Miami bowled over by NCAA Possible Orange bid ends as sanctions cut 24 scholarships, too

Case included pay for play

Players gladly trade bowl for No. 1 '96 shot

December 02, 1995|By Michelle Kaufman | Michelle Kaufman,DETROIT FREE PRESS

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- For the first time in 13 years, the University of Miami will not play in a New Year's bowl. The Hurricanes' 8-3 record was good enough for an Orange Bowl bid, but the NCAA announced yesterday, after a four-year investigation, that the Hurricanes will be banned from postseason play for one year, and on three-year probation for rules violations.

Miami's punishment includes a reduction of 13 scholarships in 1996-97 and 11 in 1997-98.

The baseball, women's golf and men's tennis teams also were put on probation, and will lose scholarships.

Violations included more than $223,000 of impermissible financial aid dispensed among 141 football players and $188,000 in the three other sports as well as extra benefits totaling more than $212,000, the NCAA said.

The NCAA also found that Miami football players from 1986 to '92 were paid between $20 and $200 for touchdowns and vicious hits.

Miami admitted to six minor violations in its football program, but denied four more serious charges by the NCAA, including "a lack of institutional control."

"We make no excuses," university president Edward T. Foote said yesterday, upon learning of the sanctions. "All we can do is rededicate ourselves to providing an athletic program that not only is competitive on the field, but also has integrity."

A T-shirt is already on sale around campus. On the front it says "Under Construction: Pardon Our Dust." On the back, "Next Year, You'll Be Eating It."

First-year coach Butch Davis, his staff and players, tried all year to keep their minds off the troubles.

It wasn't easy. The June 12 Sports Illustrated cover read: "Why the University of Miami Should Drop Football." The Miami Herald had an investigative reporter assigned to the team the past two years who chronicled discipline problems under former coach Dennis Erickson. The reports revealed sexual misconduct, a dozen arrests, alcohol abuse, guns in the football dorm and loopholes in the drug-testing policy.

"There has been a black cloud over us the last four or five years and it is all over now," said linebacker Twan Russell.

Erickson, now coach of the Seattle Seahawks, told the Associated Press, "I obviously feel bad for the players and the people there. . . . Obviously, there was a mistake or two made there. Nothing purposely or intentional. . . ."

When it became apparent the NCAA was close to completing its investigation, school officials pleaded for swift sanctions.

"I'm delighted to get it behind us," Davis said. "Now we can be forthright with kids [recruits] when we go into their living rooms."

The Hurricanes were expected to get an Orange Bowl bid this weekend, but they'll give up the $3 million paycheck in exchange for a shot at a national title next year.

"I would be sick to my stomach if the team was 11-0 next year and couldn't go to a bowl," said offensive lineman Alan Symonette, one of five seniors on the Miami roster. "There are 23 juniors on the team. I can give up the last bowl game for the younger guys."

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