WKU’s Morton named in Yahoo! report about improper benefits to Miami (Fla.) athletes

WKU assistant basketball coach Jake Morton was named Tuesday in a Yahoo! Sports report regarding impermissable benefits at Miami (Fla.) from 2002-2009. Morton coached there from 2008-2011.

Cole Claybourn

Following an ongoing investigation at the University of Miami regarding improper benefits to athletes, Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday published a report that outlined the impermissible benefits provided to players by booster Nevin Shapiro.

Recently hired assistant men’s basketball coach Jake Morton  who spent four seasons at Miami before taking a job at WKU this summer – was named in the report and was said to have helped Shapiro set up a transaction that would secure the commitment of a recruit.

Here is an excerpt from the Yahoo! story that pertains to the allegations against Morton:

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.

Photos of Morton with Shapiro and other Miami assistant coaches in Shapiro’s VIP suite at a Miami night club, where Miami football recruits were present, are featured in the Yahoo! report.

WKU Athletics Director Ross Bjork on Tuesday issued a statement on behalf of Morton.

“We are aware of the allegation related to Jake Morton, and he denies any wrong doing,” Bjork said in the statement. “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.”