Over the past month, Miami women’s basketball players Haley and Hanna Cavinder have been at the center of multiple name, image, and likeness controversies.
But that off-court drama didn’t stop the No. 9 Miami Hurricanes from pulling off a historic 70-68 upset of No. 1 seed Indiana in the women’s tournament on Monday night — with the twins’ help.
Last April, the Cavinder twins announced they would transfer to Miami from Fresno State University.
At the time, the twins told Front Office Sports that NIL opportunities at Miami had “nothing” to do with their decision to transfer. Their main goal was to earn an NCAA tournament berth.
But the NCAA wasn’t convinced. The Cavinders, with an estimated earning potential of $790,000 each, chose a school with one of the most high-profile NIL boosters, businessman John Ruiz. They inked a deal with his company shortly after committing and publicized it on social media.
The governing body decided to investigate — and after several months, it announced that it had punished Miami for rules violations it discovered while investigating the twins’ NIL deal.
But the NCAA wasn’t able to prove much.
The report said head coach Katie Meier had “inappropriate” involvement in setting up a meeting between the twins and Ruiz. The NCAA also found that Ruiz had provided them an “impermissible benefit”: a free meal, not an NIL deal.
Meier was suspended for three games at the beginning of the season, and the team received a fine and sanctions that amounted to a slap on the wrist. The twins were not punished. Ruiz was not asked to disassociate from the program.
- Meier called it an “inadvertent mistake” in a statement to FOS, noting her involvement in the Cavinders’ recruitment took place before the NCAA published “clarifications” on coach and booster involvement in NIL deals.
- The twins then released a video poking fun at the NCAA for their infraction.
- Ruiz told On3 that he intended to file a lawsuit against the NCAA.
The NCAA’s investigation wasn’t the only controversy the twins have faced related to NIL.
Shortly before Monday night’s win, they posted that they had inked a partnership with an artificial intelligence company called Caktus AI — the same company that caused uproar over a deal with LSU gymnast Olivia Dunne. The company was built as an AI writing tool, prompting accusations that the athletes were promoting a company that could help students plagiarize assignments.
But a few hours later, Haley Cavinder, who led the team in scoring this season, drilled two free throws with 12 seconds left to give the Hurricanes a three-point lead. Upon making the second free throw, she shushed the Indiana crowd and then waved. Cavinder finished with nine points and eight rebounds.
The Hoosiers came back to tie the game after a stepback three from freshman Yarden Garzon with eight seconds left, but Hurricanes forward Destiny Harden rolled in a jumper in the lane with three seconds left to secure the win.
Coupled with Ole Miss’ win over Stanford, this year marks the first time since 1998 that multiple 1-seeds lost before the Sweet 16.