CORAL GABLES, Fla. - Seeming upbeat as usual, Miami quarterback Jacory Harris did not hesitate when asked about the fast-approaching start of the Hurricanes' season.
"I expect to play," Harris said. "Yes, sir."
The NCAA will decide soon if that becomes reality.
Harris and many other Miami players implicated by the extra-benefits scandal that threatens to negatively impact the program for years spoke out for the first time Saturday about the mess. None provided any specifics about the claims that former booster and imprisoned Ponzi scheme architect Nevin Shapiro made to Yahoo Sports, alleging that he provided extra benefits to Hurricane players and recruits from 2002-10.
But many, like Harris, expressed some sense of optimism that they may be cleared in time to play Sept. 5, when Miami opens at Maryland.
—"These people, they know what to do," defensive lineman Marcus Forston said.
—"I'm very hopeful," wide receiver Travis Benjamin said.
—"We know we're all we've got right now, this team," safety Ray Ray Armstrong said.
They are among 12 current players known to be under investigation by the university, and presumably the NCAA, for their involvement with Shapiro. A person with knowledge of the process has told The Associated Press that eight players — Harris, Sean Spence and Benjamin among them — have been declared ineligible by the university, which then turned the matter over to the NCAA and asked that a reinstatement process be expedited.
The school has confirmed that they asked the NCAA for rulings on Thursday. The school has not confirmed how many players are ineligible, nor any of the names involved. On Saturday, Miami coach Al Golden — while not discussing any players specifically — seemed to suggest much of the university's investigation revolves around incidents that happened sometime around 2008.
"I was sad for the guys, because I think we all as individuals, we hope to grow, we hope to mature, we hope to learn from mistakes," Golden said. "These guys are no different. If what has been alleged, if there ends up being some truth to it and they do have to serve some penalties, it's three years ago. So not only are they different than they were last year, now we have to go back three years. That's why I feel bad for them."
Besides Harris, Forston, Spence, Benjamin and Armstrong, the other current players who were named by Shapiro in the Yahoo Sports article were Vaughn Telemaque, Aldarius Johnson, Olivier Vernon, Marcus Robinson, Adewale Ojomo, Dyron Dye and JoJo Nicholas.
Miami President Donna Shalala said several days ago that the school was trying to determine the eligibility status of 15 student-athletes. She did not specify names or how many were football players.
"Sometimes life's not fair," Miami centre Tyler Horn said. "But I'm not worried about it. I'm focused on what I can control, and that's football."
Independent of the scandal, this Miami camp began with one giant question: Would Harris or Stephen Morris play quarterback?
As of Saturday, if that's been decided, no one is letting the secret out.
Both played well at times last year, and Golden has said even during this camp that the two are alternating with the first-string. Offensive co-ordinator Jedd Fisch said Saturday that even he doesn't yet know who will start.
"I have no idea what coach Golden and his staff are going to be doing in terms of the depth chart," Morris said.
Added Harris: "We're just taking it day-by-day, going out there every day, giving it our all, having fun. Whatever the depth chart says come whenever we have to release it, I think by Tuesday, then that's what it is and that's what's going into Maryland."
Harris' teammates said Saturday they're impressed with the way he's handled the cloud hanging over his senior season.
"Jacory's Jacory," Morris said. "He's a happy guy all the time. Always smiling, always got a joke to say. He's just a great guy. ... All the situations that's going outside of this program, he's putting that behind him and is just focusing on football, focusing on this team."
Harris entertained questions for much of the allotted half-hour at the team's media day Saturday, doing so with typically the largest crowd of reporters gathered around him. He cracked a few one-liners, made fun of some teammates as they walked past, things he would have done under typical circumstances.
If he's frightened for his future, it wasn't showing.
"It's just a little bump in the road," Harris said. "It's something that we've got to get through. Whatever happens happens. At the end of the day, you've still got to weather the storm and fight through it. That's pretty much what we're doing as a team. We're going to fight through it and we're going to come out on top."