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The NCAA Enforcement Committee Will Need To Get Creative With Miami

I think I speak for a majority of us when I admit that I'm still trying to wrap my head around the enormity of the allegations included within Yahoo Sports latest piece of investigative journalism on the Miami Hurricanes. And while we have a long, long way to go before any punishments are handed down from the NCAA, speculation over the extent of the fallout continues to intensify. Rumors of the NCAA re-instituting the death penalty have been rampant, with ESPN talking heads like Mark May calling for the NCAA to come down hard on Miami for a nearly decade-long reign of illegal benefits, boosterism and transgressions.

The New York Times' Pete Thamel takes a look at whether the NCAA would actually consider dusting off long castaway penalties like the death penalty and TV bans:

"There appears to be little doubt that the severity and breadth of the claims against Miami's athletics program are worse than what peers like Ohio State, North Carolina, Tennessee, Oregon and Louisiana State encountered in recent months.

But Julie Roe Lach, the N.C.A.A.'s vice president for enforcement, said in an interview Wednesday that there had been little discussion about reviving harsh penalties like television bans or the so-called death penalty, two punishments once used by the N.C.A.A. that have long been shelved."

My problem with the NCAA dusting off shelved punishments like the death penalty and TV bans is that these would unfairly punish other ACC schools who run a clean program. Levying the death penalty on Miami would adversely affect the rest of the conference in ways that we might not be able to truly comprehend. 

Let's say the Miami program is sent away for a period of two years. The rest of the conference would have to scramble to replace the Canes with another opponent for the years Miami was barred from competition. A last-minute adjustment to the football schedule could result in the rest of the ACC having to pay a hapless FCS or Sun Belt program to come to campus to replace the Hurricanes. A TV ban also adversely affects the rest of the conference. 

With just 11 programs in the conference, could the ACC even hold an ACC Championship Game with one program less than the NCAA minimum required to host a title game?

Would the conference go so far as jettisoning Miami for another ACC expansion candidate? There's clearly no shortage of Big East, Conference USA and FCS programs looking to get called up to the bigs, including East Carolina, Central Florida or South Florida. 

Or could Miami be opening the conference up to being picked apart from the north and the south? It's clear the sharks are circling, however disillusioned some of those sharks may be (solve the football/basketball split and then we'll talk). With the Aggies looking to move from the Big 12 to the SEC, rumors of a 14th team coming from the ACC are swirling. The Big East is also poised to pounce and has made it no secret that they are considering going on the offensive in the next round of conference musical chairs. 

The ACC is clearly at a crossroads and if the NCAA hands down punishments like the death penalty and TV bans, those could very well be catalysts for a big, big shakeup of the conference. In the end though, I don't think the NCAA will institute either the death penalty or a TV ban, specifically for the above reasons. The economy is in the tank and the last thing the NCAA wants is more conference instability. 

For all the above reasons, I think we will finally get an idea of what the NCAA has in its bag of enforcement tricks that is somewhere between the death penalty / TV bans and massive scholarship reductions, vacated wins and postseason bowl bans.

Don't misunderstand. I am all for the NCAA raining down hard on the Miami football program. I think the NCAA should employ any number of scholarship reductions, striking all of the program's wins over the period in question from the record and instituting a lengthy postseason bowl ban, the duration of which we've probably never seen before. But punishment like the death penalty goes too far and unfairly punishes the rest of the conference in the process.

That said, it's these over-the-top type of allegations at the U that I hope lead to far-sweeping changes to the sport of college football and the NCAA's enforcement of its bylaws. By all means, punish Miami and send a message to the rest of college football. But the NCAA also needs to take a long, hard look at itself in the mirror. The sport is not blameless in all this. Short of fundamental changes to the sport and its enforcement policies, this most recent case of The U probably won't be the most egregious example of rules violations we'll end up witnessing in our lifetimes. We'll all get together in 10 years time and share a good laugh about how Miami's 2002-2011 transgressions paled in comparison to program X's Ponzi scheme, prostitution ring, impermissible benefits and gambling scandal of 2020.