Yahoo's promised 10 of 10 is here, and about three hours too late to inform my Miami season preview with useful information like "half the team might be suspended so don't get too used to that depth chart." (Seriously, don't. Most of the 12 current Hurricanes listed on Yahoo's little black book list are starters.) The Charles Robinson piece on Miami and Nevin Shapiro is both shocking and completely not a surprise at all. That this goes on in college football shouldn't surprise you; that this would turn up at Miami should surprise you even less.** Somehow, Shapiro's fanboi-style boosterism managed to stand out even in a city infamous for its egomaniacal excess; that is probably the surprising thing.
Shapiro is the kind of person that my Midwestern ways cause me to hate more than any other person in sports short of a match-fixer. He is, or comes across as, a short little Napoleon loser who bought all his friends, and looks in the mirror and sees a Really Big Deal, and made a complete ruinous mess of things purely to feed his Miami-sized ego. Pretty much all the players involved are or were starters with well-known names. Shapiro didn't seem to have much interest in you if you rode the pine. In other words, he doesn't just fit a stereotype, he is a stereotype. Practically a cariacature. I'm glad he's talking, though, even if his motivations continue to be 110% about Nevin Shapiro.
Now that it's all out there, the college football world is going to be doing some real self-evaluation. I'm not here to try and revolutionize how the NCAA deals with boosterism run amok and the very difficult question of amateurism. Instead, a more local concern. What does the ACC do?
The problem we face now is that two of our higher-profile programs have been caught red-handed with the kind of thing that's been assumed to be mainly an SEC problem til recently. UNC's was kind of run-of-the-mill in a way: a couple parties, and a coach running for agents. (This latter should mean a hammer, but no more so than, say, Oregon for paying another runner with school money.) Miami's problems are run-of-the-mill*** too, or they would be if one or two players were named. We'd cluck about amateurism, make a Miami joke or two, assume there's more that won't come to light, and watch as the NCAA reaches for the book but instead throws a small pamphlet at them, and life goes on.
The problem is the scale. One or two or even seven (as Ohio State is proving) players, you can get away with, without too much real NCAA-inflicted damage. When 72 players over nine years are getting the pimp treatment, as all the while the school happily accepts equally as much cash from the same guy (that picture of Donna Shalala greedily eyeing the $50,000 Ponzi-money check is one of the funniest things ever seen in an NCAA football scandal), the scope of the problem is too big for the NCAA to just go through its motions.
Because typically when something like this has come out - Ohio State, UNC, etc. - the death penalty is called for by fans who will not, can not, imagine anything different for a program that is clearly out of control. I usually remind people what it took to get SMU the death penalty, which was really, truly outrageous stuff: school paying players from a school-run fund, NCAA said stop, SMU didn't stop, etc. Morehouse soccer is another great example. The death penalty is essentially for programs that wouldn't exist, or wouldn't be achieving the success they're having, without flaunting the rulebook.
My usual argument against the death penalty holds much less water here. Doesn't Miami at least in some ways fit this bill? They've been a good program for something like thirty years, at least half of which have been found to be tainted by the likes of Luther Campbell, and now, Nevin Shapiro. Isn't it fair to say a great deal of their success is based on the fact that their players have generally tended to live lavish, booster-funded lifestyles on party boats and in penthouses and nightclubs? SMU is a great example of what it takes to earn the death penalty, but it's not a minimum, either.
Ultimately, I don't see the death penalty happening, though. That's a big red button that the NCAA is loath to press, and I doubt they will here, either. But I think we're about to find out what the NCAA has in store between the death penalty and the usual array of bowl bans and scholarship losses. And that's where the ACC comes in.
What the conference ought to be doing is putting together a dedicated task force, tasked with investigating the ramifications of kicking the University of Miami out of the ACC entirely. After all, Miami was invited essentially at the height of the Shapiro heyday, and that has to put some egg on the face of the engineers of that expansion. It wouldn't be a decision to take lightly; the consequences could be pretty severe for the conference. In light of the idea that a few of its members may be looking for greener pastures, it probably wouldn't be wise to further exacerbate a potential suddenly-not-enough-members problem. And Miami, if booted, could well be snapped up by the SEC, get clear of its sanctions, and in ten years be making the ACC look really stupid for having shown them the door. And surely they couldn't easily boot Miami without having a replacement lined up.
And I could well be overreacting. I've done that before, with you-feel-silly-now-don't-you results. Nevertheless, it needs to be on the table as a serious option. It would be one hell of a deterrent, at least for ACC programs and maybe for those in other conferences too, if the precedent were set that extreme violations lead to full consequences and not just a little from column A and a little from column B. Kicking out Miami should especially be a serious option if it can be found that the Miami brass was compliant in this. We're halfway to that already: there're all kinds of pictures of Shapiro hanging out with Miami people from assistant coaches all the way up to the president, the guy was on the field half the time, hell, led the team out from the big smoky helmet a couple times. If we didn't have that I probably wouldn't bring this idea up, but there it is. The ACC needs to get busy and find out just how much the Miami brass was into this and take its own steps to restore the conference's integrity, since we're talking about basically the same brass that helped negotiate Miami's entry in the first place. If that means a future minus the Miami Hurricanes, so be it.
**This is only partly directed at the university itself and more so toward the kind of lifestyle that can be had in the city.
***Me calling this kind of thing "run-of-the-mill" is not a good reflection on the kind of things that've come out of the woodwork in the past couple years.
Some other quick notes:
-- The 48-0 thrashing of the Canes at the Orange Bowl is easily one of my top three favorite football games of that decade. I don't know about you but I'm kind of pleased to see the legend of the game get added to a little with the backstory that Nevin Shapiro was trying his damndest to beat the shit out of the Miami compliance director at halftime. If nothing else, the idea that one of their biggest boosters thought the compliance director - and his pesky damn rules - were the biggest obstacle to Miami success....shouldn't that have raised like ten thousand red flags? "This team sucks because I can't pay players enough and you won't let me break NCAA rules to make them better!" P.S. - that happened in the press box, how is this the first we're hearing of this??
-- Wetzel's article itself isn't bad, but "Why Miami is in trouble" is the dumbest fucking headline in the history of headlines.
-- USC is feeling pretty justifiably gypped, since the guy who laid down their punishment is the same guy who "oversaw" most of the Shapiro era at Miami. But aren't the real victims in this, Terrelle Pryor and his buddies? Miami players were living it up on yachts and in the VIP sections of nightclubs and in fancy mansions with paid-for strippers and hookers and suits and all the trappings of a hip-hip music video. Ohio State's guys were hanging out in the back room of a seedy tattoo parlor in a shitty section of Columbus, Ohio.
-- Speaking of Ohio State, there are only like four or five (million) subplots now for that Miami-OSU clash this September, aren't there? Loser gets the death penalty? Is anyone even going to be eligible to play in it? Catchy names: the Suspension Bowl. The Bylaw Bowl. The Celebration of Amateurism Classic.
-- Yesterday I ran my season preview of Miami and look what happened. I have North Carolina planned for tomorrow. So look out.