The University of Miami football teams season ends Saturday. UM has banned itself from joining the nonelite company of 50 teams that will play in mostly meaningless bowl games.
Seems like a reasonable price to pay. Skip the Shoedini Bowl or Snuggie Bowl, destinations that are beneath the heights the program has reached in the past and are aspiring to reach in the future.
The decision by UM president Donna Shalala to forgo a second consecutive bowl was a no-brainer.
Dont listen to protests by fans so blinded by their allegiance that they cannot see beyond 2012. UM is under investigation by the NCAA, bracing for major penalties. The Hurricanes arent very good right now but can be very good down the road. So they take their medicine and aim for a bowl befitting their improved stature.
Shalala not only did the smart thing, but also she did the right thing. And the right thing still counts in college sports.
Everything an institution does to show it is cooperating and taking the investigation seriously will work in its favor, said Jo Potuto, a University of Nebraska law professor who was chair of the NCAA Committee on Infractions and currently serves as a substitute. If the school is merely putting up window dressing, the committee will see right through it because theyve seen it before.
Ultimately, it is the universitys responsibility to do what is right.
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Otherwise, what is the point of college sports, or any sport? Shouldnt it be a contest between the best athletes rather than the best cheaters?
Perhaps UM will defeat Duke and would advance to the ACC title game against Florida State. Perhaps UM would upset FSU and advance to the Orange Bowl.
Then again, what if UM lost to Duke, finished 6-6 and went to a lower-tier bowl that would only highlight its mediocrity? What if UM got crushed by FSU for the second time this season, while lots of recruits were watching, and lost in a bowl game, too?
Shalala doesnt lead by consulting a crystal ball. She makes hard choices weighing the pros and cons of what is best for the university.
As Potuto said, Schools under investigation dont operate in a vacuum. Shalala listens to lawyers who are experts on the NCAA process, which is not meant to mirror the process in a court of law. There is no plea bargaining. But schools anticipating postseason bans, TV bans and scholarship reductions can soften the blow and, in UMs case, prevent the exodus of Goldens players when they are upperclassmen. Shalala doesnt want to make the same short-sighted mistake made by Ohio State, undefeated and in position to win a national title, but ineligible for any bowl because a ban wasnt imposed earlier.
Dont blame the NCAA for UMs predicament or Mondays depressing but expected announcement.
As coach Al Golden said: We want to get it fixed. That means suffering the consequences for unethical behavior. That means strengthening compliance so a weasel booster such as Nevin Shapiro isnt running wild and assistant coaches arent giving and athletes arent receiving improper benefits.
UM is applying 50 lashes in the hope that the NCAA will apply only 50 more. This exercise in self-flagellation is a bit of a gambit.
But it hurts. Therefore, it works.