|Don't expect Anthony Chickillo to turn his back on a troubled program; he's a 'Cane, born and bred. (AP)|
At some point, you have to feel bad for the folks at Miami. Well, not the president at Miami -- no. If Donna Shalala were fired first thing tomorrow morning, I would show up outside her office with boxes. Here you go, Donna. Can you be out by noon?
But most everyone else at Miami, yes, you have to feel bad for them. Miami is going to go down, and it's going to go down so hard that it might not ever get up, and that'll be a just punishment for a school that looked the other way for years while Nevin Shapiro ran amok simply because he wrote large checks to the athletic department. But those violations were committed yesterday. And the NCAA's beatdown will come tomorrow.
Today, the wrong Miami Hurricanes are paying the price. They're paying it in terms of national ridicule and the season hasn't even started yet. When the losses start to pile up, because of suspensions or distractions or because the combination of the two has broken down this team mentally, it will get worse.
And let me be clear on this: I'm not rooting for that to happen. I'm not rooting for a 5-7 or 4-8 debacle, because this is not a one-dimensional story. Am I disgusted by what happened -- by what was allowed to happen -- for the past decade? Absolutely. Maybe you saw what I wrote two weeks ago. I stand by that. But that was the story two weeks ago. The story today, this one here, is not about fire and brimstone. It's about compassion and empathy, and I have it for the 2011 Miami Hurricanes.
How could I not? How could anyone not? Most of those players have done nothing wrong. The coaching staff is new. Poor Al Golden might have been Penn State's coach a year from now had he stayed at Temple, but he left the Owls for Miami because Miami is one of the premier programs in college football.
As my man Tony Barnhart wrote Wednesday, the cumulative effect of this scandal and the coming NCAA crackdown means "the U's days as a national championship contender are over. It won't recover from what is coming down the road."
|More on Miami|
Miami's present is going to be fine. It's when you gaze into the future that you realize that it's not bright. Read More >>
This is a bad sign for Miami: The NCAA felt no reluctance naming the sleazy central figure in the scandal. Read More >>
And given what went down at Miami, that's a fair price to pay in the future. But in the present? It's not fair for this coach, for these players, for this team. It's not fair, but it's not avoidable either. It is, as they say, what it is.
But if your heart doesn't go out to some of the people on that team -- real people, not blips on a video-game screen -- then you have no heart. See a doctor about that. Tell the doctor, when she asks, that you can't find it in your heart to feel a thing for freshman defensive end Anthony Chickillo, a high school All-American who chose Miami because his father played there, and because his father's father played there.
Anthony Chickillo is a third-generation 'Cane, the grandson of All-American and UM Hall of Famer Nick Chickillo. Son of nose guard Tony Chickillo, who went to the NFL. When he was a baby, his pacifiers had the U on them. As a kid his walls were orange and green. "This is where I'm supposed to be," Anthony Chickillo told the Miami sports information department this summer. "This is my dream school."
Only now, it has to feel like a nightmare. Anthony Chickillo didn't come to Miami to be on a team that has become the target of a major NCAA investigation, the butt of jokes, the scourge of a nation. He came because his family went here. His father. His father's father. And also his mother, and his mother's father.
There isn't another Anthony Chickillo at Miami -- he's the only third-generation 'Cane in program history -- but there are similar stories up and down the roster. Ben Bruneau was a scholarship receiver at UCLA, but one day in Los Angeles he realized he had made a terrible mistake. He had grown up in nearby Opa-Locka, Fla. His older sister went to Miami. He loved Miami ... so he left UCLA. Miami wasn't offering a scholarship, so he transferred as a walk-on. He's paying his own way, and why? "Because my heart is in this place," he says. "This was the school where I needed to be."
But not like this. Not with the world falling down around him. Kirby Hocutt, the athletic director who courted Nevin Shapiro because the guy kept writing checks, parachuted out of here in the early stages of the NCAA investigation. Hocutt left Miami for Texas Tech, but not before hiring Al Golden (and never telling him about the investigation). Nor did Hocutt tell Texas Tech about the cesspool he had watered, nurtured and then fled. Today Hocutt has what he wants -- good job, good salary, good school.
And what does Ben Bruneau have? The same thing Anthony Chickillo has. The same thing Al Golden has. They have a no-win situation, one they didn't create or contribute to, but one they must deal with on a daily basis. And the hits keep coming daily, believe that. If it's not the news of suspensions, it's the news that the Florida Gators will be honored for their 2008 national championship on the Hurricanes' home field. That happens Oct. 23 when Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos play the Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. Almost 20 former Gators, including Tebow and Urban Meyer, are expected. How can this happen on the Hurricanes' field? It just did. It has been that kind of 2011 season for Miami, and the season hasn't even started.
It starts Monday, when the depleted, defeated Hurricanes visit Maryland -- where bookstores are selling jerseys mocking The U -- to open a season that will be the most painful in program history. Until next season. And the next. And ...
It's a sad story. There's nothing to celebrate here. Nothing to enjoy. This is a guilty program, yes, but NCAA justice always wreaks a heavy dosage of collateral damage -- and the damage has a name. It's Anthony Chickillo. And Ben Bruneau. And Al Golden. And ...