Should Miami Hurricanes Football Receive the Death Penalty?
Scandal rocks storied south Florida football program.
The University of Miami may be faced with what was once the unthinkable: the NCAA, which regulates college football, may force the school to shut down its football program. The Hurricanes, one of the top football programs in the nation over the past quarter-century, has pushed the scandal envelope too far for even soft pedaling critics to ignore its problems for too long.
At the center of the current controversy are a number of violations committed, any one of which could strip the program of scholarships, bowl appearances or force it to endure other restrictions. However, the controversy is much deeper and more widespread than taking one or two major hits. Talk is stewing that the school’s football program should be ended, because of millions of dollars of improper benefits offered to more than 60 players since 2001.
Those “benefits” included cash, access to prostitutes, free jewelry, clothing and electronic devices, yacht trips and visits to strip clubs among other violations. The most egregious violations, however, has to do with alleged complicity involving at least four assistant coaches and three staff members who had direct knowledge of the goings on and even steered some high school players in the direction of convicted felon Nicholas Shapiro who funded the scandal.
Shapiro operated without impunity for eight years from 2001 to 2009, operating an illegal and illicit campaign that appears much worse than what regulators discovered was going on with Southern Methodist University in the mid-1980s. That school tolerated a scandal involving members of the athletic department that allowed a slush fund to operate whereby football players received upwards of $700 per month to play for the Mustangs.
Once the NCAA learned about the SMU scandal, it stripped the school of 60 scholarships over a four-year period and canceled its 1987 season. The university responded by canceling its 1988 season and accepted the loss of television appearances and bowl bids through 1989. Effectively, the NCAA sanctions killed off the Mustangs’ football program which took years to recover. Indeed, it was only in 2009 that SMU was able to field a football team good enough to be invited to a bowl game, representing its first post season appearance since 1984.
The Miami scandal is like a hurricane ready to wash across the school’s campus. If the NCAA finds that the allegations are true, it could force the school to cancel its football program for a season, effectively ending the Miami program as eligible players leave and as potential recruits look elsewhere. Canceling one season would force the school’s ACC opponents to scramble to fill their schedules.
Al Golden, who is taking over the Hurricanes football program this season with a group of new assistants, may find that his stint with the school is short-lived. In any case, Miami is likely to lose out on a chance to play in a lucrative post season bowl game this year before additional penalties kick in.