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How a Lack of Institutional Control Impacts Miami Recruiting

In an investigation over two years in the making, the NCAA sent the University of Miami (Fla.) a notice of allegations on Tuesday, accusing the university’s athletic department of, amongst other things, a “lack of institutional control.”  The allegations come as a result of an investigation spurred by accusations of convicted felon, Nevin Shapiro, about his role as a booster for the university’s sports programs.  Many of Shapiro’s accusations were salacious and ranged from paying top basketball recruits $10,000 in an attempt to sway their decision to commit to Miami, to funding players’ girlfriends’ abortions.

While much has been said over the last two years about Shapiro’s jaw-dropping accusations, and more recently, about the NCAA’s handling of its investigation into those accusations, little has been said regarding how this saga affects Miami’s recruiting ability.

On the surface, what Miami needs to be most concerned with at this juncture, is the NCAA imposing scholarship reductions as a sanction.  While the NCAA sent its notice of allegations to Miami, it has yet to impose any sanctions against the university.  In fact, Miami has 90 days to respond to the NCAA’s notice of allegations.  Given that, any NCAA-imposed sanctions may not be doled out against Miami until late-spring.

Nonetheless, Miami self-imposed a handful of sanctions early on in the course of the NCAA’s investigation.  These sanctions included a two-year bowl ban, not participating in the ACC championship game for football, and holding out several student-athletes with alleged ties to Shapiro.  Notably, though, Miami did not self-impose any scholarship reductions during the course of the investigation.

Miami’s choice to not self-impose scholarship reductions is notable.  This decision is notable, because many of Shapiro’s accusations centered upon his involvement in the school’s recruiting of student-athletes.  Shapiro alleged that he funneled money and luxurious opportunities to various Miami recruits for a period of time.  Given these allegations and their implications to recruiting, it is understandable that the NCAA’s investigation took issue with Miami’s former recruiting procedures.  What would be the NCAA’s best option to punish these procedures?  The NCAA’s best and most direct option would be to issue scholarship reductions.  Scholarship reductions would directly impact Miami’s recruiting ability and send the message to other NCAA institutions that they cannot adopt unfair recruiting processes.

Arguably, Miami has braced itself for the likelihood of scholarship reductions.  This is demonstrated by the fact that to date, Miami has signed 19 football recruits this year.  While this number isn’t shabby, by contrast, Miami football signed 33 recruits last year.  It is important to note that there is still time to sign more recruits, so it is possible that Miami will round up a larger recruiting class.  However, there is one clear difference for this year’s recruiting class as opposed to last year’s:  they face the possibility of scholarship reductions.

NCAA bylaws allow Miami to sign 25 scholarship players per season.  Thus, as it stands, Miami can sign another six players to its football squad and provide all of its recruits with a scholarship.  However, fringe players should be concerned about the possibility that their scholarship might be dropped based upon the NCAA’s investigation and looming sanctions.  This factor, coupled with other outstanding sanctions arguably put a dagger in Miami’s recruiting.  One factor to take into consideration, is the possibility that within the next 90 days, Miami will self-impose scholarship reductions in an attempt to lessen the blow that the NCAA will deal it when it sanctions the university.  Given that Miami is currently below the allotted 25 scholarship limit, it could self-impose a scholarship reduction of several scholarships for the 2013-14 to demonstrate to the NCAA its willingness to make right its alleged wrongs.

Even if Miami is hit with scholarship reductions, all is not lost for the program.  This is not the first time that Miami has faced NCAA sanctions.  In 1996, Miami football brought in a recruiting class of merely 13 people, as its program was stricken with the loss of 31 scholarships in the wake of NCAA sanctions.  Furthermore, even in the wake of Shapiro’s allegations, Miami managed to sign a large and talented 2012 football class.  Given these factors, it may not be absolutely detrimental to the university should it be hit by the NCAA with a scholarship reduction.

While the NCAA may think that the Nevin Shapiro and Miami saga is about to wind down as a result of its issuance of a notice of allegations, Miami likely believes that the battle is just getting started.  Recruits and parents should keep a careful eye on Miami’s actions in response to the NCAA’s notice of allegations within the coming months.  As noted above, the NCAA found procedural errors in its investigation into Miami and even fired a senior staff member as a result of its internal investigation.  If strict penalties are imposed by the NCAA against Miami, one can expect Miami to come out swinging in response.  It is likely that Miami will not accept any overly broad penalties imposed by the NCAA lying down.  Rather, the university will likely rely upon NCAA hearings, and if need be, litigation, to defend its athletic program’s stability.

Regardless of the final outcome of the NCAA’s investigation, one thing is certain:  It is an interesting time to be a Miami recruit.

Are you ready for the NEXT STEP!