Sifting Through Rubble in Coral Gables
By Paul Myerberg // Aug 18, 2011
One problem with numerical rankings is that they don’t provide for varying degrees: we know who’s 1 and who’s 2, but we don’t know the distance between 1 and 2, let alone 1 and 4, for example. Basically, we don’t know what’s going on between 1 and 2 or 2 and 3 or 3 and 4 and so on. That’s the problem with any list of programs coming under the N.C.A.A.’s watchful eye over the last 16 months; a list may go like this —
1 Miami (Fla.)
2 Ohio State
— but that doesn’t do us much good, does it? You’ve got Miami there with a bullet, heads and shoulders above the rest, while the gap between 2 and 4 really depends on the eye of the beholder; my list was pretty arbitrary. All you can really say based off such a list is that Miami’s transgressions have been worse than the rest, and while that’s the right sentiment this list fails to illustrate just how much the program’s misdeeds blow everyone — not just over the last 16 months, but the last 16-plus years — out of the water.
There’s Miami, then there’s everyone else. Remember what that meant in 1983, 1985-92, 2000-2? It meant nobody did it better, in short, but it also meant that nobody did it better while knowing it did it better than the rest. It’s called being self-aware, which thus leads to self-confidence, which Miami had in spades. Being the meanest bully on the block came easily to the Hurricanes.
Miami’s still the best at something, at least. The program does bad better than anyone; maybe not consistently, like in a devil-may-care sort of attitude, but when Miami wants to break rules… man, they can break some rules. Bounties? Come and get ‘em. Yacht privileges? Don’t forget your Dockers. Strippers? Prostitutes? Free meals? Televisions? Abortions? This was so old-school I expected to see Crockett and Tubbs leading players into Miami P.D. headquarters in handcuffs.
The one difference is that the last time Miami played fast-and-loose with the N.C.A.A. handbook we saw the Hurricanes run the sport. This time? That the Hurricanes couldn’t even win when enticing recruits with money, sex and more — doing the same thing that led to a decade of dominance in the 1980s and ‘90s — makes the last eight years of Miami football all the more disappointing. Wait, let me get this straight: you took a page out of the S.M.U. handbook and still couldn’t win anything? Why cheat at all?
Day by day, the N.C.A.A.’s ruling on U.S.C. looks more and more foolish. The N.C.A.A. threw the book at the Trojans over, basically, the transgressions of one specific player, Reggie Bush. Not to pretend there wasn’t more to it than that, but the heart of the penalties lie in the Heisman winner’s missteps. So, here comes the book — maybe we could have justified it at the time. Compare what occurred at U.S.C. to what’s occurring at Ohio State: if you threw a book at the Trojans, what do you toss at Jim Tressel and the Buckeyes?
But that’s not the point. How the N.C.A.A. looks really, really foolish is when comparing U.S.C. to Miami; if it threw the book at U.S.C., the N.C.A.A. needs to rent a truck, back it up and throw the contents of an entire library at the Hurricanes. How else can you make the penalties proportional? And how can you be consistent, above all else, when the N.C.A.A.’s handling of such events looks and more and more nonsensical by the day? By handing Miami the death penalty, that’s what, though that’s not going to happen.
It’s just one of many, many questions that remain unanswered as we sift through the rubble.
How did Nevin Shapiro ever gain such access to the university and its players? Well, we know the answer to that one: Donna Shalala, Kirby Hocutt, Larry Coker and others gave him the keys to the front door — or at least turned a blind eye to all that was taking place. And now’s not the time to plead ignorance, not when there are pictures of you smiling ear-to-ear, clutching one of Shapiro’s checks. And now’s not the time to issue statements, as did Hocutt, saying that to the best of your knowledge, Shapiro received the same privileges afforded to every member of his level of the Hurricane Club. Really?
Why didn’t the school tell Al Golden of the developing investigation? Golden might have been the most surprised of anyone to hear about Miami’s projected penalties, seeing that, you know, he was hired by Shalala and Hocutt in January. That may have been something you’d want to share, perhaps. We’ve all heard of schools doing a background check on potential hires; perhaps Golden should have done the same with Miami. You want to make Temple look good? Second-place in the MAC East looks like a bowl of cherries right now, and I wouldn’t hold it against Golden if he looked into getting out of his own contract with the university. These relationships are built on trust; any trust has left the building.
