Back in August of this year, Charles Robinson of Yahoo! met with Nevin Shapiro in his prison cell, and was given loads of information on illicit parties, payments, and activities that he provided to current and former Miami players. The report dropped, and once everybody read through it, it was deemed one of if not the most egregious examples of collegiate scandal in NCAA history. Then the hyperbole started flying like flies on a trash can. Would Miami be the next SMU and get the death penalty? What would happen with the current players? How much did Coach Golden know? Who ultimately is to blame?
It's been almost 5 months since then, and what started out as a mob-like uproar has dwindled down to a few peeps here and there while we wait on the NCAA to play this thing out. Well, late last night/early this morning Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) was given a Miami Herald story that may have just brought this whole scandal down to a level more on par with Ohio State.
Before I begin, let me start by saying that this is all my opinion based on what I know of the scandal, what I read in the Miami Herald article, and my own common sense. I, and everyone else, must keep a bit of a level head with this and realize that the NCAA does not care about consistency, logic, or anything else that you would expect from a competently run non-profit organization that is in charge of thousands upon thousands of teenagers. That being said, its completely understandable to be pretty damn excited by the Herald's story if you are a Miami fan.
I'm going to summarize what the article says, but if you would like to read it for yourself, the full thing can be found here: Miami Herald Story (Written by Barry Jackson). Basically what we are hearing is that the University of Miami and the trustee in charge of recouping money from Shapiro to pay back his victims have reached a settlement that guarantees no former Miami players listed in Shapiro's report will have to testify in court. The school is paying the trustee $83,000 dollars, which includes repayments by the current players who served suspensions during the 2011 season. This settlement is not a dollar for dollar amount, as the article states, but is based more on what would realistically and legally be able to be recouped had no settlement been reached. What this settlement means is that not only do former players not have to talk to the NCAA if they don't want to, but now there will be no legally binding record that the NCAA could use in its investigation either.
Simply put, when it comes to the NCAA's investigation into the former players, those players don't have to say a thing. This leaves the NCAA with very few options as far as acting on the allegations put forth by Shapiro. The most glaring issue this poses for the NCAA, is it puts them in a position where they have to decide if they are going to punish Miami based on the word of a convicted felon alone. I believe that if Shapiro had any hard proof of the things he says he did, it would have come out by now in some form other than a Robinson Yahoo! story. While it is completely feasible that the NCAA would decide there is enough in that report to punish the university, I find it hard to believe that they would willingly believe a jailed, convicted felon of the second largest Ponzi scheme in history, based on nothing but his almost non-existent credibility alone. There is also the little matter of the NCAA's statute of limitations. I would bet that almost 90% if not more of the allegations in the Shapiro report fell outside of those limitations, meaning that by the book, the NCAA cannot act on them. However, they do have a clause that would allow them to waive said limitations, if the situation warrants it. The fact that they will now most likely not have any hard proof of anything outside of the current players makes it extremely hard to believe that they would be able to justify invoking that clause.
To make things better for Miami, the only guys that the NCAA seems to have proof of regarding taking illegal benefits have already paid the money back themselves and served suspensions. On top of that, the school voluntarily forfeited any bowl game they would have gone to this season, citing the ongoing investigation as their reason. Now, with news of this voluntary settlement, it appears that Miami has truly gotten out ahead of this thing and done everything possible to make themselves look good in the eyes of the NCAA. Unlike Ohio State, who tried denying everything, then only fired one person responsible, then sat back and waited for the NCAA to tell them what was going to happen, Miami is handling everything in house in an attempt to lighten the punishment.
All of this is pure speculation, because we won't know anything official until the NCAA rules, but looking over it all and applying a bit of logic leads me to only one conclusion: any penalties given to Miami would have to be on par with or less than Ohio State, given the actions the school has already taken and the information the NCAA has. There will be plenty of people who will absolutely hate this if it happens, solely because they would love to see the Hurricanes buried. The fact is is that while the story that came out of that prison cell was heinous, disgusting, and infuriating, it all took place long before the NCAA had the power to do anything about it. So sit tight, Canes fans, because while the roller coaster ride isn't quite over yet, it certainly seems like we have passed all of the inversions we will see.