Senior College Football Columnist

After botching Shapiro probe, NCAA needs to throw U a bone


An NCAA deadline is fast approaching, but not the one you think. We all know that a week from now the latest round of high school superstars, overhypes, flops and wannabes will sign letters of intent.

They call it National Signing Day and few seem to care or realize it is merely the opening of a months-long window. High school kids will continue to pull bullpups from nowhere and play Three-Card Monte with team hats.

It is a "deadline" of sorts. But the association -- in its clumsy trek to penalize Miami -- has created a different, more sobering, artificial drop-dead date next week.

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The NCAA owes it to Miami to have that notice of allegations in front of the school by signing day. Those kids, their families, the school and the team deserve it. The investigation in the Nevin Shapiro case has lasted two years, way too long. While an NOA is merely the next step and doesn't provide closure, it gives everyone a chance to see what's ahead, what Miami faces. It gives recruits an idea of whether they want to attend Miami.

It is simple decency in the aftermath of last week's "stunning" (Mark Emmert's word, not ours) scandal. Somehow, the NCAA president and his entire leadership structure missed the fact that Shapiro's lawyer Maria Elena Perez was improperly used to obtain information for the NCAA during a bankruptcy deposition.

At least that's the NCAA’s story. Perez claims she has done nothing wrong. The NCAA flagged itself. Now it owes Miami football that favor of at least delivering that NOA by next Wednesday. It would be ethical, just, proper and right.

The NOA is merely a list of sins that Miami will face. The school may not be in front of the infractions committee until the summer. The penalties would be handed down months after. It's amazing how bad this all seemed for Miami 1½ years ago when Yahoo broke the story. Since then we've had Ohio State and Penn State and this massive NCAA fumble while heading into the Miami end zone.

The botched Shapiro investigation almost makes the Hurricanes seem like sympathetic figures at this point. They have something close to leverage. They definitely have some level of public sympathy.

Miami has self-penalized -- removing itself from two bowls, suspending eight players, docking itself scholarships this year. That's only in football. Anything else from the NCAA would seem to be excessive and may/should invite a Miami lawsuit. But the point as of now remains the innocents, the kids who have the guts, vision and, yes, talent to come to Coral Gables to play football during these controversial times.

Never mind that Al Golden has persevered. Somehow Miami's coach has been able to assemble a recruiting class ranked in the top 30. Better than that, he has been able to keep the class together for the most part with a week to go before signing day.

"The NCAA is more unpredictable than recruiting," said J.C. Shurburtt, a recruiting analyst for 247. "We all talk about Penn State and how they've held it together. Miami is not facing as bad a situation but a pretty bad thing. They've really done a nice job."

The climate is so polluted, Miami opponents don't have to negative recruit. All they have to do is tell recruits to read the paper. A recruiting class hangs in the balance. Five-star tailback Alex Collins is getting a lot of attention from Arkansas. Star linebacker Matthew Thomas from Booker T. Washington in Miami is deciding between the Hurricanes, Alabama, LSU, Florida State and USC.

"Those are two of the major guys hanging out," Shurburtt said. "If Miami can bat .500 that's good. If they get good [NCAA] news, they can most likely bat 1.000."

Emmert fast-tracked the review of his enforcement division last week. It would take 7 to 10 days, he said. How about fast-tracking the NOA? This investigation has dragged on and left a bloody trail. During the probe, one investigator has been fired, another retired.

The result will affect Miami for years to come. The school needs to know soon what those years will look like. Before the scandal broke, there were reports that the NOA would be coming down any day. Now the likes of Thomas and Collins may have to commit and hope.

The immediate goal should be doing what ethically is right. The membership, public and media has lost faith in the NCAA's ability to police its own. There has always been something inherently uncomfortable about brother snooping on brother anyway. Proof: Only two conferences still have enforcement arms -- the Pac-12 and MAC.

When that NOA comes out, Miami doesn't have to publicly release the allegations. The NCAA won't. But having the letter in the mail before next Wednesday is the right thing to do for an organization that hasn't done much right lately.

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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