Miami Ever since Hurricane Nevin slammed into the University of Miami and wrought its damage, searchers have picked through rubble for signs of hope. Well, I found some Wednesday even as Sports Illustrated — delighting to play judge, jury and executioner despite the minor matter of the trial not being over — again called for the abolishment of the Hurricanes football program.
That first happened in 1995, when SI’s memorably stark cover story declared, “Why the University of Miami should drop football,” the accompaniment an attention-grabbing though failed case put forth by senior writer Alexander Wolff.
This week, the same Mr. Wolff, now presumably a super-senior writer, pens an open letter to Miami president Donna Shalala under the softer headline, “16 Years Later, It’s Time To Get Real.” The writer tells Shalala to “drop football, at least temporarily.” The story doesn’t rate the cover, bumped by the apparently red-hot Milwaukee Brewers.
I call that progress, this weakening of SI’s periodic cry for the death penalty.
Can we all just breathe deeply and wait for this thing to play itself out, please?
Media brethren and enemy fans, set aside the collective gavel and wait to see how many of dirty booster Nevin Shapiro’s allegations are verifiably true.
Does it look bad for the Hurricanes? Yeah. It does.
But does it look death-penalty bad? Drop-the-program bad? No, at least not yet, despite the national rush to judgment that finds its new leader in the latest SI.
I’m not being an apologist for Miami here. I have gotten more emails accusing me of an anti-Miami tone than of being a homer in the week-plus since Yahoo! Sports’ investigation found years of improper benefits to players.
The university should move quickly, and transparently. Shalala and athletic director Shawn Eichorst owe fans and alumni more than prepared statements issued in a void. They should hold a joint news conference and face questions.
Immediately, new coach Al Golden — faultless but finding this mess in his lap — deserves to be told whether at least a dozen implicated current players will be on the team or suspended, with the season opener at Maryland in a mere 11 days.
Miami faces a fallout of likely penalties, and should if even a small chunk of the allegations prove true. But a death penalty by NCAA decree or self-imposed? Nope. It is pragmatically unrealistic for the financial damage it would wreak within the ACC. It would be unfair to the majority of current players who are not implicated in the scandal. And it would not be justified, based on what has been proved.
The punishment Miami is more likely to receive will be enough. A probationary period that likely would include reductions in scholarships and a ban from bowl-game participation would decimate the program plenty and have a long-range effect.
The Miami football program’s strong record in recent years in academics and in keeping its players out of police reports must count for something and be weighed against the rule breaking and damage one man wrought in the shadows.
“We’re going to get this fixed,” Golden said the other day.
Give Shalala and Miami, shamed to action, that chance.