It’s over. The NCAA’s reign of terror is finally over. Let that sink in for a minute. No more talk of Shapiro and Ponzi-schemes. No more allegations of strippers and abortions. No more pictures of $50,000 checks or Dom Pérignon. No more tall tales of teppanyaki, boats, or alcohol. It’s over.
Can you hear that? It’s the sound of a spiral being thrown on Greentree. Football as usual. Mark May’s rally cry of death penalty is but a distant memory. ESPN’s scrolling ticker, alternating between abortions and the death penalty, permanently in our past. Almost every talking head opining on the end of Miami as we know it. Opposing coaches negatively recruiting the hell out of potential players – all a distant memory.
But these are memories nonetheless. To quote what Coach Golden said in a previous interview with 560 WQAM: “It is what it is … you remember it. We’re just going to keep doing what we do. We’re going to keep operating with class, but we’re not going to forget. There’s no question that a lot of people are taking shots at us…. As I said all along, I think the worst is behind us, and I’m proud of everybody that stood through us with this. They’ll be remembered as such.” No truer words have ever been spoken. We know who stood through this with us.
At 10 a.m. this morning, after three years of investigations, interviews, illegitimate depositions, bar complaints, meetings, deliberations, NCAA firings, admissions of incompetence, jailhouse snitch interviews, and speculating, the NCAA finally announced Miami’s sanctions:
- Public reprimand and censure
- Three years of probation
- Loss of 9 scholarships over three years
- Previously enacted bowl and ACC Championship Game bans (2011 and 2012)
- Loss of one scholarship per year for the next three years.
- Hurtt, Hill, Fernandez each receive two-year show-cause order
- Haith is suspended for five games.
No future bowl bans. No death penalty. And no apology.
Many people have been quick to exclaim that the Canes got off easy. Although such talk may make fans feel better, it is insulting to the players, coaches, and educators who had to suffer through this immeasurable harm. Would you actually tell Anthony Chickillo that he got off easy? “Hey Chick, I know you have played your heart out for two years without the ability to play in a single bowl or championship game, which you rightfully earned, but to tell you the truth, I think you got off easy.” These kids have paid the ultimate sacrifice for sins that they did not commit. They did not get off easy.
Back in August of 2011 when the dumpster fire of an article was originally published, the general public was prepared to burn Miami at the stake. The Canes had just come off a 7-6 season that ended in the firing of their head coach. Few people outside of Temple had heard of Al Golden. And images of players having snowball fights on the sidelines of the Sun Bowl were burned in fans’ minds. Talking heads were screaming for the death penalty, the severest sanction in all of sports. ESPN’s Mark May stated at that time “[i]f there was ever a situation that [merited the death penalty] this would be it. That’s my opinion and I stick to it. What does it take to get the death penalty now? 100 players? 125? It’s a culture of corruption. This university, in my opinion, was not run in the correct way. We all know that. When you have a situation that didn’t happen in one year or two years or three years, it happened over the course of time, then something is definitely wrong … If it’s not going to happen with this program, then what would it take?” Sports Illustrated’s Alexander Wolff penned his second letter to the University of Miami, begging President Shalala to “shut the program down” and “disinfect it.”
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Then, something special happened. People, alumni, fans, and players – stood with The U. Players wanted to be Canes – not because it was the easy or popular thing to do, but because they wanted to be part of this ever-growing family. Back on National Signing Day I wrote the following:
“While it is fine to be upset that so many top rated athletes holding Miami in their top 2-3, chose to attend other schools, one cannot be upset with the class of athletes that decided to come to Miami. Sure, there will always be talk of the “fish that got away”, but at the end of the day, Miami is bringing a solid class of athletes to The U. Best of all, the kids that chose Miami WANTED to be Canes. They saw through the NCAA investigation. They saw through the threat of future sanctions. They endured negative recruiting. And yet they chose to be Canes. It takes a special person to come to Miami. Not everyone can wear the U. Not everyone can take the pressure of playing for the hometown team.
Unlike 2008, this recruiting class will not be known for being the No. 1 class in the nation. That being said, after 4 years at The U, it has the potential to be known for something better. Only time will tell…”
Since the NCAA investigation started, the University of Miami has done everything right. President Shalala, Coach Golden, and Coach Larranaga have led the Canes to an ACC championship in Basketball, an appearance in the Sweet 16, a would-be ACC Championship Game in Football and a current BCS ranking of 7. All this was done while enduring negative recruiting, the likes of which no other school has ever seen, and forfeiting two bowl games. As I previously argued (both here and updated here), the war with the NCAA has long been over. It just so happens that the NCAA threw up the white flag today. “Donna Shalala has been playing chess while the NCAA has been playing checkers.” To have even remained constant in the face of the NCAA’s adversity would have been a huge with for the University of Miami. Instead, through incredible leadership, Miami has positioned itself at the top of the academic and athletic mountain.
If I was still sore at the NCAA I would compare Miami’s rise to the top to the NCAA’s fall from grandeur. I would point out that while it has taken the NCAA years to sanction Miami with 9 scholarship losses, approximately 9 NCAA employees have left or been fired during that time. Back in February, Alabama attorney Gene Marsh, a former member of the Committee on Infractions and current specialist representing schools in NCAA investigations, stated “[t]here have been more dismissals in the last few months than in all the years I’ve been involved with them…. The NCAA right now is under more scrutiny than ever in my life.” Where was I going with this?
To all the Hurricane players and recruits that have stood by The U – Thank you. To all the University of Miami basketball and football coaches (especially Coach Golden) – Thank you. To President Shalala – Thank you. To every member of the Canes Family that has stood with The U – Thank you. I have, and forever will, stand with The U.