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Posted at 08:57 AM ET, 08/17/2011

Amid NCAA investigation, Miami’s season opener against Maryland takes on different look

The story line for the Labor Day night season opener between Maryland and Miami was a pretty good one: two head coaches making their debuts at their respective schools. Scrap that narrative.

The slow trickle of details regarding a scandal at Miami has now given way to a tsunami of allegations contained in the explosive, exhaustive expose by Charles Robinson, the chief investigative reporter at Yahoo! Sports who conducted an 11-month investigation into a former booster’s relationship with the school’s athletes.

This is a bombshell. Robinson conducted 100 hours of jailhouse interviews with Nevin Shapiro, a former Miami booster serving a 20-year prison sentence for masterminding a $930 million Ponzi scheme. Shapiro told Yahoo! Sports that he provided impermissible benefits — including money, yacht trips, jewelry, prostitutes and other gifts and services — to 72 former or current Miami football players. If there is something more damning for the Hurricanes, it is this: Seven former Miami coaches in football and basketball, including former hoops Coach Frank Haith (now the head coach at Missouri) allegedly were aware of at least some of Shapiro’s behavior.

Some thoughts on the scandal:

In 1995, Sports Illustrated had that famous cover with the words, “Why the University of Miami should drop football.” Some are speculating that the so-called Death Penalty, imposed just once in history (against Southern Methodist in the late 1980s), would be appropriate this time if the NCAA deems Miami a repeat violator. The violations are alleged to have occurred between 2002 and 2010, so it also will be interesting to see if the four-year statute of limitations rule comes into play. NCAA President Mark Emmert vowed during the Final Four that there would be more severe penalties for rule breakers. We shall see.

Randy Edsall was reportedly a finalist for the Miami job. Imagine if he had wound up in Coral Gables instead of College Park. And you have to feel for first-year Miami coaches Al Golden in football and Jim Larranaga in basketball. Both, but especially Golden, are dealing with the mother lode of scandals. Penalties could be particularly harsh if the NCAA affirms even just some of the allegations with help from the bank and credit card statements Shapiro is turning over. Both Golden and Larranaga could see their programs punished even though both were employed elsewhere when the violations allegedly occurred. In Larranaga’s case, he left George Mason, which would have been near a top 25 team had the roster remained the same, for the money and challenge of the ACC in Miami. Now his program has been swept up in a storm.

Consider Paul Dee, the former Miami athletic director, was the chair of the infractions committee during the Southern California/Reggie Bush case and who said, “High-profile players demand high-profile compliance.” Now he is confronted with a situation where many of these alleged violations occurred right under his nose, and some coaches who were employed at Miami are said to have at least been aware of the violations.

For Maryland fans, two issues: It is always tricky to speculate on potential penalties, but it should surprise no one if Miami self-imposes a postseason ban this season before the NCAA rules on the case. An NCAA ruling, clearly, is a long, long way off. That would mean Miami would be one ACC team that Maryland wouldn’t have to worry about stealing its bowl slot.

The big question is what type of team Golden will field on Labor Day night. Twelve current Miami players are named in the report. Decisions at Miami will have to be made about their eligibility while the investigation ensues. The players:

QB Jacory Harris

S Ray-Ray Armstrong

WR Travis Benjamin

LB Sean Spence

DT Marcus Forston

S Vaughn Telemaque

DE/LB Dyron Dye

WR Aldarius Johnson

DE Oliver Vernon

CB JoJo Nicolas

DE Adewale Ojomo

DE/LB Marcus Robinson

And, finally, the renegade days of Miami football were the in the 1980s and early 1990s and were almost glorified in the great ESPN documentary “The U.” Miami football between 2002 and 2010, when these violations allegedly occurred, were considered the relatively “cleaner” years in the program’s history. If this is cleaner, no one wants to see dirty.

Between the ongoing money grab by university presidents nationwide looking for the most lucrative conference affiliation to the number of scandals popping up at high-profile football and basketball programs, raise your hand if you think the system is not broken.

By  |  08:57 AM ET, 08/17/2011

 
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