NCAA president Mark Emmert’s revelation that investigations into Miami had been compromised lifts a dark cloud that lingered over the program for over two years.
The university sacrificed bowl invitations each of the last two seasons, and a shot at the Atlantic Coast Conference championship this past campaign. Lost bowl game revenue is just one issue Miami can take with the NCAA. There’s a much larger discussion to be had about the organization’s jurisdiction at a later time. From a purely football perspective, Wednesday’s announcement is a huge win for the program.
No longer left to fret about NCAA sanctions, Miami can focus on winning football. Fortunately for The U, head coach Al Golden was already doing just that. Golden inherited a tumultuous situation, yet made the best of his situation. Nowhere is that more evident than his first two moves of the 2013 off-season, when he added assistant coaches Mario Cristobal and James Coley. Cristobal performed a minor football miracle with his about-face of the FIU program, winning a Sun Belt Conference championship and reaching back-to-back bowl games.
Coley’s defection from Miami rival Florida State to replace Jedd Fisch as offensive coordinator is significant. His absence won’t necessarily impact the Seminole offense too profoundly — Coley was not the in-game play caller for FSU, a contentious issue. But Coley’s recruiting acumen could make waves in the coming week and dramatically alter the ACC’s 2013 dynamic.
Meanwhile, Cristobal is a Miami alum with a proven track record recruiting unheralded talent from the region. Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, a standout at FIU and breakthrough rookie star in the NFL, was a product of Miami Springs High School.
Golden’s commitment to the program has the Hurricanes making strides toward becoming a powerhouse once more. The 2013 Hurricanes should take the longest step yet. Miami has a roster capable of closing out the BCS era in one of the system’s five illustrious bowls, and winning its first ACC championship.
The Coastal Division title in 2012 was more indicative of a default victory at a wholly unimpressive 7-5. Fellow NCAA-rendered-ineligible team North Carolina had a tiebreaker over the ‘Canes, all things being equal. The passed-on ACC championship opportunity is no accurate indicator of big things to come in 2013, in and of itself. However, it’s worth nothing that in Miami’s 7-5 record were three losses were to BCS bowl participants. The other two were by a combined five points.
Moreover, numerous key contributors were young. Miami’s youth was particularly noticeable on the defensive end, where freshman and sophomores from Golden’s first two signing classes accounted for a combined 57 starts last season. Scouting services regarded both recruiting classes highly, and the opportunity for playing time allowed the youngsters to garner experience to go with the talent. Linebacker and 2011 signee Denzel Perryman, for example, ranked second on the team in both total tackles and tackles for loss. Fellow Class of ’11 recruit and linebacker Eddie Johnson showed potential to be a true star if he can get his priorities in order.
Another influx of quality talent is likely on its way. National Signing Day looms, and Rivals.com rates the average Hurricane commitment at a 3.33, a figure that compares favorably to the incoming classes at South Carolina and Ole Miss.
Golden has tapped into a pipeline that helped turn around Temple in his tenure there, landing verbal commitments from four star New Jersey prospects, defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad (Don Boscoe Prep) and quarterback Kevin Olsen (Wayne Hills). Of course, winning at The U means winning recruiting battles in south Florida, and the Hurricanes’ 2013 class features a pair of four star defensive backs from their backyard, Artie Burns and Jamal Carter.
Representing the area in last year’s class were five stars Howard and Duke Johnson, and four stars Jelani Hamilton, Ereck Flowers, Angelo Jean-Louis and Deon Bush. The addition of Coley should only strengthen the local pipeline.
All this building would have translated to little had the NCAA imposed severe sanctions on Miami. With the threat of that now gone, The U’s Golden Age can begin in earnest — and perhaps sooner than anticipated.