Fresh off the win against Virginia Tech, a ton of chatter surrounding the post-season for the Miami Hurricanes. With UM sitting a top the ACC Coastal Division – and NCAA sanctions looming – the question of the week has become, to bowl, or not to bowl?
The higher ups at ‘The U’ gave their thoughts last Friday, in the wake of the win over the Hokies, pushing the Canes to 5-4 overall, but more importantly to 4-2 in the ACC.
The verdict? Nothing to talk about until Miami gets that much-needed sixth win, making the point moot until the Canes are officially bowl eligible.
“If I remember right, we made the decision last year after we became bowl eligible,” said UM acting athletic director Blake James. “I think that would be the plan.
“You address the situations as they occur.”
In the same situation a year ago, it was addressed as it occurred.
The mid-November day after UM earned its sixth win of the season at South Florida, a self-imposed bowl ban was announced. Days later Miami lost its home finale to Boston College, ending the 2011 season with a 6-6 record.
The Canes wouldn’t see the field again until taking on the Eagles in Chestnut Hill nine months later.
Sitting at 5-4 with three to play, the entire U Family is hoping for a much more pleasant and productive ending to the second year of the Al Golden era.
Three straight wins – against Virginia, South Florida and Duke – would not only put Miami at an unexpected 8-4 in a rebuilding year, but the Canes would also officially clinch the ACC Coastal Division with a 6-2 conference, reaching their first ACC Championship Game in nine tries.
And welcome to the orange and green elephant in the room.
As stated earlier, to bowl, or not to bowl – that is the question. Both sides make complete sense and like whichever politician voted for on November 6th, one could make a passionate argument for each side.
Why should the Canes take the bowl ban on the chin immediately? Let’s count the ways.
For starters, imposing another bowl ban completely sucks up to the illogical, yet oh-so-powerful NCAA, which is the type of suck-up move that entity loves – and right now it’s all about playing the game.
Who has taken the biggest hits for running afowl of the ‘law’ as of late? Southern Cal and Ohio State immediately come to mind. Forget the actual ‘crimes’ and look at the stonewalling and bravado that accompanied the hot water they earned their way into.
Conversely, North Carolina had an academic fraud scandal for the ages (classes that didn’t even exist), a coach funneling players to a sports agent (for money) and players taking money, gifts and free plane rides – yet earned minimal punishment (regarding the crimes) as a result.
NCAA president Mark Emmert has been quoted as saying that Miami has been exemplary in how it handled this investigation. UM has been an open book and cooperative from day one. Players suspended by the school immediately. A bowl game surrendered last year. Monies paid back to the bankruptcy trust.
It’s been obvious from the get-go that ‘The U’ has been politically textbook, wanting to take its medicine and to move past this embarrassing scandal as soon as humanly possible – which proves that if another bowl ban is absorbed, it will be done so with reason.
Amazing how some folks banter back and for online about this topic – as if UM’s Board of Trustees and president will simply flip a coin to decide this program’s fate.
Let’s go on record right now; if Miami does implement another bowl ban, the higher ups are doing so because they know what’s coming and realize this must be done in good faith.
At day’s end, fans only know what Yahoo! Sports’ Charles Robinson – or the Herald’s Barry Jackson – have to say on the subject. No one truly knows a thing about the investigation or what’s happening internally – and those are the finite details that are going into the big decisions being made.
For those unaware, Golden will play no part in the decision. It will be left up to president Donna Shalala, the Board of Trustees, James – and what he referred to as “a collective group, also including inside and outside counsel.
For Golden, an ACC title game berth has been the carrot he’s dangled in front of this team from the get-go. It was an early season goal, as well as something the coaching staff leaned on when Miami lost out-of-conference games to the likes of Kansas State and Notre Dame.
Stay the course. Keep beating ACC foes. The goal this year was never a national championship, but a shot at a conference crown. When the Canes lost to the Seminoles a few weeks back, there was even some solace taken in a December 1st rematch for all the conference marbles.
Beyond that, what does it say about the direction of the program if a team picked fifth in the Coastal Division actually finishes first? Anyone thing that won’t help on the recruiting front? Furthermore, what about morale? After so many seasons ending with a thud, the Canes could actually ride off on a high note should they reach Charlotte.
Golden’s motivational tool is certainly understandable and for these kids working so hard to attain that goal, the other side of the coin and the sales pitch for why Miami shouldn’t self-impose a ban this post-season, should the Canes win the Coastal and earn a spot in the ACC title game.
Another valid reason? Bird in hand.
There’s a lot of chatter online about next year being the year that Miami is back in the hunt. Fans rambling on about the disappointment we’d all feel if December 2013 rolled around the the Canes were a top five team and banned from the post-season.
While this team should be better, deeper and more experienced next year, unfortunately that’s all theory.
Look across the college football landscape this November and it’s a sea of broken dreams.
Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley and safety T.J. McDonald both passed up big NFL money to return to Southern Cal this year for a run at the national title. Both first round picks, they believed this team was primed to win it all – and so did the voters, as USC opened the preseason the top-ranked team in the nation.
