CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Miami quarterback Jacory Harris publicly apologized Friday to the university and its fans for his role in an extra-benefits scandal and acknowledged making mistakes as a freshman.
It was the first time Harris had spoken out about the investigation since the NCAA ordered him and seven other players to sit out at least one game for taking gifts from former booster and convicted Ponzi scheme architect Nevin Shapiro. In all, 12 players had to make charitable donations after an investigation by the university and NCAA found those players took money or gifts.
Harris will resume playing when Miami hosts Ohio State on Sept. 17.
"I apologize to the university, president (Donna) Shalala, starting with her first for everything that happened, everything that she had to go through during this time," Harris said. "Then all the fans, I want to apologize for something that happened our freshman year. We were all young, but still no excuse for what happened. And apologize to this team for everything that's been going down and putting them through things they had to go through during this hard time."
The NCAA said last month that it found Harris accepted meals, entertainment, transportation and nightclub cover charges, all worth around $140, which he had to repay in the form of a donation to charity. Four other players — Sean Spence, Marcus Forston, Adewale Ojomo and Travis Benjamin — are also eligible to play again after missing Monday's opening game at Maryland.
Those four players combined made charitable donations that add up to roughly $1,065, per the NCAA's ruling.
Three other players, Olivier Vernon, Ray Ray Armstrong and Dyron Dye, will not be eligible again until October. They accepted benefits while being recruited, which the NCAA deemed to be more serious.
The enforcement investigation into Miami's athletic department — including compliance — is expected to continue for at least several more weeks. The university shifted oversight of its compliance office on Friday to senior associate athletic director Steve Waterfield, who held a similar role at Wisconsin before coming to Miami earlier this year. Waterfield assumes that duty from deputy athletic director Tony Hernandez.
Harris declined comment when asked if he felt the NCAA process regarding his situation was fair. He also offered no details on what exactly happened in his interactions with Shapiro, whom he did not mention by name, though said it was not difficult to remain quiet while the initial wave of the investigation played itself out.
"It was something that was determining my future, so I wouldn't want to say anything that was going to hurt me," Harris said. "That made it easier to keep in, but it was hard going through the things, knowing that a ruling can change the outcome of my future. That was the only thing that had me nervous, had me worried. But we're over it now. We got past the one-game suspension, and now we've just got to take care of business with our next opponent."
Harris said he initially was relieved to learn the NCAA decided he needed to sit only one game, then got progressively more upset as the Maryland game drew closer. Harris was on campus as his team boarded the buses to leave for Maryland, which he said was emotional, then watched the 32-24 defeat from a friend's home.
"I literally got sick," Harris said. "It was hard to watch. ... I wanted to be out there with them."
At 7 a.m. Tuesday, Harris was in the Hurricanes' football complex, studying and grading the film on his own. On Wednesday, Miami coach Al Golden decided to name Harris the starter once again. Stephen Morris, who ran for a touchdown but threw two interceptions in the Maryland loss, will return to the backup role.
"My job is always to be prepared and always help Jacory," said Morris, who expressed no hard feelings with the result of Miami's latest quarterback competition. "I've got to move forward, get ready and help Jacory get ready."
Harris has thrown for 50 touchdowns in his Miami career, and until this scandal struck had never taken a single snap with the Hurricanes' scout team. He somewhat comically revealed Friday that he wasn't exactly a good scout-team quarterback, either.
"I didn't actually know what to do, that you're supposed to basically make the defense look good," Harris said. "Didn't know that."
Harris said the toughest part of the scandal was that his name was out there for all the wrong reasons. He said it was difficult to watch the television broadcast Monday night because whenever the eight players who were sitting out were listed, his picture was always the one shown.
"Hey, it comes with it," Harris said. "We, I guess, made the wrong decisions early and we're here. It's nothing that bothers me anymore."
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