UM | Reaction to penalties

Outsiders upset by NCAA’s ‘pillow toss’ penalties for Hurricanes


Many people not within the UM family believe the NCAA’s sanctions against the Hurricanes in the Nevin Shapiro scandal were too light.

Pat Haden, athletic director of University of Southern California, hosts a press conference at the McKay Center to announce the firing of USC head football coach Lane Kiffin on Sept. 29, 2013, in Los Angeles.
Pat Haden, athletic director of University of Southern California, hosts a press conference at the McKay Center to announce the firing of USC head football coach Lane Kiffin on Sept. 29, 2013, in Los Angeles.
Barbara Davidson / MCT

Not everybody was happy or relieved for the University of Miami’s athletic program Tuesday morning.

There were haters out there.

Maybe not with their swords pointed directly at Miami, but rather the NCAA for allegedly letting former basketball coach Frank Haith (five-game suspension) and the Hurricanes (nine football scholarships, three basketball and no postseason bans) get off lightly.

ESPN’s Dana O’Neil called it “a pillow toss of a penalty.”

John Infante, a fairly prominent blogger on NCAA issues, wondered why Miami is not at least “vacating records.”

Southern California athletic director Pat Haden, whose program was docked 30 scholarships and two postseason bans in the Reggie Bush scandal (when former Hurricanes athletic director and the late Paul Dee was the head of the NCAA Committee on Infractions), said Tuesday’s decision only bolsters the idea his program’s penalties “were too harsh.”

We don’t know what the current Hurricanes are saying. Coach Al Golden and his players are being kept off limits to reporters until after Saturday’s game against Wake Forest. But it’s obvious — despite it raining for a few hours in Coral Gables on Tuesday afternoon — that the dark cloud of a three-year probe hanging overhead has finally faded away.

“… Considering what’s happened over the last three years, it’s a manageable situation,” said Joe Zagacki, radio voice of the Hurricanes.

“It’s been far from a slap on the wrist. Take into account not only the damage for Al Golden and what he’s had to recruit against — that’s just on the football field. Take into account … the damage done to the brand. The orange and green is one of the best brands in the country. It has to be protected. And the damage that has been done to that is immeasurable.”

ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas said the Committee on Infractions was in a tough spot against UM because the NCAA’s unethical conduct compromised the investigation. He believes had those mistakes not been made, UM would have been hit with sanctions similar to those of USC. Bilas said politics ultimately played a role, and the NCAA didn’t want to face a lawsuit.

“I don’t think anybody wanted to walk away and pretend nothing went on at Miami,” Bilas told the Miami Herald’s Dan LeBatard on his nationally syndicated radio show on 790 The Ticket. “At the same time, they certainly couldn’t hit them with a bag of hammers.

“What it does yet again, though, is provide another inconsistent result. If you’re USC looking at this, you’re hopping mad. Bruce Pearl was hit with a three-year show-cause penalty for lying. Frank Haith, for essentially the same thing, was hit for five games. If I was Bruce Pearl and his council, I would be hopping mad over that.”

Who isn’t hopping mad? Miami’s next recruiting class, which already is ranked fourth by ESPN.

UM added a 26th commitment — a 6-4, 340-pound defensive tackle who used to be a USC recruit, no less — to its 2014 signing class only a couple of hours after the sanctions were handed down. Michael Wyche, a three-star prospect out of East Los Angeles College, said he had no idea UM’s NCAA fate had been announced until after he told UM coaches he was committing. They broke the news to him.

UM athletic director Blake James said a plan hasn’t been put into motion yet on exactly how Golden will trim nine scholarships over the next three years. Golden can split it up any way he sees fit, James said.

Miami Central running back Joseph Yearby and Miami Booker T. Washington defensive tackle Chad Thomas, two of UM’s top recruits, said they were coming to UM regardless of the NCAA’s announcement Tuesday. But they’re happy the worst part — the waiting — is over.

“Not too much to say other than I’m just happy we get to compete in a bowl game with other colleges now,” Thomas said. “We’ve got a great season going, being undefeated. Scholarship losses won’t hurt if everybody does their job and handles their business in the program.”

Said Yearby: “We got nothing to worry about anymore. We can just play college football now and look to the future.”

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