Miami avoids bowl ban, loses scholarships
Miami's football program will not receive a bowl ban but will lose nine total scholarships over the next three years as part of sanctions imposed by the NCAA on Tuesday.
Thanks to "unprecedented" self-imposed sanctions, the Miami Hurricanes escaped additional harsh penalties from the NCAA as the Nevin Shapiro scandal presumably drew to a close Tuesday.
Miami will not face any additional bowl bans, clearing the way for the No. 7 Hurricanes (6-0) to participate in the postseason this year. Miami will lose nine scholarships total over the next three years, and the entire athletic program has been placed on three years' probation.
Additionally, the men's basketball program will lose three scholarships. Former Miami coach Frank Haith, who is now at Missouri, will be suspended five games. Former assistant coaches Jorge Fernandez (basketball), Clint Hurtt (football) and Aubrey Hill (football) will receive two-year show-cause penalties.
Miami had already self-imposed bowl bans over the last two years, keeping the Hurricanes out of the ACC title game in 2012 as well. Those self-imposed sanctions, along with cooperation during the prolonged NCAA investigation into widespread allegations, helped Miami avoid major penalties.
UM also had minimized how many football scholarships they offered this past year in a strategic move, but athletic director Blake James said it's unclear how -- if at all -- that will be taken into consideration by the NCAA as it relates to the scholarship reductions.
Britton Banowsky, chair of the NCAA Committee on Infractions and commissioner of Conference USA, said it is hard to compare infractions cases against each other but that what Miami did throughout the investigation stood out.
"Each case is unique. No doubt folks will have a difference of opinion on whether the penalties were too severe or too light," Banowsky said on a conference call. "We don't put cases against each other based on the unique nature of each case. In this case, we felt the institution's self-imposed penalties were significant and unprecedented. The level of cooperation in the case was commendable. Those were factors that weighed into the committee's thinking."
Blake also said that Miami has given expanded education to boosters, limited sideline access and eliminated the "occasional" meal for boosters and student-athletes that is allowed by NCAA rules.
Even though the NCAA said Miami lacked "institutional control" when it came to monitoring Shapiro, the university will accept the decision and does not plan to appeal.
"I would say to those that view this as light or as a win or however they look at it, to stand in front of a group of 115 young men and tell them they're not playing in an ACC championship or a bowl," James said in an interview with ESPN.com. "Or to sit down an individual and tell them they're not going to be able to play in a game or in X number of games. Or to have the cloud of uncertainty over your program and have all the speculation and stories and the things that go on while that's sitting out there to deal with. It was significant.
"That's why we took the significant steps we did. Nine scholarships is significant in football. Three scholarships is significant in basketball. Taking it as seriously as we did from the start put us in the position where a lot of the sanctions are now in the past. We've done the things we need to do to move full speed ahead as soon as we got to this point. I think we're there. We recognize there's a lot of lessons we learned that will continue on with us and we've still got some significant sanctions left that we'll have to deal with."
Football coach Al Golden added his appreciation for his players and their families for standing strong during such a long, trying ordeal.
"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 said 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."
The looming sanctions for Miami were of great interest to, among others, USC's football program. Two years ago the Trojans received a two-year bowl ban and lost 30 scholarships over a three-year period related to the Reggie Bush case. It was one of the stiffest punishments ever handed down by the NCAA.
On Tuesday, USC athletic director Pat Haden tweeted his thoughts comparing the punishments.
USC AD Pat Haden on NCAA's Miami decision: "We have always felt that our penalties were too harsh. This decision only bolsters that view."— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) October 22, 2013
The NCAA decision comes nearly four years after Miami first notified the NCAA in November 2009 of an internal investigation into potential violations. It also comes eight months after the NCAA said the Hurricanes did not "exercise institutional control" over Shapiro's interactions with the school's football and men's basketball teams.
Shapiro is a former booster and convicted felon, serving a 20-year sentence for masterminding a $930 million Ponzi scheme.
It also took four months for the committee on infractions to issue its ruling, after meeting with Miami officials to discuss the case in June in Indianapolis. Generally, rulings are handed down six to eight weeks after these meetings.
"Typically, we're able to turn around reports in a six- to eight-week period of time, which is what we hoped to do," Banowsky said. "Unfortunately, the case not only lasted three-plus years in the investigation stage but also had a lot of complexities to it that were extraordinary. The sheer volume of the case was enormous, so our first responsibility is to do the best we can to understand the case record and to get it right. We like to do it in a rapid way as well, but that's not always possible."
Overall, the case involved 18 general allegations of misconduct, with 79 issues within those allegations. The investigation included 118 interviews with 81 individuals. But about 20 percent of information that was obtained was thrown out because it was improperly obtained. Banowsky said that had no bearing on the final ruling.
The NCAA issued a 102-page report detailing its findings.
Shapiro gained access to the athletic department first as a booster, then made inroads with assistant coaches and student-athletes. He hosted parties for student-athletes and recruits at his home, on his yacht, at local bowling alleys and in strip clubs. The NCAA found he provided improper benefits to student-athletes by paying for meals, hotels for girlfriends, meals for family members, and buying clothes and Christmas gifts for children of some student-athletes.
In its report, the NCAA said Shapiro "took no apparent steps to understand the NCAA rules or conform his conduct to them."
Hurtt, who was Miami's recruiting coordinator from 2007-09 and is now an assistant at Louisville, will remain on the Cardinals' staff despite his involvement in the NCAA's case against Miami, a source told ESPN's Brett McMurphy.
"Clint's penalties will continue throughout this academic year, and the institution will continue to ensure that he remains 'a model citizen' within the football program," Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich said Tuesday. "Clint's actions in the Miami case were significant, and any similar activities here will not be tolerated."
The NCAA decision will affect all of Miami athletics in one way -- in all sports, any staff member who sends an impermissible text to a prospect will be fined a minimum of $100 per message, and coaches involved will be suspended from recruiting activities for seven days.
"I'm pleased that this case has finally been brought to conclusion and that the University of Miami can now move forward," ACC commissioner John Swofford said in a statement. "As I've said all along, Miami's cooperation throughout this process, under the tremendous leadership of president Donna Shalala, should be commended, and I'm glad the NCAA recognized and appreciated the self-imposed efforts that were at such a significant level."
Joe Schad of ESPN and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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