It wasn’t like the University of Miami football players didn’t know it might be coming, but it still stung nonetheless.
Hearing that they were not going to play for the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division title or in a bowl game wasn’t the way the Hurricanes wanted to begin preparing for their final game of the regular season Saturday afternoon at Duke.
But after listening to interim athletic director Blake James and then coach Al Golden, the players came to just one conclusion: They can’t go out on their backs like they did a year ago against Boston College.
“We still want everyone to know we won the Coastal Division on the field,” starting left tackle Malcolm Bunche said.
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“Even though we won’t play in the ACC title game or a bowl, it’s going to say a lot more about us as a team if we win at Duke. Our fans and family will always know we were the first Hurricanes team to do it. And we’ll always know that even though it doesn’t say it on paper, we were the first real Coastal champs.”
The Hurricanes (6-5) didn’t come out flat for practice Monday. According to Bunche, “It was the complete opposite.”
Quarterback Stephen Morris said senior running back Mike James ripped the ball from his hands on a handoff. Asked about it, James smiled and said: “I was just practicing like the end is coming pretty soon.”
How could James not be upset that he and 16 other seniors are paying twice now for the crimes of others no longer around the program? He said he “looks on the brighter side of it all.” He said he got to play college football for the team he always wanted to and his mother wanted him to. And he still has one game left.
“Mad? I can’t be angry with anybody,” James said. “We’re all human. We all make decisions, and sometimes things don’t work out the way we want them to. And sometimes we don’t know the decisions we make are going to cost us anything. But do I feel sad because I didn’t get a chance to play for an ACC championship? Yeah, it’s sad. It’s disappointing.
“I’m glad things worked out the way they worked out. We had to play hard as many games as we did. Unfortunately, the news is disappointing, and we didn’t want to hear it and we wanted a different result. But it happened.”
James said the key is not to let history repeat itself this week against Duke. Last year, a disappointed UM team ended its season with a loss to a bad Boston College team at home.
“We’ve got to send the seniors out on the right note,” freshman Duke Johnson said. “The things they’ve done for us and just the way they welcomed us into the program with open arms. They deserve to go out with a win. We owe them that.”