CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Miami is not going to a bowl this season, self-imposing a ban that school officials say was "necessary" in response to an ongoing NCAA investigation into the university's compliance practices.
Players were informed Sunday that Friday's game against Boston College will be the last this season, even though the Hurricanes have enough wins to qualify for a postseason appearance. By self-imposing a ban, Miami is trying to lessen the impact of whatever sanctions the NCAA hands down once its investigation ends.
"I'm clearly disappointed," said Miami coach Al Golden, who university officials said was not involved in the choice to go forward with the ban. "I believe it's the right decision and I'm 100 percent behind the decision. ... We're one step closer to putting these issues behind us."
Golden said athletic director Shawn Eichorst and university president Donna Shalala made the decision, although a statement from the university said it was done through consultation with "university leaders, athletic administrators and outside counsel." The NCAA and the Atlantic Coast Conference were informed.
"It is a necessary step for our university," read Miami's statement.
Miami is not self-imposing any other penalties, including a reduction in scholarships, at this time. Golden said he is not "privy to" any information that Shalala and Eichorst used during the process of trying to decide whether or not going to a bowl would be a wise move.
"Based on what I know, which is very little, I'm very positive about the direction we're going in," Golden said.
When players were told of the decision, they took the news rather hard, Golden said. Miami became bowl eligible on Saturday, beating South Florida 6-3 for its sixth win of the season, and afterward players like quarterback Jacory Harris and center Tyler Horn both spoke about how excited they were to have a chance to reach a bowl.
"I'm a senior and that extends my season 30 days more. It's a sigh of relief," Horn said Saturday.
A day later, that relief was gone.
Miami still may receive a bowl payout from the ACC, which pools revenue from postseason games and distributes to all 12 conference members whether they play in a bowl or not. The ACC has eight bowl contracts it hopes to fill, and Miami almost certainly would have been one of the league's postseason teams.
The university was first rocked in August by allegations made by former booster Nevin Shapiro, who told Yahoo Sports that he gave 72 Miami football players and recruits so-called "extra benefits" like money, cars, yacht rides, nightclub and strip-club access and even prostitutes from 2002 through 2010. Earlier this season, 12 Miami players were sanctioned by the NCAA for dealings with Shapiro, with penalties ranging from small restitution in four cases, a one-game ban for five others and bans of four to six games for three more.
Golden said Sunday that the NCAA moving so swiftly to reinstate the eligibility of those players — plus one other, who was not sanctioned in any way — back in August was a good sign that "we are headed in a positive direction."
Shapiro is serving a 20-year prison sentence for masterminding a Ponzi scheme. His attorney, Maria Elena Perez, told The Associated Press on Sunday that Miami's move was no surprise.
"I think it's a smart pre-emptive move," Perez said. "It sets a good example for the kids, and it's probably a smart thing that they did that."
Perez said she has been in contact with the NCAA throughout its Miami investigation, adding she was told the probe has been slowed by the scandal at Penn State — Golden's alma mater — in recent weeks.
"And in my view, that one is more significant," Perez said.
The decision means many members of the school's heralded signing class of 2008, including Harris and linebacker Sean Spence, will leave the program without a postseason victory.
It may also add to speculation that Golden, who has said he was unaware of the looming scandal when he was hired by Miami last December, may look to leave the Hurricanes after this season.
"I don't have any decisions to make," Golden said. "I'm just coaching the Miami Hurricanes and getting the team ready to go against Boston College and moving the program forward, as I've said a million times. We really enjoy living here, my family and I. I know just from speaking with the staff, they're enjoying it. And we have a great group of young kids."
Miami student body president Brandon Mitchell told the AP that the move is disappointing, but understandable.
"Obviously the team, students, and fans are disappointed — myself included," Mitchell said. "But it's the best step for the university moving forward. The students will always support the team, bowl game or no bowl game."
Golden said he plans on adding about 30 recruits before next season.
He met with Miami's seniors after Eichorst addressed the team Sunday, and emerged from that meeting convinced the Hurricanes will be ready for Friday's finale.
"Anybody would be disappointed and saddened," Golden said. "But I really think that our seniors are going to take the approach that they can take this game, but they're not going to take our spirit, they're not going to take our unity and they're not going to take our toughness. I think our guys are going to look at this as an opportunity to show the country our unity, our character and how much we've changed."
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