Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition

Miami hit with 1-year probation

- By Tim Reynolds

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Miami has been placed on probation for one year after the school and NCAA said women’s basketball coaches inadverten­tly helped arrange impermissi­ble contact between a booster and two players who signed with the Hurricanes.

Hurricanes coach Katie Meier will not have to miss any more games; she served a three-game suspension to start the season in anticipati­on of the NCAA’s ruling. But the NCAA made clear that it wanted tougher penalties, saying it was “troubled” by “the absence of a disassocia­tion of the involved booster” as part of the sanctions that Miami agreed upon.

“Boosters are involved with prospects and student-athletes in ways the NCAA membership has never seen or encountere­d,” the NCAA said. “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 did not name neither the booster nor the players involved, but referenced an April 13 tweet posted by a booster that included a photo of him and two recruits. On that date, booster John Ruiz posted a photo of himself with Haley and Hanna Cavinder after a dinner at his home. Ruiz has signed several Miami athletes to name, image and likeness deals, which are now permitted by NCAA rule. The Cavinders, who have an enormous social media following and several NIL deals, and signed their letter of intent about a week after the dinner.

The Cavinders told the NCAA that their decision to attend Miami was not influenced by what happened in their meeting with Ruiz, though they are among the athletes who have endorsed at least one of Ruiz’s business interests.

The Cavinders are not subject to any sanctions. Both are in their first season with the Hurricanes after transferri­ng from Fresno State.

“Although the parties asserted that a disassocia­tion penalty would be inappropri­ate based on an impermissi­ble meal and an impermissi­ble contact, today’s new NIL-related environmen­t represents a new day,” the NCAA said.

Meier said Friday in a statement distribute­d by the university she has led programs “with integrity and have been a collaborat­ive partner with the NCAA.”

“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,” Meier said.

The NCAA said it started an investigat­ion in May, and referenced the April 13 tweet as part of that probe. But the NCAA cannot order Miami to disassocia­te itself from Ruiz based on a meeting that occurred before rules were changed.

“The (committee on infraction­s) will strongly consider disassocia­tion penalties in future cases involving NIL-adjacent conduct,” the NCAA said.

Miami agreed to various other minor sanctions, such as a small fine — $5,000, plus 1% of the women’s basketball budget — and a slight reduction in what’s allowed in recruiting.

“The sanctions that we ultimately agreed to, to bring this to a close, are not (commensura­te) with the violation or its intent,” Miami said in a statement. “Coach Meier is an outstandin­g coach, role model, teacher ... and we stand fully behind her, her program and our ongoing department­al compliance efforts.”

Meier is Miami’s all-time leader in women’s basketball wins with 338, not including the three games that the Hurricanes won without her this season. She is a past AP coach of the year and a past USA Basketball coach of the year, is a member of the Miami Sports Hall of Fame and the Hall of Honor at Duke, her alma mater.

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