In 1995, the NCAA banned Miami’s football program from postseason for one year and slashed the Hurricanes’ scholarship allotment by 31 over three years.
Guilty of Pell Grant fraud, payments to players and lax drug testing, Miami didn’t regain its top-10 footing until 2000, and its slide aided Big East rival Virginia Tech’s national rise.
Miami’s latest scandal emerged in full view Tuesday night in a breathtaking Yahoo! Sports expose that details in painstaking detail the cash, gifts, parties and hookers lavished on at least 72 Miami athletes from 2002-2010 by a booster named Nevin Shapiro.
Yes, Shapiro was a leech and is imprisoned after pleading guilty to his role in a Ponzi scheme. But felon or not, the documents he provided Yahoo!’s Charles Robinson appear damning.
(One of Shapiro's claims, confirmed by witnesses, involves a near fist-fight with Miami's compliance director in the press box at halftime of Virginia's 48-0 shellacking of the Hurricanes in 2007, UM's final game at the Orange Bowl. I was there but somehow missed that circus. Rats.)
And given its current surly mood, if the NCAA confirms merely half of what Yahoo! revealed, the hammer is going to fall. Harder than at Southern California. Harder than at Ohio State, Auburn, Oregon and North Carolina.
Really, the only elements that could make this more unseemly are grade-changing and point-shaving.
What happens now? Since 12 current players are implicated, the impact figures to be immediate, with indefinite suspensions similar to last season at North Carolina, making coach Al Golden’s first season exponentially more difficult.
Among the players mentioned by Yahoo!: quarterback Jacory Harris, receiver Travis Benjamin, defensive tackle Marcus Forston, safety Ray-Ray Armstrong and linebacker Sean Spence, the latter two All-ACC selections in 2010.
And how would you like to be Golden, basketball coach Jim Larranaga or athletic director Shawn Eichorst? Each was hired within the last nine months, and none was involved in the alleged improprieties.
Worse yet, Miami officials knew the guano storm was approaching but declined to inform Golden or Larranaga before they relocated to South Beach. At the very least, the school owes them immediate raises, contract extensions and hip boots.
Athletic director Kirby Hocutt didn't stick around for the fallout. Weeks after hiring Golden, he bolted for Texas Tech.
As outrageous: Many of the allegations occurred on the watch of former athletic director Paul Dee, who then chaired the NCAA Committee on Infractions.
Once the Big East’s problem, Miami is now the ACC’s issue. And following a summer of NCAA intrigue at Georgia Tech and North Carolina, this is another stain on a conference that portrays itself, often with good cause, as approaching college sports in “the right way.”
If the NCAA eventually – heaven only knows how long this case could drag – bans Miami from postseason, certainly the ACC will have to declare the Hurricanes ineligible for the conference championship game in those years.
Not that Miami has ever reached that game. But as the NFL draft – 35 ‘Canes selected since the school joined the conference seven seasons ago – demonstrates, Miami was recruiting well, and following last season’s dismissal of overmatched coach Randy Shannon, the Hurricanes appeared poised to challenge Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech for Coastal Division supremacy.
North Carolina – 16 draftees in the last three years – should have been in the conversation, too. But the Tar Heels were chronic underachievers under coach Butch Davis, and now the NCAA’s wrath is about to fall in Chapel Hill after rampant academic fraud and improper benefits on Davis’ watch.
So where does all this leave Virginia Tech and Virginia?
North Carolina’s woes are far more relevant to Tech and U.Va. recruiting since the programs compete for many of the same prospects. That said, the Hokies have a history of snaring some players from Florida – All-ACC cornerback Jayron Hosley and backup quarterback Mark Leal hail from there – and defensive backs coach Torian Gray, a former Tech safety, also is from the state.
On the field, Virginia Tech should pounce. The Hokies already rule the Coastal, and two of their primary threats are about to get kneecapped. Duke is terminally irrelevant, leaving Georgia Tech, where Paul Johnson’s option offense baffles, and Virginia, where Mike London’s stockpiling of talent should upgrade a program with four losing seasons in the last five years.
Georgia Tech received NCAA probation this summer but escaped serious sanctions and figures to remain a contender.
Conversely, it’s difficult to fathom Miami dodging crippling sanctions. The program is a blight and reminds us yet again of our perilous and uniquely American insistence on mixing a billion-dollar entertainment industry with higher education.
On that uplifting note, I’ll leave you with this nugget: Prior to Miami’s 1995 NCAA sanctions, Virginia Tech was 0-12 against the Hurricanes. Since, the Hokies are 11-5.
Coincidence? I think not.