Check out this sentence from Tuesday’s official report, too: “It is clear that the institution substantially agreed with a majority of the violations.” Makes you think that Ohio State and Southern Cal could have solved most of their problems with the NCAA staff by doing the same. Instead, they are suffering from penalty envy today.
At the start of this journey, when an incredibly detailed Yahoo! Sports report splashed words like strip club and yacht and prostitute and cash across the headlines, the knee-jerk reaction was that Miami had bought itself a spot in the NCAA penitentiary that was as close to death row as you can get. The loss of multiple bowl games? Why, everybody figured that would only be the opening salvo.
Nevin Shapiro, the UM booster turned bazooka, surely believed he had served up enough dirt to bring down the Hurricanes program. He was off to a running start, too, with documents and photographs and details that proved how easy it was for a con man and Ponzi schemer to buy himself an all-access Hurricanes pass.
We’re talking, after all, about dozens of players and even some assistant coaches who knew what they were doing was wrong. Way wrong. Either they didn’t think they would get caught or, with Shapiro as such an acknowledged friend to the Hurricanes’ athletic family, they didn’t think it mattered. If Miami cooperated with the investigation after years of looking the other way, that certainly doesn’t wipe the slate clean.
What it may have done, however, is save the Hurricanes from doomsday sanctions on the order of those visited upon SMU, headquarters for a blatant players slush fund, in 1987.
Close the books, then, on a case that went on far too long and mark it as a landmark for different reasons than everyone expected when Shapiro’s claims first came to light in August 2011.
We have reached the end of major athletic programs accepting major punishment on the basis of shallow NCAA lectures alone. Hereafter the organization’s investigative staff will have to prove itself in compliance with its own rulebook, chapter and verse, before anybody listens.
This open-and-shut case, one that Columbo could have wrapped up in 60 minutes, got dropped and splattered. College football’s greediest and consistently guiltiest programs, the ones that are thinking about walking away from the NCAA altogether, may actually be a little mad about Miami and a little happy about what it could mean for them in the future.
Coach Al Golden, who had nothing to do with the violations, doesn’t have to worry anymore about how anyone characterizes the result, whether Miami is seen as coming clean or merely coming clear.
Until now the coach has been cutting his losses. With this long-awaited judgment, Golden finally gets to make good on all he has promised at Miami, and all that was promised him at his hiring.