That dream all but died three weeks into the season when Stanford pulled a huge upset and the past two weeks were nothing more than shovels full of dirt on the lowering casket, with Southern Cal falling to Arizona and Oregon, now sitting at 6-3 and hoping to earn that Holiday Bowl berth that Barkley joked to Sports Illustrated months back that he didn’t return to play in.
What about West Virginia? Ready to make a run in the Big XII year one and after starting 5-0 and producing a would-be Heisman candidate in Geno Smith, three straight losses and completely out of the hunt.
LSU? A top three team to start the season and now 7-2 in the SEC. Michigan? A top ten squad for the first time in forever, yet now 6-3 year two of the Brady Hoke era.
And is there any bigger cautionary tale in 2012 than that of Arkansas? A top ten team to start the season, expected to compete for an SEC title and losing four of its first five, including a faceplant against Louisiana-Monroe? The Razorbacks are now 4-5 and in complete disarray, having lost to Rutgers and Ole Miss – at home.
The Canes can even look at recent history to drive the point home. After a 9-3 regular season in 2009, Miami took on 9-3 Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl and commentators talked about both squads being on the rise and the potential of a rematch the following season, albeit in a BCS game.
2010 came and went, with the Badgers stringing together an 11-1 regular season, falling to TCU in the Rose Bowl, while the Canes went 7-5, fired Randy Shannon and then got smoked in the Sun Bowl, courtesy of Notre Dame, while UM players were pelting each other with snowballs during the 33-17 loss.
There are no gimmies in sports. Great years go down the toilet in a heartbeat, while Cinderellas seemingly come out of nowhere.
Kansas State started this season ranked number twenty-two and held a 9-6 halftime lead over Missouri State in the season opener on September 1st. Since then wins over Miami, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, en route to a 9-0 record and number two ranking in the most recent BCS poll.
Auburn also started the season ranked number twenty-two back in 2010 and wound up riding the coattails of Cam Newton all the to a 14-0 season and a national title. Two years later the Tigers are 2-7 and a train wreck – even needing a miracle overtime victory over the Louisiana-Monroe squad that upset Arkansas the week before.
On paper, should Miami win the Coastal, it would be a crime to not accept the bid and play in the game. Another shot at Florida State and one game from the first BCS bid this program has seen since 2003?
That is too much too pass up. Need more proof? Just ask Florida State – who used to own the ACC, winning (or sharing) the title eleven of its first twelve seasons in conference, yet only one ACC title in the past seven seasons, and nothing the past six years – including 2011, when the Seminoles started the year a top five team and stumbled their way to an 8-4 regular season.
Safe to say Miami’s administrators know all of the above and should the opportunity to play in its first conference title in nine tries, the Canes will head to Charlotte in December.
The NCAA is expected to give Miami its NOA (Notice Of Allegations) the end of November, but based on how UM has worked with the governing body the past year-plus, there has to be some sense of what has been discovered and what could be coming down the pike.
The NCAA isn’t the judicial system, so this isn’t a world of hard evidence and what can or cannot be proven. In some cases there just needs to be enough evidence pointing a certain way and it can be deemed that there’s enough smoke to determine there is, or was, a fire.
Regardless, at this point of the game the University of Miami knows if it’s in the best interest of the program to self-impose another ban, or to accept a bid to the ACC Championship Game, should the Canes win the Coastal. There will be nothing knee-jerk about any of this.
If another self-imposed bowl ban will show good favor towards the NCAA and less the scholarship reductions when the hammer falls, then let the Duke match-up be the final game Miami plays this season. No ifs, ands or buts.
Miami takes on Virginia this Saturday and with a win, moves to 6-4 and will be bowl eligible. At 5-2 in conference play, the Canes would have a healthy lead over the 3-3 Blue Devils, who are idle until the 17th when Duke travels to Georgia Tech.
Still, with the UM administration talking about making a decision as early as this Saturday – should Miami get that sixth win – it will be rather telling in regards to what the NCAA could have waiting in store.
Absorb another bowl ban and one has to believe there’s a logical reason for doing so, or should the administration let it be known that the Canes are headed to the post-season and there’d have to be a science behind that, as well.
Of course before thinking Charlotte, better think Charlottesville as Virginia just smoked North Carolina State, 33-6, despite entering the game 0-4 in conference play.
UVA upset UM, 28-21 on a visit to South Florida last October, too.
Miami lost its last game at Scott Stadium, 24-19, after falling behind 24-0 and needing a furious rally – fueled by freshman Stephen Morris when junior Jacory Harris was knocked out of the game.
Miami rolled 52-17 at Sun Life in 2009 and stole a 24-17 overtime victory on the road in 2008.
There was also that 48-0 loss to close out the Orange Bowl in 2007, a 17-7 loss in Virginia in 2006 (helping earn Larry Coker a pink slip), a 25-17 Miami win in 2005 and a 31-21 at UVA in 2004, UM’s first season in the ACC.
2-2 at Scott Stadium shouldn’t have anyone overconfident about Saturday. Until that one is in the books, any ACC Championship Game talk should remain on ice. Starting now.
Brick by brick. One at a time.
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.