Unprecedented: adjective - without previous instance; never before known or experienced; unexampled or unparalleled: an unprecedented event.
The Miami Hurricanes football team is no stranger to the word. From nothing to a decade long powerhouse of college football. A 58 game home winning streak. The most draftees in the first round of the NFL draft (6). The most consecutive years with a first round draft pick (14). Most consecutive years having the most selections in the first round of the NFL draft (4). Most consecutive weeks a former Hurricane scored a touchdown in the NFL (149).
The team now enters into a new stage, into a wholly different level of unprecedented with the announced move that they will self-impose a second consecutive bowl ban in lieu of possibly winning the Coastal division, playing in the ACC Championship Game, and the, albeit slight, chance of an Orange Bowl trip. Sure, schools have self-imposed before, and the NCAA has handed out multiple years of bowl bans, but no school has chosen to do it willingly. This decision will certainly be met with hate, condemnation of our administration, confusion, and questions of why. This is all fine and normal and expected. Once the dust settles, though, there's really only two sides of the coin here that the admins had to look at: short term success, or long term normalcy.
In the short term, the team was on the cusp of doing something no other Miami team had ever done since joining the ACC. They were heading to Durham to face Duke for the chance to play for the ACC title, which would give them a second shot at rival FSU for the chance to head to a bigger bowl game, national exposure, and a level of football success that hadn't been approached in years. Imposing a bowl ban ruins all of that, and most people (myself included), figured that the administration would at least wait until after the Duke game was played to make the decision. Quite a few fans decided that playing for these chances was more important than helping to shore up the future of the program in light of the possible NCAA sanctions. On some level, I and others agreed. We had already forgone one bowl, would another one even help? Let these kids play for what they've earned. Let them have the fun of playing for a title game, for many in their last years, for many more in the first.
The school had a tough choice here, because I am sure that the pull from the fans, and players, weighed heavily on their minds. A few of them were already living in not so favorable light amongst former players and alums, and this decision would either go a long way in helping to repair that image, or it would do quite a bit to further ostracize themselves. However, they also had to look at the situation from the perspective of people whose job it is to protect the football program, the University, and it's players. Long term decisions are best made with that mindset. Making these types of choices based off of current rosters and current results is a dangerous thing to do, period. What these seniors and this roster did this year was fantastic. They exceeded the expectations of almost everyone except themselves, and while there was certainly hiccups, obstacles, and issues on both sides of the ball, they found ways to win games.
As great as all of that is, this is a long term decision, and while it leads to huge disappointment amongst fans and players alike, this was the right choice.
Before you lose your minds in the comments, look at the big picture here. Miami has been in the middle of this scandal for around 20 months. They could have easily announced that they planned on imposing consecutive bowl bans in an attempt to placate the NCAA, but instead they chose to allow the seasons to play out before making their choice. While this is infuriating, it does lead to speculation that perhaps they had an inkling that doing so would help in the long run. Perhaps they were told in no certain terms that a second bowl ban would, in fact, help their cause, and that it should be done. If the administration were flying blind on this one, one would think the decision would have been made much sooner than it was. The other way of looking at it is to say that they did not want to impact recruiting, or the current rosters, but telling kids everywhere ahead of time that they planned on not playing in the bowl game for a few years. This would have certainly impacted the way that Golden was able to recruit. Again, though, this would have been a decision based on potential players, ones that certainly aren't guaranteed to begin with. I choose to believe that they were passed a note that told them this would be the correct decision to make, and they followed it.
What this choice also does is minimize the effects of possible transfers. While the decision was not made with this in mind, it is an added benefit. Had Miami stuck with the single bowl ban, and the NCAA come down with a further two year bowl ban, then juniors and seniors on the team would be allowed to transfer without penalty. In this case, if the NCAA chooses to add a third bowl ban, that rule only applies to the current senior class. The hope, though, is that imposing this second bowl ban will limit the penalties to scholarship reductions, financial penalties, and possible actions on former coaches and assistants.
This move allows the school to finally start moving past this scandal. The last remaining piece to the puzzle is the decision of the NCAA. Once that comes down, we will all know where things stand, and we can adjust and work past it. Self-imposing two years of bowl bans is a hard decision to make, but it is one that is necessary. It is basically ripping the band-aid off of your leg as quickly as possible. It hurts and it sucks at first, but it allows the scab to begin healing. The bottom line here is that even with this move, even with the choice to remove the Canes from bowl contention two years in a row, we still have no idea what the NCAA has planned. You could say that if the Canes are choosing to self-impose 2 bowl bans, that something big is coming and they are doing what they can to mitigate it. Then again, if that was the case, then you would assume that they would be self-imposing scholarship reductions as well, or possibly including the basketball team in the process? Editor's Note: According to Blake James, interim AD, there will be no self-imposed sanctions on the basketball program. You could also say that they were given an idea of what was coming, and this decision was made with that outline in mind, and that it made the most sense to take away this year's bowl as well. There are a lot of moving parts here, and being in the position to have to make that decision is certainly not enviable.
As far as the team goes, and I don't know if any of them read this stuff, but they should be damned proud of themselves. They played their hearts out, and they accomplished more than most people thought they would. They showed everyone what type of force they are going to be going forward. Defenses are already not looking forward to having to account for Duke Johnson for another 2 or 3 years. Offensive players are not excited about the young line backers that are lining up, ready to break you. Deon Bush is showing flashes of becoming an all-world player in the next few years. This team went out there, they bought in to the process, and they learned. They started building the foundation for the next few years, brick by brick, and it worked. Did it work well enough as some may have hoped? No. Were there plenty of struggles along the way? Absolutely. The outline is there, however. There are just a few more dots that need to be connected, and this team will be on its way back to winning. There will be disappointment amongst the ranks, and many will be upset that everything they worked for has been taken away. What they, and all of us, need to remember is that you cannot take yourself out of a bowl game if you aren't eligible in the first place. No one wants to take the field and strive to get to the point that you can forfeit, but that is the situation the school is in. It's an unfortunate one, but it's what we all were going to live with this year. The boys did their jobs. They went out and played hard. They practiced hard, week in and week out.
The seniors on the team should be upset, and should be hurt that they don't have a chance to play in a bowl. That they're careers as Canes will end with an all but meaningless game against Duke. But they should also be happy to know that for most of them, their careers will not be defined by this ban. They had nothing to do with these sanctions, or the situation the school is in. While that makes it that much worse that they are being punished for it, it also means that they can move on knowing that they did the best they could with the time they had, in the face of these sanctions, and they came out with a winning season. If they beat Duke on Saturday, we will all know what that means, even if the conference and the record books fail to recognize it.
Win Saturday, win the Coastal, and don't let anyone tell you that you didn't.