Florida Gators DT Sharrif Floyd’s adoption by benefits giver exposes NCAA loophole

Updated Nov. 14 at 12:00 p.m.

An investigative report conducted by Rachel George and published Tuesday by USA Today uncovered that Florida Gators junior defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd was adopted in Dec. 2011 by the family of the man that provided him with what the NCAA determined were improper benefits back in 2009.

Floyd, who had been cared for by his great grandmother and had to raise money via a high school bake sale just to attend the 2009 U.S. Army All-American Game, was suspended for the first two games of the 2011 season after revealing to Florida that money he used to go on recruiting trips may have been in violation of NCAA policy.

That money was provided by Kevin Lahn, a South Carolina graduate and former booster who is also a wealthy vice president of a commercial real estate company. “They met in summer of 2009 through the Student Athlete Mentoring (S.A.M.) Foundation, a Delaware-based non-profit group whose stated mission is to help high school athletes with SAT and ACT preparation and organize visits to colleges and camps,” George notes.

The Gators reported the potential violation to the NCAA, which declared him temporarily ineligible until he donated a similar amount of money to charity. Three months after Floyd’s clearance by the NCAA and return to the field last September, Lahn adopted the promising student-athlete and has been supporting him ever since.

“Basically, the NCAA was telling Kevin for the next three years he could no longer be a part of Sharrif’s life,” said Steve Gordon, described by George as “a close friend” of both Floyd and Lahn. “At that point, it was like taking your son away from you and saying he can’t be your son for three years, you can rekindle the friendship or the father-son relationship after that. And Kevin said, ‘No, that’s not acceptable.'”

Read the rest of this story…after the break!
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Reports: Floyd’s issue may be tied to S.A.M.

Florida Gators sophomore defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd remains ineligible to play as fans continue to wonder exactly why. His high school coach, asked about a bake sale Floyd held to raise money to fund football trips, assumed the NCAA‘s issue related to that. However, it appears as if Floyd eligibility may be tied to another party.

According to South Carolina newspaper The State (subscription required), Floyd and South Carolina Gamecocks wide receiver Damiere Byrd are being held out of action because of their association with Student Athlete Mentoring, a Delaware-based non-profit organization that “provide[s] supplementary support to high school student-athletes in both their academic and athletic endeavors.”

The State reports that S.A.M. president Steve Gordon had been contacted by the NCAA about assistance he provided Floyd and Byrd, and a spokesperson for South Carolina confirmed that “Byrd’s eligibility issue and the SAM Foundation are ‘connected.’”

“They haven’t told me that I did anything wrong. All I know is they are punishing Damiere and Sharrif for something they didn’t do,” Gordon told the paper.

Reaching out to Gordon on Thursday was the Palm Beach Post, which quoted him as saying he believed his organization was the reason for Floyd being ineligible.

“Yes, we helped Sharrif, so I guess that’s what it’s about,” he said. “It’s with regard to my foundation’s support of Sharrif when he was in high school. That’s what I’ve been led to believe.”

Gordon also told the Post that the NCAA has been investigating S.A.M. since last October and questioning him about Floyd as early as seven months ago.

“The way the NCAA runs their organization with the clandestine secrecy and their actions of impunity really just confounds me and gets my goat when all I am trying to do is help inner city kids who don’t have two nickels to rub together to experience as much as they can so they can make informed decisions,” Gordon said, according to The State.

Neither the University of Florida nor the NCAA have stated when a decision would be made on the eligibility of Floyd and Byrd. After releasing their initial statement on the subject, UF has refused subsequent comment.

Report: Floyd’s eligibility hearing held Tuesday

Though it has neither been confirmed by the University of Florida nor the NCAA, a hearing to determine Florida Gators sophomore defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd’s eligibility was reportedly held on Tuesday.

The Gainesville Sun’s Jeff Barlis, who spoke to Floyd’s high school head coach Ron Cohen, reports that Cohen wrote a letter describing “Floyd’s background, his character and what kind of clothing and travel expenses were paid for by Cohen and other members of Floyd’s George Washington High School community,” which was sent to UF and presented at the hearing.

“It was about an hour-and-a-half hearing,” Cohen told the Sun. “They told their side and [the NCAA] listened. Now they have to interpret it and decide how they want to react to it. There was no indication. We just have to wait and see.”

Cohen has been the only party who has spoken about Floyd’s situation and has consistently held that, to his knowledge, the player did nothing wrong in high school that should have his eligibility held in question.

Floyd, one of the nation’s top prospects, was invited to the 2010 U.S. Army All-American Bowl but could not afford the travel costs. In an effort to help him finance the trip, his guidance counselor Dawn Seeger suggested he participate in a bake sale; it raised enough money to send him to San Antonio, TX.

“Supposedly that’s part of it,” Cohen said Tuesday. “That’s why I was questioned. I know the cookie sale was still being brought into it. But again, I don’t know. I wasn’t there. I don’t know how it went. They didn’t tell me.”

While at the event, Floyd was one of three top-rated prospects (linebacker Ronald Powell, safety Matt Elam) to commit to the Gators.

Though Cohen has mentioned the bake sale specifically, the NCAA could have other concerns about Floyd’s eligibility. With everyone staying tight-lipped about the situation, more may not be known until a final decision is made – likely in the coming days.

Five-star defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (Philadelphia, PA) choosing the Gators