When Yahoo! Sports released the results of its 11-month investigation into impermissible benefits provided by former booster Nevin Shapiro last week, a number of non-Hurricanes were implicated in the scandal.
Besides former Canes Robert Marve and Arthur Brown, other athletes who were recruited by Miami but went to other schools, like Florida Gator Andre Debose and Kansas State Wildcat Bryce Brown, were listed among the recipients of cash and gifts from Shapiro.
But shortly after Yahoo!'s report was released, a number of those players were reported to be free and clear of any eligibility issues stemming from the Shapiro story, while 15 current student athletes at Miami remain under investigation.
The reason: according to CBSSports.com, the NCAA may have offered these players limited immunity in return for information in the NCAA's ongoing investigation of the Miami athletic program.
In an interview, NCAA vice president of enforcement Julie Roe Lach told CBSSports, "The enforcement staff has been given, by the membership, a pretty important investigative tool."
Though she did not explicitly say anyone had been offered immunity, she did describe the practice as useful "when we think that's really our only shot of getting that information."
Limited immunity essentially allows players to become informants in exchange for keeping their eligibility. Players under investigation are not compelled to tell the NCAA anything about their role in any rule-breaking, underscoring the usefulness of limited immunity in certain cases.
If Brown, Marve, Debose, and others end up telling the NCAA what they know about Shapiro and other UM athletes, that could represent a major breakthrough in the NCAA's investigation.
Yahoo!'s report on Shapiro is comprised mostly of information gleaned from Shapiro directly, through his own business and personal records as well as interviews.
Only one current or former player (Tyrone Moss) was quoted on the record by Yahoo!, and he has since denied ever speaking to investigative reporters. The NCAA will likely need cooperation from more than Shapiro to make any charges against Miami stick.
This would not be the first time limited immunity was used to convict a football program. CBSSports noted that in 1988 12 Oklahoma State football players were granted limited immunity in return for testimony that led to four schools being placed on probation.
The prospect of limited immunity could be especially worrisome for UM and Canes fans, not that they needed anything else to keep them awake at night worrying about the Shapiro scandal. Testimony from former UM players and recruits could help the NCAA turn some of Shapiro's smoke into evidence of a real fire.