For the University of Miami, the long, frustrating wait is almost over.
The NCAA is scheduled to announce its ruling in the Miami investigation Tuesday morning. The school has self imposed sanctions, but the NCAA could add more penalties following a lengthy investigation into allegations of wrongdoing by former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro.
The news comes nearly 19 weeks after Miami’s legal counsel, administration and football coach Al Golden met with the NCAA Committee on Infractions in Indianapolis in mid-June and more than two years after Shapiro’s allegations that he gave thousands of dollars worth of improper benefits to Miami athletes were first detailed in a Yahoo! Sports report.
“I think it’s a situation where we want it to come to an end. That’s the issue we deal with every day,” Miami athletic director Blake James told the Sun Sentinel in September. “At the same time, we respect the process. It just gets hard to not be able to define when is it going to end. It’s a situation where we went into the hearings in June and you look at the previous two years, and I think we’ve done everything an institution can be asked to do.”
The investigation into Shapiro’s involvement with Miami’s athletic department began in the spring of 2011. It has spanned two football seasons and culminated with Miami receiving the NCAA’s notice of allegations on Feb. 19.
But the probe has been plagued by investigative missteps that resulted in approximately 20 percent of the evidence gathered being discarded and the departure of two former NCAA enforcement employees who lost their jobs after the governing body admitted its investigators wrongly paid Shapiro’s attorney, Maria Elena Perez, to ask questions of NCAA targets while giving depositions for his bankruptcy case.
Shapiro is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence for his role in a $930-million Ponzi scheme.
After the NCAA admitted its mistakes, Miami president Donna Shalala went on the offensive, pushing for the case to be dropped and citing Miami’s two self-imposed postseason bans as punishment enough for its wrongdoing.
That ban included the opportunity to play in the ACC championship game last season.
“We believe strongly in the principles and values of fairness and due process,” Shalala wrote in a February statement. “However, we have been wronged in this investigation, and we believe that this process must come to a swift resolution, which includes no additional punitive measures beyond those already self-imposed.”
Despite Miami’s efforts, though, the investigation continued and the school met with the Committee on Infractions in June.
Now the school and the public will learn the NCAA’s decision. A teleconference scheduled for Tuesday morning will outline the NCAA’s findings. Scholarship reductions and further postseason bans for both the football and men’s basketball programs are possible, although Miami could appeal any further sanctions.
Another postseason ban, if delivered, would be an especially tough blow to the Hurricanes this season.
Miami has won eight straight games dating back to last year and is off to its best start since 2004.
The Hurricanes, ranked No. 7 in the initial BCS standings released Sunday, No. 7 in the AP Top 25, and No. 6 in the coaches’ poll are among the teams expected to contend for a berth in December’s ACC championship game.
Their 27-23 win over North Carolina last week marked Miami’s sixth victory of the season, making them bowl eligible with six regular-season games still remaining on the schedule.
Miami (6-0, 2-0) faces Wake Forest on Saturday.
“How do you quantify what everybody here has been through and continues to go through as we sit here today? We’re 26 months…even our judicial system recognizes cruel and unusual punishment. That’s kind of where we’re at right now,” Golden told the Sun Sentinel earlier this month. “It’s been very difficult. It’s been toxic at times. It’s been painful to see them go through it, or have their bowl game wiped away, or have their chance at playing for an ACC championship wiped away. I think everybody here is better people for the way we’ve operated through this stage, through this crisis, and hopefully we’ll continue to be a better team because of it.”
Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon, one of eight Hurricanes suspended in 2011 for his involvement with Shapiro, questioned the timing of the NCAA’s announcement.
He was hopeful, like many at Miami, that the school’s self-imposed punishment, would be something the NCAA considered when making its decision.
“Hopefully it is not so serious. Hopefully they take a few scholarships off,” said Vernon, who was suspended six games. “The school has already done a good job to avoid a harsh punishment.”
Before leaving his scheduled appearance on WQAM's weekly Hurricane Hotline radio show Monday night, Golden declined to comment on the NCAA announcement.
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