WKU hoops assistant Jake Morton mentioned in Yahoo! report on Miami violations

16 08 2011

The story outlines a Yahoo! Sports investigation on rogue Miami booster Nevin Shapiro – who is currently in prison for his role in a Ponzi Scheme.

WKU athletics director Ross Bjork responded to a request for comment on the matter today by the Daily News with a statement.

“We are aware of the allegation related to Jake Morton, and he denies any wrong doing,” Bjork said. “Jake came to us highly recommended, Ken McDonald and I both did our homework during the interview process,  and Jake passed our background checks before we hired him.

“These allegations occurred while Jake was a member of the University of Miami basketball coaching staff.  We will cooperate completely and accordingly with the NCAA and the University of Miami during their investigations.”

 

Here is the excerpt mentioning Morton – a former Miami assistant who was hired by WKU coach Ken McDonald this offseason.

Shapiro said he violated NCAA rules with the knowledge or direct participation of at least six coaches – Clint Hurtt, Jeff Stoutland and Aubrey Hill on the football staff, and Frank Haith, Jake Morton and Jorge Fernandez on the basketball staff. Multiple sources told Yahoo! Sports Shapiro also violated NCAA rules with football assistant Joe Pannunzio, although the booster refused to answer any questions about that relationship. Shapiro also named assistant football equipment manager Sean Allen as someone who engaged in rulebreaking, and equipment managers Ralph Nogueras and Joey Coreyas witnesses to some of his impropriety.

Among the specific incidents, Shapiro or other sources say Hurtt, Hill, Stoutland, Pannunzio and Allen all delivered top-tier recruits to Shapiro’s home or luxury suite so the booster could make recruiting pitches to them. Among the players who were ushered to Shapiro while they were still in high school: Eventual Miami commitments Ray-Ray Armstrong, Dyron Dye and Olivier Vernon (prompted by Hurtt); eventual Florida commitments Andre Debose (Hurtt) and Matt Patchan (prompted by Stoutland and Pannunzio); eventual Georgia commitment Orson Charles (Pannunzio); and eventual Central Florida commitment Jeffrey Godfrey (Allen).

The University of Alabama (Pannunzio and Soutland), University of Florida (Hill) and Louisville University (Hurtt) all declined to make the coaches available for interviews. Allen declined comment, calling all of Shapiro’s claims “egregious and false.”

But Shapiro insists he came in contact with multiple recruits improperly during their official or unofficial visits going all the way back to 2002.

“Hell yeah, I recruited a lot of kids for Miami,” Shapiro said. “With access to the clubs, access to the strip joints. My house. My boat. We’re talking about high school football players. Not anybody can just get into the clubs or strip joints. Who is going to pay for it and make it happen? That was me.”

The booster said his role went one step farther with the basketball program, when he paid $10,000 to help secure the commitment of recruit DeQuan Jones. Shapiro said the transaction was set up by assistant coach Jake Morton in 2007 who acted as the conduit for the funds, and was later acknowledged by head coach Frank Haith in a one-on-one conversation.

Haith denied Shapiro’s claims through a University of Missouri spokesman. Morton, who is now at Western Kentucky, didn’t return a call seeking comment.

Shapiro also entertained then-prominent AAU basketball coach Moe Hicks in October of 2008, with a nightclub visit that was attended by both Morton and Fernandez.

For the full Yahoo! report – click the link HERE:





WKU football practice notes

16 08 2011

Western Kentucky hit the practice field early this morning for a two-a-day workout, a few notes.

Sophomore running back Antonio Andrews is no longer just a running back.

The coaching staff has lined him up at running back, wide receiver, quarterback, punt returner and kick returner this season in a role he simply described as a ‘hybrid.’

Andrews says that in a perfect world, he’d have just one position so he could learn to ‘perfect’ it, but he’s excited about having a chance to be on the field in a variety of roles this season.

“They’re just trying to get me on the field,” Andrews said. “They just want the ball in my hand more and want to allow me to make plays. I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help the team get some ‘w’s’ as a whole.”

WKU coach Willie Taggart said that the idea came to him to use Andrews in multiple spots last season, when he got confused as to whether it was Andrews or senior running back Bobby Rainey in the backfield at a given time.

“A few times last year when he got into the game at running back I thought it was Bobby back there,” he said. “Then I’d look over and see Bobby standing next to me – and that’s when I figured out that (Andrews) has something in him, he’s special.

“And he doesn’t do us any good on the sidelines.”

Taggart said he felt that Andrews could be used in a similar manner to how Kentucky used Randall Cobb.

Andrews says he’s aware of how players like Cobb and others took the hybrid role and ran with it. But he was quick to point out that he’s not Randall Cobb or anyone else – he’s Antonio Andrews.

And he intends on making that known.

“They’re good examples,” he said. “I’m just trying to do it better.”

– Taggart said Tuesday that WKU president Gary Ransdell made a visit to practice recently and followed the example originally set by Patrick Reynolds earlier this month.

Shortly after fall camp began, Reynolds – a member of the 2002 1-AA national title team – spoke to the team following a workout, and said that he would be leaving his championship ring at WKU until the Hilltoppers won a Sun Belt title.

Reynolds urged other former players to do the same, and Taggart – an assistant on that team – followed suit.

And now, Taggart says, so has Ransdell.

“That was huge, I was shocked, but I loved it,” Taggart said. “There are a lot of people counting on us and that want this football team to do well and expect great things from us. And they’re starting to understand that – the president comes and gives up his ring and says he wants his ring back, and quick.

“That means it’s time to get to work.”

Taggart also said that legendary coach Jimmy Feix made a visit to practice Sunday, a moment that was special for all involved.

“We just wanted him to tell the guys what WKU is all about and about the tradition,” he said. “He told them he was proud of them, that he’d be following them and that winning isn’t new around here.

“He’s the definition of blue-collar – that’s what he was. It was good for our team to see that, and it was great. Our guys hear about coach Feix, but for a lot of guys it was their first time to see him. He was going to speak to the team last year, but got sick. So it was good for them to meet him and see the guy that the field’s named after.”

Taggart also said that the team would begin introducing Kentucky packages this week.

Nothing too complex, but a few looks here and there to begin preparation for the season opener on Sept. 1.

“We’ll just have a few periods this week to introduce UK’s offense, defense and special teams to them,” Taggart said. “Just to put it into their heads a little.”