- Associated Press - Friday, February 24, 2023

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Miami has been placed on probation for one year after the school and NCAA said women’s basketball coaches inadvertently helped arrange impermissible contact between a booster and two players who signed with the Hurricanes.

Hurricanes coach Katie Meier will not have to miss any more games; she served a three-game suspension to start the season in anticipation of the NCAA‘s ruling.

But the NCAA made clear that it wanted tougher penalties, saying it was “troubled” by “the absence of a disassociation of the involved booster” as part of the sanctions that Miami agreed upon.

“Boosters are involved with prospects and student-athletes in ways the NCAA membership has never seen or encountered,” the NCAA said. “In that way, addressing impermissible booster conduct is critical, and the disassociation penalty presents an effective penalty available to the (committee on infractions).”

The NCAA did not name neither the booster nor the players involved, but referenced an April 13 tweet posted by a booster that included a photo of him and two recruits. On that date, booster John Ruiz posted a photo of himself with Haley and Hanna Cavinder after a dinner at his home.

Ruiz has signed several Miami athletes to name, image and likeness deals, which are now permitted by NCAA rule. The Cavinders, who have an enormous social media following and several NIL deals, and signed their letter of intent about a week after the dinner.

The Cavinders told the NCAA that their decision to attend Miami was not influenced by what happened in their meeting with Ruiz, though they are among the athletes who have endorsed at least one of Ruiz’s business interests.

The Cavinders are not subject to any sanctions. Both are in their first season with the Hurricanes after transferring from Fresno State.

“Although the parties asserted that a disassociation penalty would be inappropriate based on an impermissible meal and an impermissible contact, today’s new NIL-related environment represents a new day,” the NCAA said.

Meier said Friday in a statement distributed by the university that she has led programs “with integrity and have been a collaborative partner with the NCAA.”

“Collegiate athletics is in transformation, and any inadvertent mistake I made was prior to a full understanding of implemented guardrails and the clarification issued by the NCAA in May,” Meier said.

The NCAA said it started an investigation in May, and referenced the April 13 tweet as part of that probe. But the NCAA cannot order Miami to disassociate itself from Ruiz based on a meeting that occurred before rules were changed last year.

“The (committee on infractions) will strongly consider disassociation penalties in future cases involving NIL-adjacent conduct,” the NCAA said.

Miami agreed to various other minor sanctions, such as a small fine - $5,000, plus 1% of the women’s basketball budget, which the school does not release as a private institution - and a slight reduction in what’s allowed in recruiting.

“The sanctions that we ultimately agreed to, to bring this to a close, are not (commensurate) with the violation or its intent,” Miami said in a statement. “Coach Meier is an outstanding coach, role model, teacher … and we stand fully behind her, her program and our ongoing departmental compliance efforts.”

Meier is Miami‘s all-time leader in women’s basketball wins with 338, not including the three games that the Hurricanes won without her this season - the NCAA says those cannot be included in her record. She is a past Associated Press coach of the year and a past USA Basketball coach of the year, is a member of the Miami Sports Hall of Fame and the Hall of Honor at Duke, her alma mater.

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