Nuclear Explosion

Is a Miami death penalty the NCAA’s only option?

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Roughly 16 years after SMU was hit with the infamous “death penalty” that crippled their football program for nearly a quarter of a century, then-Florida president John Lombardi said that the NCAA would do anything it could going forward to avoid sentencing another school to a similar fate.

“SMU taught the committee that the death penalty is too much like the nuclear bomb,” Lombardi said in 2002. “It’s like what happened after we dropped the [atomic] bomb in World War II. The results were so catastrophic that now we’ll do anything to avoid dropping another one.”

A decade later, thanks to an explosive exposé by Yahoo! sports, the nuclear option appears to be back on the table, and it could force the NCAA to play the football version of Harry Truman once again.

The level of malfeasance alleged in the investigative piece by convicted felon Nevin Shapiro is truly staggering and is only rivaled in recent times by the infamous SMU scandal, when the Mustangs were Pony Express’d back to the football dark ages in the mid-eighties.  Shapiro, who once had a players lounge named in his honor at the Coral Gables school, alleges he gave impermissible benefits that by his estimation totaled in the millions and millions of dollars to more than five dozen Hurricane football players — including a dozen current ones — over an eight-year period beginning in 2001.

Cash, prostitutes, jewelry, clothing, electronics, yachts, mansions, strip club junkets and, in one instance, an abortion.  You name it, Shapiro alleges he provided it for many, many a Hurricane player.

Perhaps most damning is the Yahoo! report claims four former football assistants as well as three football support staff members had direct knowledge of or participated in the violating of multiple NCAA rules, including sending high school recruits to Shapiro’s multi-million dollar mansion or accompanying Shapiro and recruits to strip clubs.  Shapiro’s physical confrontation with UM’s head of compliance in the press box of a 2007 game wrought a background check by the university, which revealed he was the co-owner of a sports representation agency.  Still, the university did nothing.

Juxtapose those Miami allegations against the SMU case two-and-a-half-decades ago and, more recently, USC.

Already banned from bowl games in 1985 and 1986 as well as any television appearances for the latter year due to recruiting violations committed by boosters and at least one assistant, SMU was found in 1986 by the NCAA to have created a slush fund — which paid football players upwards of $700 a month — that was controlled by a booster and sanctioned by officials from the athletic department all the way through the school’s Board of Governors.  For that, the NCAA canceled the Mustangs 1987 season — the school canceled the 1988 season as well due to lack of players — banned the school from bowl games and television appearances through the 1989 season, as well as stripping them of nearly 60 football scholarships over a four-year period.

At first blush, the situation in Miami appears to be the work of a lone rogue booster who inexplicably flew underneath the school’s radar — allegedly — for eight years.  SMU’s case was an organized, systematic pay-for-play scandal involving multiple layers of individuals both inside the athletic department and out, even bleeding into the political arena.

Is that enough of a difference to keep the NCAA from pressing the nuclear button and leveling The U football program?

If it’s looked at through a prism of blacks and whites, the allegations leveled against Miami are the worst to hit major college football since SMU in the mid-eighties and would appear to deserve something that approaches the same level of sanctions.  As the NCAA has shown since slapping near-historic sanctions on USC, though, the NCAA seems to work with varying shades of gray that only they can see.  And comprehend.

To illustrate that very point, the Trojans were stripped of 30 scholarships over a three-year period and banned from appearing in bowl games for two after the NCAA found one player — Reggie Bush — and/or his family had received in the neighborhood of $300,000 from two would-be sports marketers/felons while he was a running back at the school.  One USC assistant — not four as alleged in the Yahoo! Miami piece, or multiple members of the institution as found in the SMU case — and one two-minute phone conversation led to the sanctions that have set the Trojans football program back at least a couple of years if not more.

After handing the Trojans some of the stiffest sanctions since SMU was obliterated from the football map, Paul Dee, chair of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, said the following when it comes to a school’s responsibility for dealing with outside influences on student-athletes:

“The real issue here is if you have high‑profile players, your enforcement staff has to monitor those students at a higher level. It’s extraordinarily important that the people that are likely to be receiving these kinds of interactions from people outside the institution are also those same people who are going to provide a reward somewhere down the road. So high‑profile players demand high‑profile compliance.”

Dee was the athletic director at the University of Miami during the time Shapiro was allegedly lavishing his student-athletes with gifts, cash and services.

Regardless of whether it’s too much like the nuclear bomb, and the catastrophic results Lombardi referred to be damned, the NCAA needs to drop another one on the Miami football program if they have any real desire to truly change the culture as they’ve openly professed in recent months.  What would that entail when it comes to the ‘Canes?  Miami’s situation — if the allegations are proven, it should be noted — would seem to fall somewhere between SMU and USC, but leaning decidedly toward the former side in terms of severity.

Leaning enough to warrant sanctions similar to what SMU received?  Certainly this trumps Bush’s financial masterpiece, setting the bar for sanctions to come in somewhere well above what USC received.  If that involves something close to the death penalty, so be it; at some point, there have to be significant repercussions for programs that don’t demand high-profile compliance for high-profile players.

