NCAA woes over, Miami starts bowl prepping
It had been 1,082 days since Miami players could walk outside
their locker room, hit the fields adjacent to the school’s athletic
complex and have a bowl practice.
On Saturday, that all changed.
No longer having to worry about the anvil of an NCAA probe
hanging over the program and national attention focused on
conference championship showdowns, the Hurricanes started
practicing Saturday for what will be their first bowl game since
2010. By Sunday night, Miami will have accepted an invite
somewhere, probably to either the Russell Athletic Bowl to play
Louisville or the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
”It felt great,” Miami coach Al Golden said. ”It was
unbelievable. The whole week felt great. I didn’t answer one
question about the NCAA. It was unbelievable. Got a great
recruiting group in here today. We just took care of business. I
know they’re excited about going to the postseason and growing and
learning. You can see it. They were giving good effort. It was hot
but they gave a good effort.”
Miami self-imposed bowl bans in 2011 and 2012 because of the
NCAA investigation, one that revolved around the actions of a
former booster who was also running a $930 million Ponzi scheme. If
Miami had chosen not to sit out those postseason contests – three
in all, since the Hurricanes also passed up a chance to play in
last year’s Atlantic Coast Conference championship game – then it’s
possible the NCAA may have kept the school out of this bowl
All that reason for worry is gone now. The NCAA has ruled, and
Miami is back in bowl business.
”It feels good,” said Allen Hurns, who leads the team with
1,138 receiving yards and is 19 yards shy of a Miami single-season
record in that department. said. ”The last two seasons we weren’t
able to go to a bowl practice, but now we can, so we’re enjoying
every moment of it.”
Hurns was one of about two dozen upperclassmen who were not in
uniform on Saturday. The Hurricanes gave them all the day off and
are expected to do so again on Sunday. Miami is getting its top
players some more time to rest and without knowing the team’s next
opponent yet, coaches are focusing on the younger players who will
be back in 2014 anyway.
When the Hurricanes truly start on-field game-planning for
whoever the opponent is Friday night, everyone who’s healthy will
be back to work. Per NCAA rules, Miami can practice up to 15 times
before the bowl game, and missing those workouts in 2011 and 2012
has prompted many around the team to say that the Hurricanes
on-field growth was held back considerably as a result.
”They mean everything, to be honest with you,” defensive
coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said. ”Just think about it in terms of
it being spring ball. That’s what you get in the spring and we
would like 30 practices in the last two years. Not to make any
excuses, but it is what it is. We had 30 less practices than our
competitors had. I’m glad we have them.”
Miami was 9-3 in the regular season, and a bowl win would give
the Hurricanes their first double-digit win total since 2003.