Miami self-imposes 2nd straight bowl ban

Published 8:53 am Tuesday, November 20, 2012

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Calling the move prudent and unprecedented, Miami is self-imposing a second straight postseason ban on its football program because of an NCAA investigation that is expected to eventually lead to stiff sanctions against the Hurricanes.

The decision, announced to players — who described the mood as disappointing and shocking — early Monday morning, ends Miami’s hopes of winning the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Coastal Division, securing a berth in the league’s overall championship game and any chance for the team to play in the Orange Bowl.

And while the school said it’s not imposing any further penalties yet, Miami coach Al Golden revealed he is preparing to lose some scholarships going forward.

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“We want to get it fixed,” Golden said. “Again, we didn’t ask for it. But I have confidence in the coaches and the players and all the guys that made a commitment to fix this at the end of the day, and that’s where we’re at. … We’ll get through it. Miami’s been through it before. We’ll get through it.”

By skipping another bowl season, Miami — which still has not been presented with its notice of allegations from the NCAA, meaning the process is almost certainly several months from being complete — is hoping to minimize the impact of any looming sanctions that could be handed down when the investigation ends. Schools often self-impose penalties with hope that the NCAA takes those measures into account when doling out punishment, and typically, it works.

Acting Miami athletic director Blake James told the team of the decision.

“I think everybody was surprised,” quarterback Stephen Morris said. “I think everybody was in a state of shock, actually.”

The NCAA began looking into Miami’s athletic department in March 2011, five months before rogue booster and convicted Ponzi scheme architect Nevin Shapiro told Yahoo Sports that he provided dozens of athletes and recruits with so-called “extra benefits” such as cash, meals, strip club access and yacht rides over an eight-year span starting in 2002.

Of the 83 individuals named by Shapiro for that story, only three — two players and one equipment-room staffer — are currently at Miami. This year’s team will pay a steep price anyway.

“Do I think it’s fair? No,” Golden said. “But that’s the system.”

Golden has said several times he’s eager for the process to end, and former Miami offensive lineman Tyler Horn — whose college career ended when the Hurricanes didn’t go to a bowl last year — said Monday on Twitter that he doesn’t understand why the investigation has lasted this long.

“The NCAA needs to change,” Horn wrote. “Making 2 classes w/ an overwhelming majority of innocent players miss out on what they earned is just plain wrong.”

Miami’s decision has a major impact on the ACC, in the standings and potentially on the bottom line as well.

First, the move effectively ended the Coastal race. Miami, North Carolina and Georgia Tech can all finish 5-3, but it’ll be the Yellow Jackets representing the division in the ACC title game because the Tar Heels are ineligible and the Hurricanes are choosing to be ineligible. Within minutes of Miami making its announcement, Georgia Tech’s athletic department tweeted that the Jackets were “Coastal Division champs.”

And secondly, Miami opting out of bowl consideration almost certainly means the league will not satisfy all eight of its bowl contracts this season.

“We will continue to support Miami’s efforts during the ongoing NCAA inquiry, including its institutional decision to withhold the football program from postseason competition,” ACC Commissioner John Swofford said. “There is no higher priority than integrity and compliance within the rules.”

Miami clearly hopes that a pair of postseason bans, especially when the Hurricanes still had a chance at a Bowl Championship Series berth this year, helps its cause with the NCAA. Whenever the process ends, sanctions against the football and men’s basketball programs are expected, with penalties likely to include probation terms and scholarship reductions.

“We’re going to get our goals accomplished,” Golden said. “We lose one senior starter on offense and one on defense. We’re going to add 15 or 16 new faces. That’s going to be the nucleus of the Miami Hurricanes going forward.”

And Golden reaffirmed his commitment to Miami on Monday, saying he’s “not in the business of searching for another job right now.” He believes the Hurricanes are truly closing in on becoming a program that can again contend for college football’s biggest prizes.

“I can see the end. I can see what we’re going to become,” Golden said.

It’s the first time since the 1981 and 1982 seasons that Miami will go consecutive years without a bowl trip. In 1983, the Hurricanes won the school’s first of five national championships.

Schools that do not self-impose things like bowl bans when facing NCAA investigations often regret that decision. Most recently, Ohio State — still unbeaten — chose not to ban itself from a bowl last season, before the NCAA handed down punishments for the memorabilia-for-tattoos scandal. Instead of being in the mix for a BCS berth, and possibly a shot at the national title, the Buckeyes’ season will end this weekend.

“We needed to do what’s best for the University of Miami program, and we’re confident this is what’s best for the University of Miami program at this point,” James said.

University President Donna Shalala and the school’s legal counsel were also involved in making the decision.

“Considerable deliberation and discussion based on the status of the NCAA inquiry went into the decision-making process,” the university said in a statement, which also said the school “has already taken proactive measures to ensure more strict compliance with NCAA rules and continues to evaluate further steps.”

Miami still has a championship game of sorts waiting. If the Hurricanes beat Duke, they will finish tied for first in the Coastal and could call themselves co-champions. That alone would provide a boost heading into 2013.

“We’re here as a family,” Morris said. “We’ve faced a lot of adversity here at this university. Something that was done a couple years ago affects us right now, but that’s what men have got to do. We’ve got to step up.”