The NCAA — corrupted, embarrassed and now playing the obstinate bully — has managed to do the seemingly impossible: It has cast the University of Miami as the sympathetic victim. The side you root for. It has left even longtime UM detractors little choice but to see the judge and jury here as dirtier than the accused.
This is saying a lot, of course, because ever since the mid-1980s, the Hurricanes have worn college athletics’ national black hat, and worn it proudly, too, cocked and brim low, hip hop-style. The school’s notorious badge of honor grew from us-against-the-world, grew from street level, grew from camouflage and attitude. It was a cocktail of controversies off the field and punishing success on it. It was embodied in all of those NFL alums simply (and imperially) referring to “The U.” It is reflected in all of those T-shirts claiming Miami “invented swagger.”
The Hurricanes were antiestablishment and cocky, and unless you loved them, you hated them. They were the Yankees, only more urban.
And the trouble Miami is in now? Man, it was so perfectly scripted to only feed any and all of those negative perceptions of the Canes. I mean, seriously, right? It involved a rampant, renegade booster supposedly offering yacht parties with strippers (not to mention more mundane handouts) to willing student-athletes. Opposing coaches recruiting against UM couldn’t have written it any better … although you know they tried with various embellishments.
Yes, Canes-hating America should be howling at UM’s plight today, perhaps delighted that this long investigation grew so big it even shadowed the best story in college sports right now — Miami’s astonishing ascension to a No. 2 ranking in men’s basketball.
Instead, the university that put the badass in college sports isn’t the bad guy here.
Don’t get this wrong. UM is plenty culpable for allowing defrocked booster Nevin Shapiro (since a convicted and jailed Ponzi-schemer) to run and reign free. And any Canes athletes who partook violated rules. The Hurricanes had punishment coming, without question.
Probe now a sham
The NCAA’s role in this investigation, though, has been a travesty far worse than any UM improprieties that invited the scrutiny in the first place. This NCAA probe turned into an outright sham that has shamed college sports’ governing body — all the more so because it has dragged on for more than two years.
The NCAA’s official Notice of Allegations against Miami, served late Tuesday, includes a charge of “lack of institutional control,” a broad and serious claim. But what’s ludicrous, as well as serious, is the NCAA’s own lack of institutional control in this matter. “The pot calling the kettle black,” as my granpappy used to say.
It’s one thing for a school to violate rules, but far worse when the NCAA, the governing body and de facto police force — the judge and jury — itself proves corrupt.
Two high-ranking enforcement officials were fired for improperly paying Shapiro’s lawyers to obtain information against UM in unrelated depositions — info that would not otherwise been gettable. These officials, renegades like Shapiro, went against the direct advice and order of the NCAA’s own staff counsel in doing so.