Thankfully, Pitt's win in the Meineke Car Care Bowl remains untarnished. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Swallowed up in the ongoing Penn State mess is that two high profile ACC teams are facing their own NCAA issues. Although not as dramatic as the "unprecedented" situation at Penn State, Pitt could be entering an ACC Coastal Division where two teams - North Carolina and Miami - could be dealing with some serious NCAA sanctions or at least the specter of a looming NCAA investigation.
That's obviously not great news for the conference, but it has the potential to remove two of the more substantial roadblocks from Pitt's quest to win the ACC Coastal. Will that actually happen? In one case - maybe. In another - unbelievably not.
UNC is a newcomer to the NCAA wheel of justice, but they've certainly made their mark in a short period of time. That's what you get with Butch Davis. Scandal ultimately cost Davis his job (surprise!), but his ghost seems to still be haunting UNC. At the end of the day, it's an easier to digest story than Penn State - good ol' fashioned academic fraud:
The nine-month review, prompted by the academic scandal involving former players on the UNC football team, found widespread misconduct, teaching irregularities, grade changing and even forged signatures within the African and Afro-American Studies department from summer 2007 through the 2009 school year.
More than half of the students enrolled in the classes in question were athletes, according to Nancy Davis, associate vice chancellor for university relations. 246 of them were football players (36 percent of enrollments); 23 were basketball players (3 percent); and 131 (19 percent) were students who competed in Olympic sports.
Even at big schools, the word gets around which classes and professors are the easiest. The avoidance of actual education is time-honored tradition at universities across the country, particularly if the class is being taken to fulfill some meaningless requirement. And among student athletes? I'm sure it's much more... "organized." But you can't change grades. You can't allow student athletes to not show up. Academic advisers can steer them to the path of least academic resistance, but you can't have no-show classes.
The NCAA has said practically nothing about the academic fraud. UNC-CH officials have said it does not constitute an NCAA violation because nonathletes also had been enrolled in the bogus classes and were not treated differently. They have consistently said the bogus classes were not hatched to keep athletes eligible to play.
"One would have to decide that there was special treatment afforded to student-athletes in order to find that there’s a violation," said Josephine Potuto, a former chairwoman of the NCAA’s committee on infractions. "There are ways to do it. But it’s not easy. You can’t do it simply by saying, ‘Hey, there are a lot of student-athletes in this class, and everybody got an A.’ That’s not going to get you there."
So here we have the classic "competitive advantage situation. UNC got assistance keeping players eligible, but because only 58% of enrollment in the suspect classes were student athletes, the Tarheels seemed poised to escape the NCAA's wrath. That's good for them since they're already on probation for major violations. And the NCAA wonders why people haven't been taking them seriously.
Then there's Miami. The Hurricanes being in NCAA hot water is as nostalgic as The Wonder Years reruns. Still taking shelter from the nuclear fallout of Charles Robinson's atomic bomb of an investigation, the 'Canes look to ditching the lead jumpsuits a bit too early. Dr. Robinson returns:
Less than one week after the University of Miami hired Al Golden as coach, members of Golden's coaching staff began using Sean "Pee Wee" Allen – a then-equipment manager and onetime right-hand man of convicted Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro – to circumvent NCAA rules in the recruiting of multiple Miami-area players, Yahoo! Sports has learned.
Golden, hired by Miami in mid-December 2010, had direct knowledge of Allen's improper involvement with Miami recruits, according to a former Hurricanes athletic department staffer and federal testimony given by Allen in Shapiro's bankruptcy case. Additionally, multiple sources interviewed by NCAA investigators have told Yahoo! Sports that Allen has become a focal point in the association's probe into Miami athletics. The sources said investigators focused on Allen's role in providing impermissible benefits to Hurricanes players, as well as his contact with Miami recruits.
And now Golden - ironically linked to the Penn State job whenever such speculation is called for - is sullied at a job he probably should have abandoned when the original Robinson piece hit. Golden denies any wrongdoing, obviously, but things don't look particularly good.
It's not so much that Allen having impermissible contact with recruits is some sort of capital offense, it's that the NCAA isn't even done with the original yacht rides and hookers investigation from before.
So is Miami going to see some sort of additional NCAA punishment from this? Probably. Miami self-imposed a bowl ban last year, but it was a pretty hollow gesture as it was announced after Miami was realistically eliminated from the ACC race. Will the NCAA look by that fact and give Miami credit for turning down a lower-tier bowl game? We'll see. But if I had to bet, I'd wager Miami sees some sort of scholarship reductions as well.