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August 19, 2011

EXCLUSIVE: Former Cane plans NCAA lawsuit

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Former Miami Hurricane great Alonzo Highsmith, a Green Bay Packers scout whose son A.J. is a reserve safety for the Hurricanes, told CaneSport.com Friday that he will pilot a lawsuit against the NCAA on behalf of all Hurricane players if the Nevin Shapiro scandal results in sanctions that affect the Miami team.

Highsmith has asked his Houston-based attorney, whom he is not ready to identify, to begin researching and preparing the suit in the event the NCAA takes action against Miami.

"This lawsuit will be on behalf of all the kids who have done nothing wrong and would be being deprived of what they came to college for," Highsmith said. "Look at the Reggie Bush situation. Look at what he did to the USC program. All those kids that went to USC for all the right reasons had to suffer the consequences.

"This has been going on for years and years. If someone at General Motors does something wrong, they don't shut down the company. Nobody ever challenges the NCAA on this. Why? Why?"

As a Packers scout for 14 years, Highsmith has often crossed paths with athletes who were victims of NCAA sanctions that involved the rules violations of others. But this dilemma facing the Hurricanes is different because it is his alma mater and his son is on the roster.

"Most of these kids have done nothing wrong," Highsmith said. "If you have a family and one child does something wrong then he can't go to Disney World. But you don't make all of the rest of the kids stay home too.

"These kids came to Miami to play for championships, go to bowl games and have a college experience. Why do they keep making these kids pay such a steep price for doing nothing? All those kids and the coaches are doing the right thing. They work hard every summer in 100 degrees to have the opportunity to play in a bowl game. You can't make everybody pay the price for what a few do."

Twelve active Miami players are believed to have been interviewed by the NCAA this week about potential interaction with Shapiro that might have involved illicit benefits. They are quarterback Jacory Harris, whom many have expected to be the starter, top receiver Travis Benjamin, top linebacker Sean Spence, top defensive tackle Marcus Forston, safety tandem Ray Ray Armstrong and Vaughn Telemaque, receiver Aldarius Johnson, tight end Dyron Dye, cornerback Jo Jo Nicolas and defensive ends Adewale Ojomo, Marcus Robinson and Olivier Vernon.

The players are being accused of receiving food, drinks and entertainment at Shapiro's $6 million Miami Beach mansion, playing in a pool tournament for cash there, being entertained by Shapiro at Lucky Strike Lanes including a "bowling for dollars" tournament over a weekend in September 2008 and receiving drinks and VIP access in nightclubs on a handful of occasions.

But most Miami players followed the directives of head coach Randy Shannon and didn't become involved with Shapiro.

"There are at least 70 kids on that team that have absolutely nothing to do with Nevin Shapiro," Highsmith said. "And you are going to tarnish their image over the actions of a few?

"You want to punish those kids that did something wrong, fine, I understand. But it's a total travesty to punish the other kids who made good decisions. I'm going to sue if they try to ruin these kids' college experience. I'm going to sue somebody."

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