Wait is over for Miami, and now the Hurricanes can move on

BY foxsports • October 22, 2013

CORAL GABLES -- The waiting is the hardest part.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers sang about it. Samuel Beckett wrote about it. Truer words were never spoken when it comes to the University of Miami athletics program.

After more than two and a half years in limbo, judgment day arrived Tuesday as the NCAA released its infractions report involving major booster Nevin Shapiro.

Acknowledged and accepted by Miami, its football program will lose nine scholarships over a three-year period beginning in 2014 but will not have to relinquish its bowl eligibility this season.

Former assistant football coaches Clint Hurtt and Aubrey Hill, as well as former assistant men's basketball coach Jorge Fernandez will receive two-year show causes. Hurtt is the associate head coach/defensive line/recruiting coordinator at Louisville. Hill is the head coach at Miami Carol City High School. Fernandez is not currently coaching with an NCAA team.

The basketball program will give up one scholarship per year from 2014-17. Frank Haith, currently the men's basketball coach at Missouri (who held the same post at Miami), will receive a five-game suspension.

The NCAA began its investigation in March 2011, but the public didn't know about it until a Yahoo! Sports story broke the news in mid-August of that year.

Football coach Al Golden had been on the job less than nine months and was completely blindsided by the allegations.

From then until February 2013, when The Associated Press reported that the NCAA claimed a "lack of institutional control" on the part of the university in its Notice of Allegations, rumors and speculations ran rampant.

Conference USA commissioner and chair of the infractions committee Britton Banowsky said there were 79 issues and over 100 interviews conducted. The committee reviewed thousands of tapes, transcripts and photographs.

On Tuesday, the NCAA stated that approximately 30 student-athletes were involved over the course of a decade with the booster, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence for his $930 million Ponzi scheme.

University President Donna E. Shalala, Golden and men's head basketball coach Jim Larranaga met with the committee in mid-June in Indianapolis.

"It's extraordinary the size and scope of the record and overall number of violations," Banowsky said in a conference call Tuesday morning. "As I said, the volume of this case was enormous."

According to the NCAA's timeline, Miami notified the association of an internal investigation into potential violations in November 2009.

The university's initiative and cooperation during the entire process surely helped its cause. The university even created a site via its homepage that solely focuses on the NCAA investigation, explaining the process as well as statements and releases made by officials.

Miami self-imposed bowl bans the past two seasons as well as its spot in the Atlantic Coast Conference football championship game in 2012, an unparalleled decision. 

Golden and his staff also planned ahead, slowly trimming the number of
scholarships given over the past few years. Of the 85 scholarship limit,
the Hurricanes have been working somewhere in the mid-70s.

"In this particular [case] the institutionally self-imposed penalties were absolutely unprecedented, really, and the level of cooperation in this case was commendable," Banowsky said. "Those are factors that weighed into the committee’s decision."

Heading into the 2011 season, the NCAA suspended eight football and two men's basketball players for impermissible benefits.

"Our honest and committed efforts to address these allegations have made us stronger," Miami director of athletics Blake James wrote in a statement. "We have already taken many proactive steps to ameliorate any concerns, and we will continue to improve in all areas. Now it is time we look ahead and work diligently to support our student-athletes."

Despite the NCAA cloud that hovered over the program longer than South Florida's stormy summer months, Golden still found success recruiting.

Golden admitted in the past that coaches from other schools probably used the program's uncertainty as a form of negative recruiting.

According to Scout.com, the Hurricanes have 25 commits for the Class of 2014, which is currently ranked fifth in the nation. The class includes Miami Central running back Joseph Yearby, the nation's fourth-best running back, and Miami Booker T. Washington's Chad Thomas and Demetrius Jackson, defensive ends for the top high school team in the nation.

Various recruits took to Twitter once the news broke.

Thomas retweeted a follower who wrote, "@F5_Chad them canes finally free."

Miami opened this season 6-0 and jumped to No. 7 in the first BCS poll, which was released on Sunday. It is the Hurricanes' highest BCS ranking since Nov. 13, 2005 and first since Nov. 24, 2010.

The Hurricanes can continue their pursuit of a major bowl this season without this distraction. After a home meeting with Wake Forest on Saturday, Miami faces a potential top-10 road matchup in Tallahassee on Nov. 2 with conference and national title implications.

All in-person football media availability has been canceled for the remainder of the week leading up to the Demon Deacons game.

"I want to sincerely thank our student-athletes and their families who, not only stood with the University of Miami during this unprecedented challenge, but subsequently volunteered for the mission," Golden wrote in a statement. "They shouldered the burden, exhibited class and exemplified perseverance for Hurricanes everywhere.  

"Further, I would like to express heartfelt appreciation to our staff and families who did not subscribe to this challenge three years ago, yet courageously adopted it as their own. They have brought the utmost professionalism, resiliency and integrity to our program. More importantly, they continue to recruit and represent our world-class institution with class and dignity in unprecedented circumstance.

"Lastly, it is with gratitude and humility that I say thank you to our administration, U Family everywhere and the entire South Florida Community for their unyielding support of our young men and program over the last 28 months."

Much like the University of Southern California case with Reggie Bush and OJ Mayo, this revolved around retroactively punishing a program for deeds.

None of the players listed in the document remain on the team. In fact, most of the impermissible benefits occurred from 2002 to 2010. Freshman wide receiver Stacy Coley, for instance, was just 7 years old in 2002.

Though this mainly affects the football and men’s basketball programs, all sports must take heed. Any staff member who sends an impermissible text to a prospect will be fined a minimum of $100 per message and coaches will be suspended from all recruiting activities for a week.

In the USC situation, the punishment could be deemed far worse. The Trojans felt the loss of 10 football scholarships per year during a three-year stretch.

"Each case is unique and no doubt folks will have a (difference in opinion of) whether the penalties were too severe or too light in perspective," Britton said. "We don't put cases up against each other because of the nature of each case."

It appears as though the NCAA has turned to individual responsibility rather than institutional-wide punishment as evidenced by its decision to allow Penn State to progressively increase its scholarship total and Tuesday’s announcement.

This resolution not only affects outcomes on the playing field, but also the University of Miami as a whole -- from its reputation to donations.

This fall Miami welcomed new student activities and athletic centers. Leading up to September's showdown with in-state rival Florida, a "Beat UF banner" hung from the student center.

Around campus Tuesday, students wore orange and green in support of their school. Since its public launch in February 2012, more than $1 billion has been raised in contributions for UM's breakthrough Momentum2 campaign.

"Through the entire investigation our fundraising was more successful and the quality of the student body and faculty improved each year," Shalala responded in an email to FoxSportsFlorida.com. "Our supporters stuck with us."

During a five-minute stretch when the news broke and media were allowed to watch practice, one thing was quite clear: The program finally has its closure.

As the University of Miami's campaign has proclaimed over the months, Full Speed Ahead.

Christina De Nicola can be contacted at cdenicola13@gmail.com
or on Twitter @CDeNicola13.