October 22, 2013

Worst of storm has passed for Hurricanes

MORE MIAMI: CaneSport.com

After more than two years of investigations the University of Miami football program is out of NCAA punishment purgatory.

A probe that began in 2011 after Yahoo! Sports investigative reporter Charles Robinson uncovered evidence documenting the involvement of former booster Nevin Shapiro was concluded in February but the case was not closed until Tuesday when the sports governing body announced that Miami would face reductions of nine scholarships over three years and no bowl ban.

Miami reserves the right to appeal any punishments, but the school did not immediately comment one way or the other.

The university had self-imposed a two year bowl ban during the investigation and passed on an opportunity to play for the ACC championship last season. A count of the current roster indicates the team is playing with just 76 scholarship athletes - or nine fewer than the 85 allotted to programs not being punished - and as such should not be further impacted by the sanctions.

The news allows the program to move forward with recruiting and fielding a competitive team. The Hurricanes have undergone a resurgence under coach Al Golden, winning its division last season and being in the top 10 nationally entering Week 8 of the current season.

Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said Golden has already weathered the worst of the scandal. Farrell said trying to recruit athletes without knowing what the penalties was harder for Golden than what he faces now that the penalties have been announced.

"Outside of the (Jerry) Sandusky situation at Penn State this was by far the biggest scandal the NCAA has had to deal with in the last decade and Golden navigated through it extremely well," Farrell said. "I think that from what he has been able to do over the last few seasons proved that he can handle just about anything and really, three scholarships gone for each of the next three years has to be a relief."

Golden and the football staff had been preparing for sanctions. The Hurricanes signed only 18 players in the class of 2013, but it was a strong group and finished No. 18 in the Rivals.com team rankings.

The current class has 25 committed players and how the program manages that will be interesting to watch as signing day approaches.

Farrell said that while the punishment may be lighter than what had initially been expected, he thought the decision was fair.

"This wasn't a gift when you consider the time served," he said. "Miami has been dealing with this for a long time and it did hurt recruiting and it did have to deal with negative recruiting against it so this isn't a gift by any stretch because it went through a lot to get here."

The process to get to this point has been tedious as best.

The NCAA made multiple errors throughout the process, including improperly cooperating with Shapiro's attorney to gather information into its investigation.

Those moves, which NCAA President Mark Emmert called "missteps," made several of the claims made against Miami inadmissible to the process and further delayed the investigation.

Once the school received its notification of allegation in February, Miami still had to wait until June to meet with the NCAA infractions committee. It had hoped the sanctions would be announced within a 6-8 week period, but it turned out to be almost five months later before the announcement came Tuesday.

The NCAA report said that the infractions committee found the program lacked institutional control for over a decade but it took serious consideration to the self-imposed penalties the university issued before extending the punishment.

The report read, in part, "When determining the facts of the case and appropriate penalties, the committee only considered information obtained appropriately during the investigative process and presented at the hearing. The case involved numerous, serious violations of NCAA rules, many of which were not disputed by the university. Overall, it involved 18 general allegations of misconduct with 79 issues within those allegations. These were identified through an investigation that included 118 interviews of 81 individuals. Additionally, the committee had the responsibility of determining the credibility of individuals who submitted inconsistent statements and information provided by a booster who is now in federal prison. In reaching its conclusions, the committee found, in most instances, corroboration through supporting documentation and the statements of individuals other than the booster."

Read the full report here.

Also named in the initial Yahoo! Sports report was former 2 Live Crew frontman and longtime Hurricane fan and supporter Luther Campbell when Shapiro likened himself to a 'Little Luke' and said he followed Campbell's lead in paying players.

Campbell immediately distanced himself from the report and filed a slander and defamation lawsuit against Shapiro.

Campbell has moved from his career in the entertainment industry to be a high school football coach and said that he was relieved by the announcements made on Tuesday.

"I am happy that is the punishment and that the NCAA has taken into consideration the self-imposed punishments by Miami," he said. "Now the school and community can move on."

He added if it were his penalty to hand out he would have instead made it monetary.

"Taking scholarships stops young men from getting an education," he said. "I think instead of taking nine scholarships away they should've fined the school. Those are nine kids that could have received a scholarship and they are the ones who really get hurt."

According to Farrell, the lasting impact on recruiting will be minimal as the team has found a way to win and recruit in the face of adversity and the next step may come in improving what is already there.

"I don't know if it will ever go back to being 'The U' like it was landing all those talented players but when you are winning you are able to be more selective and that will continue to make Miami better," Farrell said. "They have the right coach and a history of success. If the university will commit some money to improving facilities to catch up in the arms race I think that will take them to the next level.

"There seems to be the pieces in place to start talking about Miami being back as a national title contender."

Dallas Jackson is the national columnist for Rivals.com. You can click here to follow him on Twitter.


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