The decision is moving in hard on Donna Shalala, pushing the University of Miamis president into a corner. It could land on her desk as soon as this weekend. She will continue to hear input from advisors and lawyers, but dont mistake this for democracy: Hers will be the only vote that counts.
The matter involves UMs football program, where everything is about wins and losses except this one decision that will affect the team so profoundly. See, Shalalas choice is no-win all the way.
It could be anger and disappointment that greets her choice, or it could be the sense that she has done what was shortsighted and popular but not what was smart and right. There will be no broad agreement, only irresolvable debate.
The issue is whether to allow the Hurricanes into postseason play, where the spoils could be a first-ever spot in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game with a berth in the Jan. 1 Orange Bowl at stake. Or whether UM should instead self-impose a postseason/bowl ban for a second consecutive year to further mitigate against looming NCAA sanctions.
The decision is near because the Canes, with a 5-4 record, are one victory from becoming bowl eligible, and that win could come this Saturday at Virginia. A year ago, the university revealed its self-imposed ban one day after its sixth win, so a repeat of that timing could mean an announcement as soon as this Sunday.
I dont know what Shalala will do. She might not even have decided.
I do know what she should do:
She should make the hard choice, not the popular one.
She should make the decision that says Miami getting past this NCAA mess as quickly as possible is the driving imperative that outweighs any reward, no matter how well-earned, for the 2012 team.
Part of solution
This is bitter medicine. It is difficult to swallow. And it is hard to imagine that anything that causes pain can be a part of the cure. But another voluntary postseason ban by Miami would be just that part of moving past this. Part of the cure.
I feel badly for coach Al Golden.
Winning the ACC Coastal Division and getting into the conference title game for the first time has been the carrot dangled before his team all season. Now, as that goal is so tantalizingly close, he knows his administration ponders whether to snatch away that very prize for which his team has worked so hard.
You know he wants the chance to play for that ACC crown.
But he cant say it aloud.
Im sure its an issue. But its not my issue, Golden said just Wednesday. That conversation is between our president, our legal counsel and athletic director. Im charged with getting my team ready this week. We got our focus squarely on Virginia. Were trying to prevent anything external from interfering. We havent made any excuses.
Golden refers a lot to the blinders against external distractions, and why wouldnt he? They are all around him. He inherited them. He got blindsided by the allegations that renegade booster Nevin Shapiro (now doing hard time for a Ponzi scheme) spent years before his arrival breaking rules and casting in doubt UMs control of its own program and players.
The resulting, laborious NCAA investigation is expected to conclude and present its findings officially its Notice of Allegations by later this month or early December.