The decision UNC would like over
Posted November 8, 2012
The University of North Carolina and the University of Miami have something in common that goes beyond the fact that each school employed Butch Davis as head football coach. Each school is also dealing with NCAA issues stemming from, among other things, outside influences that have created complicated decisions within the athletic department.
Miami is one win away from being bowl-eligible, and thus a very important decision. Amid an NCAA investigation into impermissible benefits provided to football players for almost a decade by former Hurricanes athletics booster Nevin Shapiro -- now serving a 20-year jail sentence for his involvement in a Ponzi scheme -- the school opted to declare itself ineligible for the post season a year ago and could do the same as early as this Sunday should the Canes win their game at Virginia on Saturday.
The school is awaiting the notice of allegations from the NCAA which would outline the scope and depth of the violations incurred under previous coaching regimes, and once they have that in hand, will go through the process of either defending itself or working with the NCAA to address the mistakes and deal with the consequences.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Predicting what the NCAA is likely to do in terms of punishment is tantamount to predicting the weather. The governing body of college sports hasn't operated with any great degree of consistency in these matters, so guessing becomes difficult. There's really no way of knowing for certain that skipping a bowl game last year and again this season would cause the NCAA to forgo a post season ban in the penalty phase. It seems logical to assume, but it's not a guarantee.
Plus, should Miami withdraw from post-season consideration again, they would also be removing themselves from participating in the ACC Championship game in Charlotte the first Saturday in December. By rule, if you play in that game you must play in a bowl game. Therefore, the school must weigh the benefit of playing in a bowl game this year -- if applicable -- versus the pain and suffering it might cause to possibly hamper future seasons and the decisions of potential recruits.
Simply put, is playing in a bowl game this year more beneficial to the long-term health of Miami football than having that same opportunity next year and beyond?
Last year, UNC was faced with the same predicament that still confronts the deciders in Coral Gables. Play out the season, accept a bowl invitation and hope that the NCAA stops short of taking away any future post-season opportunities. Or, withdraw from that consideration and guess that the self-sacrifice would be considered by the NCAA as time already served.
Publicly, the school spoke with confidence that their cooperation with the investigation would lead to leniency. On several occasions university officials said that they didn't expect anything beyond what the school offered up as self-imposed sanctions. North Carolina guessed that scholarship reductions and the forfeiture of two seasons worth of victories would be enough to satiate the Committee on Infractions.
They guessed wrong. And, they're paying the price right now.
It's really amazing, and possibly a good thing, that this has gotten so little attention. But, with three games remaining, the Tar Heels are the most likely team to finish atop the Coastal Division standings without the chance to play for the ACC championship.
Imagine this season, with the possibility of post-season play. Imagine the impact it might have had on recruiting if the Heels had emerged from the rubble of last year's struggles, by landing in the conference championship game and a major post season bowl. Imagine if it worked out even further and the Heels won the game!
Of course, these are all hypotheticals, but the choice of finishing off last season, under a lame-duck, interim head coach in a low-grade bowl in Shreveport, La., pales in comparison to almost anything else the future might hold. Again, there's no guarantee that skipping out on last year's Independence Bowl would have convinced the NCAA to waive any future post season penalties, but, it had to be worth the risk. And, barring a chance to play in the conference championship game in a little more than three weeks, I think you'll see The U run the same play they ran last season.
It's what North Carolina should have done a year ago.