One way or the other, though, the NCAA needs to take their hands out from under their backsides and show that what they’re spewing publicly aren’t merely words lacking any kind of meaningful action behind them.  One SMU is too many.  Two of them calls for a significant change to the structure of collegiate athletics.

And a sweeping change to the hypocrisy that Dee’s involvement on both sides fully displays.

Houston adds Colorado’s fourth-leading 2015 rusher to roster

BOULDER, CO - NOVEMBER 13:  Running back Patrick Carr #1 of the Colorado Buffaloes runs for a first down past linebacker Porter Gustin #45 of the USC Trojans and defensive tackle Delvon Simmons #52 during the third quarter at Folsom Field on November 13, 2015 in Boulder, Colorado. The Trojans defeated the Buffaloes 27-24. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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In early July, Patrick Carr opted to transfer from Colorado.  Nearly two months later, he has a new college football home.

According to Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle, Carr has been added to Houston’s roster.  The running back, at least for the 2016 season, will be a walk-on to the program.

Carr will also spend this season on the sidelines as he will be forced to sit out the season to satisfy NCAA transfer bylaws,.  Then, beginning in 2017, he’ll have three years of eligibility to use the next three seasons.

A three-star 2015 signee, Carr was rated as the No. 49 back in the country by 247sports.com.

As a true freshman last season, Carr was fourth on the Buffaloes with 272 yards rushing on 66 carries.  He also added 52 yards on five receptions.

A statement from CU head coach Mike MacIntyre at the time of his transfer said that “Patrick is a fine young man who needs to move closer to home back in Texas for family reasons.” He was the No. 84 player at any position in the state of Texas coming out of The Woodlands.

Cory Butler-Byrd ‘partially reinstated’ by Utah

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - OCTOBER 10: Wide receiver Trevor Davis #9 of the California Golden Bears catches a touchdown pass in front of Cory Butler-Byrd #16 of the Utah Utes during their game at Rice-Eccles Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)
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And Cory Butler-Byrd‘s trek out of Kyle Whittingham‘s doghouse has officially commenced in earnest.

Monday, the Utah wide receiver pleaded guilty as part of a plea deal in connection to an incident last month in which he allegedly damaged police property.  The criminal mischief charge will be dismissed if he, among other stipulations, stays clean for the next year.

Butler-Byrd had been indefinitely suspended from the program since the initial incident.  Tuesday, the football program announced in a press release that “Whittingham has reinstated Cory Butler-Byrd to the team for practice and other team activities, effective immediately.”  However, he remains indefinitely suspended from participating in games.

“There is no timetable for his potential return to competition and he will not be available to the media for comment this season,” the release added.

After transferring to the Utes from the junior college ranks, Butler-Byrd began his FBS career as a cornerback.  He began the transition to receiver during the 2015 season, then exited spring practice this year as the starter as a slot receiver for the Utes.

Butler-Byrd started five games last season as a corner/receiver (three at CB, two at WR), intercepting three passes and catching one pass for a 54-yard touchdown.  He also returned eight kicks for 233 yards and a touchdown.

Raymon Minor reverses transfer course, returns to Virginia Tech

ATLANTA - SEPTEMBER 05:   A cheerleader runs a flag for the Virginia Tech Hokies across the field against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at Georgia Dome on September 5, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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In mid-August, Virginia Tech announced that Raymon Minor had decided to leave first-year head coach Justin Fuente‘s Hokies football program and transfer elsewhere.  Exactly 11 days later?

Tuesday, Fuente confirmed that Minor has returned to the team and will play for the Hokies in 2016.  The linebacker won’t be returning on scholarship; rather, he’ll continue his career in Blacksburg as a walk-on.

It’s not clear what the impetus was for Minor’s change of heart.

247Sports.com had Minor rated as a four-star prospect in the Class of 2014, with the recruiting website putting him as the No. 19 athlete in the country and the No. 9 player at any position in the state of Virginia.  The only recruits rated higher than Minor in the Hokies’ class that year were safety Holland Fisher and running back Shai McKenzie.

After redshirting as a true freshman, Minor played in eight games last season.

PHOTOS: Nebraska unveils new chrome alternative uniforms

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Personally, I think Nebraska’s plain, simple, traditional uniforms were among the best in all of sports but alas, I’m not the target audience.  Nor have I been for 20-plus years.

Regardless, NU’s target audience is likely pleased this afternoon as the Cornhuskers, along with apparel supplier adidas, unveiled Tuesday what is being called Husker Chrome alternate uniforms.  The release states that the new uniforms are “inspired by the city of Lincoln, Nebraska, also know as the “Star City,” and “blend crisp, modernized design with a tribute to Nebraska’s clean, classic signature look.”

Translation: “we’re hoping these appeal to recruits and current players as well as our extremely loyal and rabid fan base.”

The helmets, for what it’s worth, aren’t really that bad. At all.  From the release:

As a tribute to the traditional aesthetic of the Cornhuskers football program, the helmet features a metallic red “N” logo on the sides and is accented with player numbers featured in metallic red and metallic chrome outlining on the back of the helmet, showcasing the Star City’s ability to shine.

The new uniforms, which you can see below, will make their debut for the Sept. 24 game against Northwestern in Lincoln.

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