CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Conventional wisdom might suggest recruits would be at least a bit worried about the uncertainty at Miami over the ongoing NCAA probe into alleged rulebreaking within the Hurricanes' athletic department.
Reilly Gibbons has no concerns.
At least, none after reading what Miami President Donna Shalala has written about the matter.
Gibbons — an offensive lineman with 37 scholarship offers — has decided to play for the Hurricanes starting in 2014, making up his mind last week even though the NCAA matter still hangs precariously over the school and almost certainly will for several more months. And what sealed his decision were things he found online, letters Shalala wrote in defense of the football program.
"When you have a president like President Shalala on your side, you can't lose," Gibbons said. "And there's no way Miami will lose this."
It was on a recent family vacation to Islamorada in the Florida Keys when Gibbons pulled out his computer and went to work, basically going into investigative mode to determine what is happening at Miami. When he found things written by Shalala — including a statement where she said the school has "suffered enough" through self-imposed sanctions — he was swayed.
Shalala's writing style, Gibbons said, reminded him of his mother's writing style. His mother is a lawyer, and Gibbons has long planned to follow in her footsteps.
Once he saw Shalala's stance regarding the case, Gibbons started believing Miami's darkest days have already come and gone.
"I knew that I really loved Miami and I knew that I wanted to go there. I just wasn't sure if the NCAA thing was going to work out and it kind of worried me, to be honest," Gibbons said. "So I looked things up and I found President Shalala's letters to the NCAA. She is amazing the way she writes. It impressed me so much that a president of an academic university like Miami would stand up for her football team."
Gibbons made his commitment to Miami publicly known on Monday, announcing his choice at his school, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Catholic High. It's not officially binding until he signs his letter of intent in early 2014, and until then, Miami coach Al Golden and his staff cannot comment about Gibbons.
Miami's saga with the NCAA became publicly known in 2011 when Yahoo Sports published claims made by former booster and convicted Ponzi scheme architect Nevin Shapiro. The investigation has lasted more than two years, Miami got its notice of allegations — the detailing of what the NCAA believes the school did wrong — in February and the school is fighting to have the case brought to a swift resolution.
Miami has already given up three postseason games over the past two years as self-imposed sanctions, plus held back some scholarships while dealing with the scandal. The Hurricanes are scheduled to appear before the NCAA's Committee on Infractions starting June 14.
"I think last year Coach Golden got hurt a little bit on the recruiting," said Shannon Gibbons, Reilly's father. "But this year, he's going to have a landmark year. And we want to be part of that."
Reilly Gibbons, who's listed at 6-foot-5 and 285 pounds, insists that his mind is made up. He's the fourth offensive lineman already committed to Miami for the incoming 2014 class, joining three other South Florida products — K.C. McDermott and Nick Linder (both of whom have brothers already on the Hurricanes' offensive line) and Trevor Darling.
"The spring games are coming up and I wanted a lot of other kids to see this and see that Miami is the place to go," Gibbons said. "We have the best offensive line in the country now. I believe that in my heart. And if someone's out there and on the ropes because of the NCAA scandal, I hope seeing me committing and other kids committing brings them over."
Gibbons said there wasn't one particular passage in what Shalala wrote, or in other documents he reviewed about the case, that meant more than any other.
For him, it was the sum of the parts that convinced him Miami will be able to handle whatever the NCAA might throw its way.
"The NCAA, they're notorious for drawing things out," Gibbons said. "No matter how long it takes, what the football program has already done is definitely enough, and I don't believe there will be any other sanctioning against Miami."
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