Another little quip from Barry Jackson at the Miami Herald this morning in regards to pending University of Miami sanctions.
A few paragraphs were buried in his ‘Sports Buzz’ column and based on the waiting game this program, coaches, players and fan base are forced to play, his comments warranted discussion.
The main focus of the piece revolved around what Miami will do once that notice of allegations is received from the NCAA. For this, Jackson turned to a “high-ranking UM official”.
“When we get the notice of allegations, [UM outside counsel] Mike Glazier will have to be tough at that point,” said the unnamed source. “You want to show cooperation up until the point you have the allegations. They can’t claim we weren’t cooperative. We’re trying to do everything possible to make sure the NCAA does not use the words ‘lack of institutional control.’”
Another UM official pointed that once the NOA is sent, control shifts from the NCAA’s enforcement division to the infractions committee, which is the point when UM would most-likely challenge anything it disagrees with. Miami will have upwards of ninety days for this part of the process to work itself out.
According to the UM official, the million dollar question — how far does the NCAA want to go if they don’t have documentation to prove specific allegations?
Jackson went on to explain what UM’s strategy will be, and per Glazer’s guidance, the angle will be that Nevin Shapiro was a rogue booster. A weasel who wormed his way into situations or events, unannounced (like the infamous bowling alley picture where he popped up at Lucky Strike with a $50K check, handing it to president Donna Shalala.)
Many expected the delivery of the NOA by this point, but there was a delay as the NCAA chose to reach numerous former Miami football players, as well as more digging into the basketball program. UM is hoping to receive the allegations in January, but at this point it all remains up in the air.
When this all plays out, it will make for an interesting case study as the University of Miami appears to have played things perfectly. Looking back at August 2011 when the news broke, Shalala and UM’s top brass attacked things head on – never getting caught up in the nitty-gritty like overzealous fans did.
No, instead Miami chose to be very calculated in every statement, while working hand-in-hand with the NCAA and openings its books completely. It should also be noted that it was UM who brought the Shapiro findings to the NCAA, in the first place.
The salacious Yahoo! Sports story broke almost eighteen months ago and while that was the first time most folks heard the name ‘Shapiro’, the rogue booster was already on UM’s booster and they’d handed over a wealth of information on the Ponzi schemer.
Miami paid back the bankruptcy trustee last year, while also turning over every dime Shapiro every donated to the university.
UM went on to forfeit a bowl game a year ago, set unprecedented new rules regarding interaction between players / players’ families and agents / outsiders, and then sat out two post-season games this year, giving up and ACC Championship game appearance, having won the Coastal Division, and a bowl game – quite possibly and Orange Bowl berth, had the Canes beaten the Noles in Charlotte in early December (lowly Georgia Tech gave Florida State all it could handle that night, with FSU obviously still reeling from a recent loss to Florida.)
NCAA president Mark Emmert has praised Miami for its cooperation in the investigation and it’s known that Emmert and Shalala have history, but even bigger than that – the fact that Shalala has politics in her blood and absolutely knows a thing or two about how to react in the face of a scandal.
Personal beliefs aside, it’s hard not to believe that Shalala is the perfect university president for a crisis of this nature. When you look at the attitudes, egos and mis-plays at Southern Cal or Ohio State, you see why the hammer fell as it did.
Programs that felt they were bigger than the game – they all told the NCAA to shove it, which is why both got smacked up rather severely, in regards to allegations.
Conversely, North Carolina did a good job playing the game and opening their books and as a result, the punishment was rather tame in regards to the levels of academic fraud which took place.
This is a poker game and let’s be honest, the NCAA tipped its hand weeks back when trying the Gestapo tactic of forcing former players to spill the beans. Their whole “guilty until proven innocent” attempt, coupled with allegations of bullying in cases against USC and UCLA, turned the tables on the NCAA, proving that egos are out of control.
Should the NCAA try to destroy Miami based on unprovable allegations, bet the house that things will get interesting.
Again, this will be a case where having someone well-versed in politics and “playing the game” will work in Miami’s favor.
The NCAA will either admit defeat, on some level, taking into consideration UM’s cooperative actions, the three self-imposed bowl games and impossible-to-verify claims of a world-class Ponzi schemer — or they will puff out their chests, with an out-of-control punishment, causing Miami to fight tooth and nail, in what could go down as a game-changing case.
There’s a reason Miami’s counsel is taking the angle that Shapiro acted on his own and infiltrated the system. The obvious goal is to prove that this wasn’t a “lack of institutional control” as much as is was a predatory maniac, obsessed with befriending athletes.
If Shapiro could swindle cautious, successful, accomplished ‘Baby Boomers’ out of their lifes’ savings, is it really that much of a surprise that he was able to ‘wow’ some teenage athletes – many who came from nothing – into a free bar tab at a night club, a house party invite or a boat ride?
Yes, former head coach Randy Shannon warned his players to stay away from Shapiro – but he’d have done the same regarding any booster who appeared to be working his way into an unhealthy friendship. There’s a world of difference between a jock-sniffing booster and a world-class swindler, with pure evil in his blood.
Truth be told, countless people missed on the level of dirtbag that was Nevin The Rat and punishing the University of Miami with a hard-to-return-from “lack of institutional control” sanction – that will be fought hard by ‘The U’ and is the proper position to take.
Miami isn’t asking for a slap on the wrist, either. Suspending players throughout the 2011 season, coupled with three self-imposed post-season games – that’s serious business, and is unprecedented. What other program has been this aggressive in self-punishment?
Miami’s modus operandi has consistently been that it wants to move on from this and will do everything in its power to do so – including punishing this current team and second-year coaching staff, taking away this year’s ultimate goal – an ACC Championship – for the betterment of the program and a brighter future.
The NOA is forthcoming and per Jackson’s article and UM’s approach, safe to say the NCAA is going to have a fight on its hands should it come down hard on Miami.
Christian Bello has been covering Miami Hurricanes athletics since the mid-1990s. After spending almost a decade as a columnist for CanesTime, he launched allCanesBlog.com. – the official blog for allCanes.com : The #1 Canes Shop Since 1959. Bello has joined up with XOFan.com and will be a guest columnist at CaneInsider.com this fall. Follow him on Twitter @ChristianRBello.