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Robert Marve (And The Miami Hurricane Players): Victims Of The Game

You know it's really gettin' to you
When you take to tellin' lies
And you can try to fool your friends
But you can't look 'em in the eye
There ain't no standin' tall
In the shadow of the shame
When everybody knows
That you're a victim of the game - Garth Brooks, Victim of the Game

Ed. note: I decided to re-word the title in order to get my basic point across. Yes, Marve and the other players at Miami are not free from blame and had a role in this, but they are also victims of a system that is broken due to the NCAA's light enforcement and Miami's blind eye to Shapiro. In this world where we have lists and "top-rated recruits" there is bound to be all kinds of malfeasance behind the scenes of boosters taking advantage of kids that may or may not pan out. The system itself is broken with no known way to fix it.

By all accounts, Robert Marve has gotten his life on track since coming to Purdue. While he was at Miami he was somewhat of a malcontent. He struggled in the classroom, was involved in some illicit activities in a Coconut Grove, was apparently receiving all kind of gifts from a man with a major Napoleon complex named Nevin Shapiro, and he left the university under a cloud of bad grades and ill will from the Hurricane program. Even his transfer was limited to no ACC or Florida schools by the Hurricanes.

Then he came to Purdue. In the year he had to sit out he tore his ACL, but he said and did all the right things as he practiced, then rehabbed his knee. In 2010 he was an academic all-Big Ten selection. When I met him at 2010 Big Ten Football Media Days he came off as an athlete that was humbled, but ready to take advantage of the second chance he was given by Purdue. His 2010 season was a struggle to say the least, as minor injuries knocked him from two games before another torn ACL ended his season. He still earned that academic all-Big Ten honor and continued to work hard as he was forced to go through the rehab process all over again.

As we headed into the 2011 season things were much different for him. He was no longer the clear-cut favorite to be the starter. In fact, the word from practice was that he was behind in his recovery and not ready to play at all, thus putting him behind Rob Henry and Caleb TerBush. I was hopeful he would recover and have a redemptive season after everything he has gone through because it is clear he has worked very hard in all areas of his life to turn things around.

Unfortunately, there is a strong chance that yesterday's news may have ended his football career. I can't see us playing him if there is a hint of him being named ineligible later on. That leaves him virtually zero chance of making it to the NFL, and his chances of being granted 2012 as a 6th year of eligibility are probably rather small now. It is my hope that he earns his Purdue degree and goes on to a huge level of success in the next chapter of his life.

You see, Marve is a victim of the recruiting game, and no matter what the NCAA decides to do with the University of Miami it will not punish the biggest offenders in the mess that has become college athletics. These boosters who are doing things behind the scenes will continue their activities until the NCAA finds a way to truly punish them, and not the schools. Marve was highly recruited coming out of high school as a Florida Mr. Football. He broke many of Tim Tebow's high school records and appeared to be a can't miss prospect. That's really where the trouble began. When he started looking at Miami that's when Shapiro got involved.

You see, I can't stand guys like Shapiro. He comes off as an obnoxious midget that always wanted to be a big-time athlete, but his stature wouldn't permit it. He did the next best thing he thought he could do by earning a ton of money. As it turns out, he blatantly flaunted the law to earn much of that money, but once he had it he bought his way into those athletic circles.

It stands out to me that in many of these pictures he looks like most of the players he is hanging out with could bench press him without breaking a sweat. His Napoleon complex came to the fore in the 2007 Orange Bowl Farewell where he got drunk and thought he could fight Miami's director of compliance.Now that he has been caught for his crimes, he would rather sing and hurt the program that he supposedly loves, probably because it puts him back in the spotlight.

It's little pinheads like these that are the cause of all this trouble. Put yourself in Marve's shoes for a moment. Yes, he deserves part of the blame for accepting these gifts (if he did), but if he was anything like me when I was 18 he was nowhere near as mature as he is now. If someone had come up to me at 18, gave me some cash gifts, let me hang out at a bayside mansion in Miami, took me to nice dinners and paid the tab at high-end clubs, you're damn right I am going to be tempted to accept it all and look the other way. I was even raised with a pretty solid moral compass (thanks dad), and this would be something probably too good to pass up.

Shapiro took advantage of the South Florida lifestyle to do what he did. I can attest that Miami is a completely different world than the Midwest. The weather is damn near perfect all the time. The ocean is always right there and the nightlife is pretty much second to none. It is a young adult's playground. I have been down there 13 times since 2003 and it is still somewhat of a culture shock every time I go.

The city of Miami is quickly becoming one of the have and have nots. You either have money there, or you don't. If you don't have money, you can easily see the fun that those with money have, so you begin to crave it. Shapiro played on this to essentially bribe Miami's players and, in turn, feel like he was one of the players himself. He bought his way into the locker room.

