact with recruits.
The Cavinders’ visit to Ruiz’s home violated recruiting rules, and the chef-prepared dinner violated inducement rules, according to the NCAA.
As part of the corrective actions, Miami athletic director Dan Radakovich and a deputy director of athletics met with Ruiz in person to discuss his role in the violation, according to the report. Ruiz was provided with targeted NCAA rules education concerning his status as a representative of UM’s athletics interests.
“For over 30 years, I have led my programs with integrity and have been a collaborative partner with the NCAA,” Meier said in a statement.
“Collegiate athletics is in transformation, and any inadvertent mistake I made was prior to a full understanding of implemented guardrails and the clarification issued by the NCAA in May. We all look forward to a time when there is a national solution to help our student-athletes, coaches and institutions. I am happy this matter is resolved as I continue to focus on mentoring and developing our student-athletes and winning games for the University of Miami.”
The NCAA’s investigation “did not develop any facts directly linking activities around name, image and likeness to the prospects’ recruitment to or decision to enroll at the University of Miami.”
However, the NCAA panel was “troubled by the limited nature and severity of institutional penalties agreedupon by Miami and the enforcement staff — namely, the absence of a disassociation of the involved booster.”
NCAA rules regarding the burden of proof for NIL violations changed in January. Prior to this year, the NCAA enforcement staff needed to prove that a violation occurred.
That was the burden of proof relevant to the organization’s investigation of Miami. Now, the burden of proof falls on the school to prove that a violation did not happen.
Although the NCAA did not issue any disassociation penalties, it said that this case does not have precedential value because the sanctions were levied through a negotiated settlement.
The Committee on Infractions said it “will strongly consider disassociation penalties in future cases involving NIL-adjacent conduct.”
“Boosters are involved with prospects and student-athletes in ways the NCAA membership has never seen or encountered. … In that way, addressing impermissible booster conduct is critical, and the disassociation penalty presents an effective penalty available to the Committee on Infractions,” the NCAA committee said.
Meier’s involvement in setting up a meeting between Ruiz and the Cavinders violated NCAA rules, but Florida state law was recently changed to allow university employees to facilitate NIL deals. Miami released a statement after the bill was signed into law saying the university “enthusiastically” supported the new law.