Miami’s convincing win over ACC Coastal rival Virginia Tech faces the university’s athletic department with an important question. NCAA investigations are ongoing and sanctions pending for years of malfeasance, predating the current regime. Miami athletic brass offered up last season’s bowl eligibility as sacrificial alms to the NCAA, an indicator of good faith in the organization’s judicial process.
Of course, for a 6-6 team destined to spend its Christmas in Shreveport, sacrificing instant gratification for long term results is no question. This season, Al Golden’s team is in control of its destiny. Implications much greater than the Independence Bowl are at stake as Miami closes its 2012 slate.
Defeating Virginia Tech put the Hurricanes in the driver’s seat of the ACC Coastal. Win out, and Miami is the divisional champion with a ticket punched for Charlotte and the ACC championship game. The Hurricanes would likely be paired up with rival Florida State, which regained control over its Atlantic division destiny with NC State losing at North Carolina in Week 9.
A second crack at the Seminoles and the opportunity to return to a BCS bowl for the first time since 2003 — and for the first time since joining the ACC — might prove too much for Miami to pass, even under NCAA pressure. Perhaps winning the conference’s BCS bid is a pipe dream for a team that just rose above .500 on Nov. 1, and still has yet to guarantee itself bowl eligibility. Then again, the Hurricanes were within a field goal of Florida State heading into the fourth quarter of their Oct. 20 match-up.
Moreover, the 2012 season is the last opportunity for Hurricane seniors to fulfill the dreams that came en tow with them to Miami — seniors like running back Mike James. James has shared the spotlight with freshman Duke Johnson, a microcosm of the merging of regimes still ongoing at Miami. James was a Randy Shannon recruit — Johnson was a signee of Golden’s stellar 2012 class. Each has been integral to the Hurricane offense, but for James this is the last gasp.
Those upperclassmen who have remained through trying times are building to the culmination of their careers. A 5-4 record may not be impressive, but the Hurricanes have seen firsthand what it takes to be a BCS team, having played two in position to qualify for college football’s most prestigious postseason games (Notre Dame and Kansas State) and a third favored to via Florida State. Having the opportunity to parlay that experience into a tangible reward is tempting, but is it shortsighted with the NCAA seeking retribution?