How far-ranging is the impact? Will the N.C.A.A.’s tentacles reach out to Larry Coker and U.T.-San Antonio? The latter won’t be penalized, at least not directly, though the N.C.A.A. could place extreme penalties on Coker, which would have indirect — and enormous — consequences for a university about to christen its football program. Coker should and will be held responsible for any infractions that occurred with his direct knowledge while in Coral Gables. If Coker is hit with probation, perhaps limiting his ability to recruit, U.T.S.A. takes a big hit.
What about Kansas State and Purdue, two program relying on a trio of high-profile Miami transfers? The Wildcats could be without the Browns, Bryce and Arthur, should the N.C.A.A. find anything questionable, and the Boilermakers could lose Robert Marve’s services at quarterback. Purdue has already said that Marve is in “great standing” with the university, but it’s a little early to make any definitive claims about his or the Browns’ eligibility should their names come up in the N.C.A.A.’s investigation.
What about Kirby Hocutt? Miami’s former athletic director, from 2008-11, assumed the same position at Texas Tech in February. Can he survive — and if not, where does that leave the Red Raiders? Searching for yet another A.D., for starters, but also, like Golden, cleaning up a mess not of its own making. And Paul Dee, another former Miami athletic director, who made such a forceful case for dropping the hammer on U.S.C. last summer? As the chairman for the Committee on Infractions, Dee mounted his high horse and said that “high-profile athletes demand high-profile compliance.” It seems as if the N.C.A.A. needs a new chairman. Can the findings of a committee fronted by a figure who factors heavily into Miami’s transgressions be taken seriously?
And Donna Shalala, Miami’s president? She’s been lauded for the way she transformed the university into a premier academic institution, landing Miami a spot on U.S. News & World Report’s coveted list of the top 50 schools in the country. And, until this week, Shalala had seemingly done the impossible: clean up Miami’s football image. In an interview with Time Magazine’s Tim Padgett earlier this month, Shalala said she had “no tolerance for breaking rules.” She’s now knee-deep in the muck and mire, up to her neck in infractions that occurred under her watch.
With so many losers in this scenario, someone has to come out a winner. Right? But who wins? Look beyond the obvious: the rest of the A.C.C. wins when Miami falls, as does Florida and Florida State, South Florida and any program that delves into the region’s fertile recruiting grounds. I even think Miami can come out a winner here, and bear with me for two reasons why.
One: Miami has an opportunity to clean house. This has happened before, in the mid-1990s, but the program forgot those lessons once Coker replaced Butch Davis — it’s a little ironic to think of Davis as the white knight, but there you go. The university can fire its president, countless members of the athletic department, anyone still around whose fingerprints can be felt even tangentially to what has occurred since 2002.
It’s called a clean slate, even if Miami gets a little bloody — a little bloodier, actually — cleaning up the mess. Yeah, it won’t be easy, but maybe Miami can use rock-bottom as a launching pad for the future. Isn’t that sweet? Here’s an idea: hire June Jones. S.M.U. can provide his resume.
Here’s another reason: Miami now has an excuse for being a second-rate program. Bad when breaking any rule in the N.C.A.A. rulebook? No excuse. Bad when under every probation known to man? Oh, there’s your rationale for being an afterthought. It was likely going to happen anyway, Miami falling into irrelevance, thanks to its recent slide, Florida’s continued excellence and Florida State’s resurgence. Now Miami has an excuse, a crutch, for not being Miami anymore.
You’ve got to dig that deep to find a silver lining for the Hurricanes.
We’ll never know what motivated Miami to allow such a scenario to come to pass. Was it hubris?
We’re Miami, we’ve done this before, we’ll do it again, we’ll get away with it, win titles, we’re Miami.
The only way to end this slide is to bend and break the rules, like we did before.
We won’t get caught.
Even if we do get caught, nothing will happen.
Try a smorgasbord of all four, with a dash of plain, old-fashioned Miami swagger. Only this time, Miami’s going to get knocked down to the point where getting back up won’t take just two or three years, as it did under Davis in the mid-1990s.
It’ll take far longer than that, if it occurs at all. Miami won’t get the death penalty, but that’s only because the N.C.A.A. lacks the guts — and doesn’t have the credibility — to go to the mat. Yet for all intents and purposes, Miami’s as dead as S.M.U. was in 1987. The only difference? Miami’s a dead program walking; the Hurricanes will play, may win here and there, but the program will never be the same again. So long, farewell.
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Tags: Al Golden, Arthur Brown, Bryce Brown, Butch Davis, Donna Shalala, Kansas State, Kirby Hocutt, Larry Coker, Miami (Fla.), N.C.A.A. violations, Ohio State, Paul Dee, Purdue, Robert Marve, Texas-San Antonio, U.S.C.
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