This was The U, crystallized in memory. This program changed the sports world – collegiate, pro or otherwise – whether you liked it or not.
This is The U, crystallized in the present. Oh boy …
One year ago last week, the University of Miami was embroiled in what was called the biggest scandal in NCAA history. Yahoo! Sports’ Charles Robinson launched a journalistic nuke with a lengthy, detailed investigation of former booster Nevin Shapiro, who had provided benefits to scores of players between 2002 and 2010 before being imprisoned for his part in a nearly billion-dollar Ponzi scheme.
As if the on-field product hadn’t already been through the ringer with a coaching change, the lack of impact players and a still-shuffling conference.
(Note: In relation to on the field/player matters, it’s still the biggest ever, whereas what happened with Penn State did not directly correlate with any player.)
As someone who has always kept an eye on the Hurricanes, the last 10 years since Terry Porter’s belated pass interference call are arguably the epitome of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly in college football. After a 6-6 first season under Al Golden, there’s an acceptance that this team won’t contend for even the ACC Coastal title any time soon thanks to what Shapiro and others have wrought.
There’s got to be something to throw up the “U” for, right?
The Good: What good is there in rebuilding? Ever the optimist, there’s some when it comes to the youth. In sports, I’ll take a young squad willing to learn through trial by fire over a veteran one that’s too stubborn to fix its own mistakes. Since it’s going to be this way for a while, now’s a good time to see what will emerge from the skill positions on offense. I’m intrigued by the running game because of the highly touted Duke Johnson. The ‘Canes were a middle of the pack offense last year, and that can immediately change for the better if he’s as good as believed. We don’t know if he’ll follow in the same lineage as Edgerrin James, Willis McGahee, Clinton Portis and Frank Gore, but with a yet-to-threaten receiver corps and the questions around quarterback Stephen Morris, it’ll be interesting to see how a potentially star freshman asserts himself on an already young team.
Defensive end Anthony Chickillo is a beast in the making. With nine games as a true frosh under his belt, he’ll almost be a veteran on a changing defensive line. He doesn’t stop moving, and the third-generation ‘Cane may emerge as one of the premier defenders in the ACC before the season ends.
The Bad: Just because the Jacory Harris era is over doesn’t mean that uneven play under center is. Stephen Morris is going to start the season when the team travels to Boston College. He’s not Matt Barkley. Actually, he’s not Harris, either. On top of back surgery in the spring (it may not have been a big deal, but it’s still his back) and not having thrown a touchdown in two years, the "bad" in this case is about uncertainty.
The Ugly: What if everything went to hell in a handbasket, Ed asked earlier this week?
Heh. That’s funny. I’ll laugh to keep from crying.
Outside of Coral Gables, if anyone thought that the NCAA forgot about the Shapiro scandal, they’re insane. At some point, Mark Emmert is going to hand down sanctions against the program, and though the school suspended some players and declined a bowl game last year to placate Indianapolis, we know that what Ohio State and USC got in recent years will be relatively tame in comparison. So, you can guarantee that the ‘Canes won’t go bowling for a while.
Notice not a mention of the schedule or actual players for “The Ugly.” That’s because if the punishment comes down before the end of September … heck, the end of August … neither will matter much.
The Prediction: Thirty years ago, a philosopher, Clubber Lang, was once asked about a prediction. It’s probably the most appropriate response to a question in history, and terrifyingly appropriate now.
"Pain" in this case is going to be long and drawn out. Ohio State knew that it would be in for some hurt, but with Urban Meyer in tow, the Buckeyes are just biding their time until they can aim for a Big Ten crown and national title. USC and the game’s greatest hustler, Lane Kiffin, took their two-year ban in stride, knowing that they’d re-emerge as the 2012 favorite in quick order.
Those programs at least knew that pain was temporary. Miami, however, doesn’t have a clue about what hell will descend upon it. At least if there was an idea, Al Golden could recruit and coach with his eyes toward a certain immediate future.
Alas, if you love “The U,” it’s almost as if Nevin Shapiro is still talking to Charles Robinson right now.
At best, the Hurricanes notch a 7-5 season (5-3 in conference), but no bowl game.
Jason is the editor-in-chief here at TSFJ. In addition to a past life as a research analyst in advertising, television and online media, he spent seven seasons as the New York Beacon's beat writer for the New York Giants. Jason has written for Yardbarker, Dime Magazine, Decider, Awful Announcing and The Week. He is also a member of his high school's 4th period gym class floor hockey champions.