The sad thing is that in turn, he made Miami a worse program when he was trying to make it better. Since marrying Mrs. T-Mill I have watched quite a bit of Miami football. The first game we watched was the infamous 2003 Fiesta Bowl when their sixth national championship was stolen from them. Since that moment, the program has been in a gradual decline. It shouldn't be a coincidence that this was when Shapiro really began his efforts.

Mrs. T-Mill talks a lot about the Miami Swagger and what it truly means to be a Cane. She knew many of the players on the 2001 National Championship team and while they were blessed athletically, they were also very hard workers. When Miami was denied a berth in the National Championship game despite beating Florida State in 2000 she attested that many players took it as an affront and decided to work that much harder for the 2001 season. They ended up annihilating most of their competition on their way to the title. Those guys got it. They knew nothing would be handed to them and decided to work for it.

Then Shapiro came along in 2002.Suddenly all the glitz, money, and women didn't have to be earned. He started handing it all out to guys before they even stepped on the field. This had to have led to a sense of entitlement which I know I have seen from Miami since. Fast forward now to 2006. This is the first time I saw Miami play in person, as we headed to Louisville to see them play the Cardinals since they were close by. I got my first taste in person of the Miami Swgger as the Cane fans marched en masse to the stadium. Miami, feeling like all they needed to do was show up, stomped on the Cardinal logo at midfield. Miami jumped out to a 7-0 lead, recovered a fumble on the Louisville 20, and was poised to go up by two scores early. They failed to score, tucked their tail between their legs, and got blasted 31-7.

For all the swagger and talent Miami has gotten since 2002, allegedly with the help of Shapiro, it has not paid off on the field. Fewer guys are going to the NFL even with all that talent, and the team itself has failed to produce. 2003 was the last great Miami season, as they won the Orange Bowl and played in their fourth straight BCS bowl (winning three of them). They had an embarrassing 40-3 loss to LSU in the 2005 Peach Bowl, went 5-7 in 2007 (including an even more embarrassing 48-0 blowout loss to Virginia in the final game at the Orange Bowl), and have generally failed to play up to their talent level.

It all comes back to that sense of entitlement. One of the biggest things Mrs. T-Mill has complained about in recent years is Miami's lack of a work ethic. They feel they can show up and it automatically will be a win, and that is because of guys like Shapiro feeding them all the crap they haven't earned yet.

The sad part is that before this came out it looked like Miami (and Marve) were going in the right direction. Marve had come to the Midwest, gotten down to work, and was earning everything he had at Purdue. He was struck down by bad luck (two ACL tears) and now it looks like his past will come back to bite him. At Miami, Al Golden took over a program that was basically rudderless and was instilling discipline and a new work ethic. I was excited to see this Miami team because I felt like Golden to mold the talent and make it better, something that hasn't happened in years down there. Most importantly, this all changed direction after Shapiro was sent to jail and away from the program.

While the players deserve a certain amount of blame for accepting all these gifts, I can certainly understand why they would accept them. Now they have grown up and matured, Golden has supposedly cleaned things up, but they are going to get stung because this little man wanted to feel like a big man. Marve has definitely grown up, but he is going to suffer for actions he did elsewhere. Miami is also to blame because there is no way in hell they had no idea any of this was going on. Still, that does not reflect on the current and future players. The athletic director and many of the coaches are gone, while Donna Shalala is already disliked by many alumni who blame her for essentially killing the Orange Bowl (side note: I already dislike her because she practically shoved me down the steps once at Mark Light Field once with her imperious "I am the President, get out of my way" attitude). Shalala, the compliance department, and the rest of the athletic department should be severely punished if all of this is true.

In the end the one person that caused it, Shapiro, will receive no additional punishment. Yes, he is already in jail, but it is not illegal to give someone money or buy them a meal. The NCAA has no jurisdiction to punish him save to limit his contact with the program. That's already limited by the fact that HE'S IN PRISON! The truth is that there are probably guys like him all over college football. At Ohio State it was the players and Tressel that took the fall, but the tattoo parlor gets off scot free. If Oregon gets hammered you can bet Phil Knight will receive no punishment.

Unfortunately, I don't have an answer for this. Neither does the NCAA, who is so stupid and short-sighted they somehow trusted that Cam Newton really had no knowledge his dad was shopping him around for six figures. The NCAA also has no answer for this even at Miami, where stuff like this has been happening since the days of Uncle Luke. Players like Marve, while they deserve some of the blame, are merely pawns for these grand boosters who receive little to no punishment in the end. Guys will have their careers ruined because boosters run around in a lawless society and compliance departments stick their head in the sand.

In the end, it is the players that are getting taken advantage of. They are 16-18 years old when this begins and most have no clue about how the world works. Many of them also come from backgrounds where high-end clubs and mansions are the stuff of their wildest dreams rather than their reality. Tools like Shapiro play on that, and later on the kids and the schools that guys like Shapiro supposedly love are the ones who are hurt. Punish Robert is not going to change it. It has to be a fundamental change with the NCAA and the schools themselves. Robert Marve is just another victim of that game now.