To no one’s surprise, Miami coach Al Golden wants to see the Hurricanes in a bowl game this season.
It’s still unclear if he will get that chance.
The university remained silent Sunday about whether Miami would self-impose a second straight postseason ban, which would be done in response to the ongoing NCAA investigation into the Hurricanes’ compliance practices. Golden said he spoke briefly Sunday with acting Miami athletic director Blake James, but was not told of any final decision.
”It’s just difficult,” Golden said of the waiting game. ”It really is. It’s difficult and unwieldy.”
Golden said he’s always talking to his players about focusing on the things they can control and following a process.
”This is the antithesis of that,” he said. ”This is kind of a curveball.”
Miami (6-5) became bowl-eligible on Saturday with a 40-9 win over South Florida. And the Hurricanes might not be just eligible for any old bowl, either — Miami plays at Duke this weekend with a chance to win the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Coastal Division title. With that would come a berth in the league’s championship game and a chance at automatically qualifying for the Orange Bowl.
”It’s not our concern. There’s nothing we can do about it,” freshman running back and kick returner Duke Johnson, who the school is touting as an All-America candidate, said after Saturday’s win.
Golden is not part of the decision-making group when it comes to Miami’s bowl status. He has said several times that he is not made privy to the details of the ongoing joint inquiry, leaving those matters to the university’s legal counsel, President Donna Shalala and the athletic director’s office.
As such, even though his vote is known, it likely won’t factor into any Miami decision.
”It’s not really about what I feel,” Golden said. ”There’s not one coach sitting in this chair that wouldn’t want to continue to get the bowl practices and move the team forward and have a chance to win more games. But that’s just taking football into account. That’s not really talking about the long-term thinking or those types of things. Anything that’s going to allow us to move faster and choose the best path for the program, I’m all on board with.”
If it chooses to sit out the postseason again, Miami — which still has not been presented with its notice of allegations from the NCAA — would be essentially saying that it expects to be hit with, at minimum, a two-year postseason ban when sanctions are handed down, presumably in early 2013.
Schools often self-impose penalties with hope that the NCAA takes those measures into account when doling out punishment.
And institutions that do not self-impose things like bowl bans when facing NCAA investigations often regret that decision. Most recently, Ohio State chose not to ban itself from a bowl last season, before the NCAA handed down punishments for the memorabilia-for-tattoos scandal. Instead of being in the mix for a Bowl Championship Series berth and possibly a shot at the national title this year, the currently undefeated Buckeyes will end their season this weekend.
Golden said players understand the significance of the Duke game, even with the postseason uncertainty.
”It’s business as usual,” Golden said. ”And again, it’s been like this all year. The team’s been great from that respect. They know what’s at stake this week against Duke. Everybody’s taking care of the things they need to take care of.”
Miami quarterback Stephen Morris said Saturday — players were not available for comment Sunday — that no matter what the school thought was best, the Hurricanes would see the Duke game as colossally important. Miami was widely picked to finish fifth in the Coastal entering the season, and a chance to even share the division title would be something for the team to savor.
”I’ve got a locker room with 110 guys who have to get ready for Duke,” Morris said. ”That’s my sole focus. That’s what we’re preparing for.”