Miami's Reggie Johnson ineligible

TIM REYNOLDS AP Sports Writer Published:

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) -- .Miami center Reggie Johnson has been declared ineligible by the Hurricanes after an investigation revealed that members of his family took impermissible travel benefits that the university said came from a member of former coach Frank Haith's staff.

The Hurricanes have asked the NCAA for a speedy decision on whether Johnson can be reinstated.

"The University of Miami ... is seeking his immediate reinstatement," read a statement distributed by school officials about an hour before the Hurricanes -- who are on the NCAA tournament bubble -- played host No. 15 Florida State.

The NCAA could issue its decision at any time. Miami has its final two regular-season games this coming week, at North Carolina State on Wednesday and then home against Boston College on Saturday.

Raphael Akpejiori started in Johnson's place against the Seminoles. Johnson has been aware of the investigation for several days, but his teammates were not told that he was declared ineligible until Sunday's pregame shootaround.

Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga told ESPNU, which was broadcasting the Miami-Florida State game, in a pregame interview Sunday that the Hurricanes are hopeful that Johnson can return.

"I was notified on Wednesday that the NCAA wanted to speak to Reggie. Had no idea what it was about," Larranaga said. "And then on Friday we had a little further discussions about what the timetable might be. We were hoping that this thing would actually be resolved by now and Reggie would be able to play. It's an ongoing investigation. We're cooperating with that. Reggie and his family are cooperating, and we're just waiting for some good news."

Larranaga said Johnson was disappointed, but even with the uncertainty over his future swirling, had strong practices on Friday and Saturday.

"Reggie handled it very, very well," Larranaga said. "He's a great young man."

Johnson is averaging 10.6 points and 6.9 rebounds this season for Miami, which was rocked last summer when allegations made by former booster and convicted Ponzi scheme architect Nevin Shapiro -- mostly involving the football program -- were unveiled in an article published by Yahoo Sports. Shapiro's claims sparked a department-wide investigation into compliance practices.

Shapiro is not linked to the current situation, which was discovered by the NCAA. The NCAA and the university have been cooperating on a joint investigation for months.

"In the process of the ongoing joint NCAA-UM inquiry, it was discovered that members of Johnson's family received impermissible travel benefits from a member of the former basketball coaching staff," the university's statement said. "Johnson was unaware of the benefits and his family was told they were permissible by that member of the former basketball coaching staff."

A message left for Haith, now the coach at Missouri and a national coach of the year candidate, was not immediately returned. Haith is not named in the university's statement, nor is there any reference to which coach was involving in giving the travel benefits for Johnson's family or what those benefits were.

In matters like this, schools are the ones who typically declare athletes ineligible, then appeal to the NCAA to reinstatement. That was the order of events last fall when members of the Hurricanes' football team were found to have accepted so-called "extra benefits" such as cash, nightclub access and lavish meals from Shapiro. The NCAA reinstated those players, though many had to serve suspensions that ranged from one (in most cases) to up to six games.

While Shapiro's claims made last August were primarily about football, there was a basketball tie in which he said he paid $10,000 to help ensure that DeQuan Jones signed with the Hurricanes. Shapiro also told Yahoo Sports that Jake Morton, who was on Miami's staff at the time as an assistant coach, was involved with that transaction.

Haith has denied Shapiro's claim repeatedly in recent months.

In November, Miami announced that Jones would sit out the season because of the investigation, but the university changed course in December and said Jones could play, adding that decision was made in consultation with the NCAA.

Johnson missed nine games at the start of the season while recovering from offseason knee surgery.