The Miami Hurricanes were docked nine football scholarships over the next three seasons, but whether that number shrinks remains to be seen, athletic director Blake James said Tuesday.
Even though it wasn’t detailed in the Committee of Infractions report as a self-imposed penalty, UM already had begun making “internal adjustments” to keep its scholarship numbers down with the hope of either receiving credit for it from the NCAA or being in a position where the losses wouldn’t be devastating when sanctions finally hit.
James wouldn’t say exactly how many scholarships the Hurricanes are currently down (they are allowed 85). But he did say the program would “document with the NCAA the steps” UM previously had taken and “work with [the NCAA] on checking on the possibility of that being included in [future] scholarship numbers.”
A source said there is no timeline on when UM will hear back from the NCAA regarding its self-imposed scholarship reductions, but the hope is well before National Signing Day in February.
John Infante, a former compliance officer and NCAA blogger, said he would be surprised if the NCAA gave Miami credit for the scholarships it had previously docked because schools usually present that information up front to the Committee on Infractions so it is taken into account before penalties are handed down. James said Tuesday the university had not done that.
“I really struggle to see the logic in this kind of secret scholarship restriction they may have imposed,” Infante said. “The only reason I would think you would do it is because you wanted to sort of naturally get your scholarship numbers down instead of having a very small recruiting class once the sanctions hit.
“I don’t even know what kind of process it would serve to say, ‘Here’s this thing we did, we didn’t bring it up in the case, we’re not really appealing, but we still want you to consider it.’ That’s not really how appeals work or the reconsideration of how a penalty works. If you didn’t bring that up then I think you’ve kind of lost that opportunity.”
The Hurricanes, currently at 75 scholarship players by the Miami Herald’s count, have 19 scholarship seniors on their roster and 26 oral, nonbinding commitments. If the Canes’ current recruiting class stays at the same number and no underclassmen depart the program, UM would have 82 scholarship players on its roster for the 2014 season.
Of course, UM has the flexibility, James said, of reducing its football scholarships the way it sees fit — meaning the Canes do not have to trim three scholarships each year. Coach Al Golden can work with any formula that works best for the program. Men’s basketball, set to lose one scholarship per year over the next three years, doesn’t have that flexibility, James said.
“That’s something I’ll work with Al on,” James said of trimming UM’s football scholarships. “It’s really going to be Al communicating with us how it best works for us to meet the penalty.”
Infante said the NCAA giving UM that kind of flexibility isn’t common.
“A recent case where there was some confusion over that was with Pepperdine,” Infante said. “It may be something the COI is moving toward, but so far it’s been kind of rare. It could be in recognition of the misconduct of the NCAA in the UM case. It could be another break of the self-imposed bowl bans. It’s hard to say.”
Infante doesn’t see the scholarship reductions for basketball as devastating either.
“A lot of basketball teams now are not really carrying all 13 scholarships because there are a lot of mid-year transfers,” he said. “You probably see quite often you have less than 13 scholarship players on a lot of good basketball teams.”
Either way, the best news for Golden and his staff is that opponents no longer have the ammunition to negatively recruit against Miami. The anvil over the program is gone.
“I thought he did a pretty good job with the cloud hanging over his head,” said JC Shurburtt, national recruiting director for 247Sports. “You’re talking about a program that’s been in the top 25 and is now in the top five in this recruiting cycle.
“Uncertainty always costs you at least one or two guys — usually the best one or two guys. I think this alleviates all that uncertainty because everyone knows what the future holds. With a huge, talented group of 2015 prospects in South Florida this really gives Miami a chance to get back to level they’re accustomed to.
“What this did in the past couple years was allow Florida, Florida State and Alabama to come in and get the one or two guys Miami could have gotten otherwise. Amari Cooper, Marcus Roberson, Alex Collins come to mind. If Miami’s up and winning championships and there is no uncertainty, kids in this area want to play for the U. That’s the bottom line. All things being equal, Miami ends up getting the guys they want.”