Staring Into the NCAA Sanctions Abyss, Why Miami Won't Fall In

Streeter Lecka

With the Canes “staring into the abyss” of NCAA sanctions I thought I’d take a moment to share my journey over the years as an alum and long time Canes fan and member of the #CanesFam to remind many that we've been through this before. We will finally have resolution after 798 days or 114 weeks since Yahoo dropped the Nevin bomb on Coral Gables with the NCAA completely botching its investigation using quasi-illegal tactics along the way. Tomorrow at 10am brings closure and relief and will allow our University to heal.

As someone who spent his college days at and received his diploma from the University of Miami (Class of 1989) I experienced firsthand arguably the brightest times of our young championship pedigree.  After losing my very first home game to the Gators in 1985 I was spoiled watching the Canes go on to win EVERY football home game for the rest of my 4 years in Coral Gables.  I arrived on campus the fall of 85, just after the Canes baseball team had won the College World Series and the football team was only two years removed from its first national championship.  This would be sports paradise for most enthusiasts but with the resurrection of the Miami basketball team the same year made my freshman year was absolutely nirvana for me.  From that point on I could feel in the air that brashness and confidence we now call swagger all around campus and especially at the athletic department.  Shortly after my orientation I got a lucky break to be one of 4 student managers for the budding new basketball team (hired then by ESPN commentator and 22 year head coach Seth Greenberg @sethonhoops) . I quickly found myself having a greater appreciation just how much hard work, sweat and effort college athletes pour into their craft, which left me with a bond to UM athletics that has only gotten strong to this day.

When the dark day happened in 1991, Dan LeBetard, a UM alumnus and newbie sports reporter at the Miami Herald turned on his alma mater and exposed the Canes for the now infamous Pell Grant scandal.  After a 3 year investigation (sound familiar) the NCAA imposed sanctions of one bowl game (1995) and 31 scholarships over 1996-1998.  When the news broke, I like every other diehard Canes alum and fan experienced the Kübler-Ross 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and eventually acceptance.  The air of invincibility we had felt for over a decade had been shattered leaving us to wonder if we'd ever be able to recover from this and get back to our championship ways again.  When Butch Davis came on board it seemed to be a daunting task but despite the grueling years that were to come the resolve of the school, its students, the athletes, its alumni and fans was far stronger than any sanctions.  We now know what happened next, Davis was able to work magic with those reduced numbers and assemble what was arguably the greatest college football team to take the field in the history of the sport.  After Davis left for the NFL, his protégé Larry Coker took this team of future NFL talent to its 5th national title in under 20 years and the Canes had come full circle.

Fast forward to just over 3 years ago when the "dwarf who shall remain nameless" was arrested for a massive billion dollar ponzi scheme.  When the athletes he sucked up to wouldn't stand by his side, he decided to inflict revenge by telling extensive tales to Yahoo sports.  I'm not going to defend UM's athletes and coaches because there is some measure of guilt for sure but this has been debated ad nausea.  The penalties UM has paid along those 3 plus years include numerous player suspensions in football and basketball, 2 forfeited bowl game invitations, 1 forfeited ACC championship game appearance (which would have been Miami's first ever), 34 lost practices and a likely trip to March Madness in 2012 due to the player suspensions.

There is a famous line in the move "Wall Street" that sums up how I and many others feel right now: "Man looks in the abyss, there's nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss" Now all alums, athletes, fans and supporters stand collectively with The U as we look one last time into the abyss tomorrow at 10am, only this time given all we've withstood before our strong character will again keep us out of the abyss.  Tomorrow we will have resolution and a new beginning and the healing can once again begin.

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