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Miami’s NCAA Saga Comes To An End With Sanctions

Miami Hurricanes.  (credit: Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Miami Hurricanes. (credit: Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

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CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — When the NCAA’s long-awaited decision arrived Tuesday morning, Miami athletic director Blake James realized it was what he expected all along.

“Fair,” James said. “But significant.”

And final. The Miami-NCAA saga is over.

More than 2½ years after former booster and convicted felon Nevin Shapiro contacted the NCAA from prison and began detailing his role in rampant rule-breaking by those involved with Miami’s football and men’s basketball programs, the Hurricanes got their final penalties. The most notable sanctions are the nine lost football scholarships over three years and one lost basketball scholarship in each of the next three seasons.

A three-year probation and some recruiting restrictions are also part of the penance.

But for the first time since 2010, Miami’s football team — currently undefeated and ranked No. 7 nationally — will be heading to a bowl game.

“I want to sincerely thank our student-athletes and their families who, not only stood with the University of Miami during this unprecedented challenge, but subsequently volunteered for the mission,” Miami football coach Al Golden said in a statement released by school officials. “They shouldered the burden, exhibited class and exemplified perseverance for Hurricanes everywhere. “

Miami said in February that it would appeal any sanction beyond what it had already self-imposed. Over time, that stance softened, and the Hurricanes are accepting what the NCAA handed down.

No appeal is coming, at least not by the Hurricanes.

Four former Miami coaches, including Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith, still have the right to appeal sanctions that were brought against them. Three former assistant coaches all got two-year show-cause bans for ethics violations, including Clint Hurtt, who’s part of the staff at Louisville.

“It’s relief that we finally have a decision,” Miami President Donna Shalala told The Associated Press. “It’s been a long haul. But I don’t have any anger or frustration.”

Haith will miss the first five games of Missouri’s upcoming season.

The sheer size of the Miami investigation was unlike almost any other, with 18 general allegations of misconduct with 79 issues within those allegations, along with 118 interviews of 81 individuals by the NCAA’s count. The committee wanted to complete its work within eight weeks; it took more than 18 weeks between the end of the Miami hearing and the release of Tuesday’s decision, mainly because of the staggering amount of material that needed review.

“This case is among the most extraordinary in the history of the NCAA,” said Britton Banowsky, the Conference USA commissioner who chairs the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, which handed down Tuesday’s decision.

The NCAA said Miami lacked “institutional control” when it came to monitoring Shapiro, a charge the school was hoping to avoid. “Many of Miami’s violations were undetected by the university over a 10-year period,” the NCAA wrote in the statement releasing Tuesday’s news.

But since this saga started, Miami has tried to make sweeping changes in the way it handles its compliance practices, and that along with the school’s decision to self-impose significant sanctions like sitting out three postseason football games and enacting recruiting restrictions was clearly looked upon favorably by the committee.

“We’re going to move on,” Shalala said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do in the compliance area. We’ve obviously put a lot of new things in place over the last three years. But making sure that we reduce the risk — significantly reduce the risk — of this happening again is an ongoing, continuous improvement strategy.”

The NCAA decision will affect all of Miami athletics, in that any Hurricanes staff member who sends an impermissible text to a prospect will be fined a minimum of $100 per message, and coaches involved will be suspended from all recruiting activities for seven days. The NCAA said a probe of Miami actually started in 2009, when the school self-reported impermissible telephone calls and texts.

Then Shapiro, who is serving a 20-year prison term for masterminding a $930 million Ponzi scheme, got involved, and the scope grew immeasurably.

“I’m glad the NCAA recognized and appreciated the self-imposed efforts that were at such a significant level,” ACC Commissioner John Swofford said.

Some of the NCAA’s would-be accusations were erased early this year, when it was found that investigators improperly cooperated with Shapiro’s attorney — a Miami alum — and gleaned some of their information wrongly from her. Banowsky insisted none of that information was considered by the infractions committee.

“We didn’t get off easy,” James said. “Could I see someone saying, ‘Hey, congratulations for getting to the end?’ Yes. Could I see someone saying, ‘Hey, congratulations for what you got?’ No. We got significant penalties.”

(© 2013 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.)