CORAL GABLES (AP) — Miami officials said that the university is making what it called an “unprecedented decision” to self-impose a postseason ban for the second straight year, ending any chance of the Hurricanes playing in either the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game or a bowl.
Just like last year, Miami's decision was made with regard to the status of an ongoing NCAA investigation into the school's compliance practices. The inquiry began in 2011 after a former booster went public with allegations that he provided dozens of athletes and recruits with extra benefits such as cash and gifts.
By sitting out again, Miami — which still has not been presented with its notice of allegations from the NCAA — is hoping to lessen the hit of any looming sanctions that could be handed down when the investigation ends. Schools often self-impose penalties with the hope that the NCAA would take those measures into account when doling out punishment.
Miami clearly hopes that a pair of postseason bans, especially when the Hurricanes still had a chance at a Bowl Championship Series berth this year, helps its cause with the NCAA. Whenever the process ends, sanctions against the football and men's basketball programs are expected, with penalties likely to include probation terms and scholarship reductions.
The university said interim athletics director Blake James informed the team of the decision Monday morning. University President Donna Shalala and the school's legal counsel were also involved in the decision.
The decision came two days after Miami quarterback Stephen Morris threw for 413 yards and three scores in a 40-9 win over the University of South Florida Bulls at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens.
Herb Waters had an 87-yard touchdown catch for Miami's longest reception in more than five years and the Hurricanes got their sixth win, the magic number for postseason eligibility. Miami would finish no worse than tied for first in the Atlantic Coast Conference's Coastal Division by beating Duke this weekend when the two teams meet at 8 p.m. Saturday in Charlotte, N.C.
“Considerable deliberation and discussion based on the status of the NCAA inquiry went into the decision-making process and, while acknowledging the impact that the decision will have on current student-athletes, coaches, alumni and fans, a determination was made that voluntarily withholding the football team from a second postseason was not only a prudent step for the University to take but will also allow for the football program and University to move forward in the most expedited manner possible,'' the university said in a statement Monday.
Schools that do not self-impose things like bowl bans when facing NCAA investigations often regret that decision. Most recently, Ohio State — still unbeaten — chose not to ban itself from a bowl last season, before the NCAA handed down punishments for a memorabilia for tattoos scandal.
Instead of being in the mix for a BCS berth, and possibly a shot at the national title, the Buckeyes' season will end this weekend.
Miami's move, which was not unexpected, denies the Hurricanes the chance of playing in its first ACC title game and also ends any chance that the team finishes its season playing what would amount to a home game at Sun Life Stadium, the site of the Orange Bowl.
The ACC champion goes to the Orange Bowl and Miami's decision effectively ends the Coastal race. Georgia Tech will play Atlantic Division winner Florida State in Charlotte, N.C., on Dec. 1 for the conference title and automatic BCS spot.
Miami's decision will add to the ACC's bowl dilemma this season.
The ACC has affiliations with eight bowl games but, this year, it will be unable to fill those spots. North Carolina is ineligible because of NCAA sanctions, Miami is choosing to be ineligible and Maryland, Boston College and Virginia have already lost too many games to be bowl-qualified, so, at most, seven teams will be going to the postseason. Wake Forest (5-6) and Virginia Tech (5-6) could merit bowl invitations if they win this weekend.