Despite decades of Hurricanes warnings, the Atlantic Coast Conference just had to have Miami.
The grand plan to expand that ACC commissioner John Swofford believed was so vital to the league’s future in 2003 might just cause the conference’s eventual demise.
Perhaps that doomsday outlook is a reach, but a toxic situation like the one taking place in Miami could leave the venerable old conference a carcass ripe for the picking in the current climate of reshuffling.
At the very least, the real potential of the Hurricanes suffering the NCAA’s “death penalty” as a habitual offender could have a grave impact on the ACC’s already dwindling influence in the collegiate landscape.
If you haven’t heard what is happening down in Coral Gables, Fla., consider yourself fortunate. The scandal unfolding near South Beach is uglier than LeBron James’ fourth-quarter stats.
“The U” is getting dragged to depths that make even old-school Miami depravity seem quaint. The source of the problems is a Hurricanes booster named Nevin Shapiro who is in jail for his role in a $930 million Ponzi scheme.
Shapiro is jabbering like the jailbird he is about potentially millions of improper benefits to more than 70 athletes from 2002-10, including as many as 12 current players. We’re talking much more salacious stuff than $100 handshakes. According to the Yahoo! Sports report that unveiled the scandal and the NCAA’s months-long investigation, Shapiro details a litany of benefits beyond simple cash that includes providing prostitutes, travel, nightclub and yacht entertainment, bounties for injuring opposing players and even an abortion.
If even a fraction of Shapiro’s claims are true – and the evidence in the report is certainly damning – the Hurricanes could be ripe for the NCAA’s massive hammer to drop as a violations recidivist.
On the heels of NCAA sanctions doled out to Coastal Division mates Georgia Tech and pending at North Carolina, the ACC is starting to resemble the late Southwest Conference. Could it possibly suffer the same fate?
It’s not too far-fetched. ACC schools Florida State and Clemson have already had their names bandied about in Southeastern Counference expansion rumors in recent weeks. While the SEC put a hold on any expansion plans with a vote Sunday, it left the door open should it find takers other than Texas A&M to grow its base.
“Future conditions may make it advantageous to expand the number of institutions in the league,” the SEC said in its statement. “We discussed criteria and process associated with expansion.”
How soon do you think the Seminoles would be willing to sign up if the Hurricanes get the death penalty and its program is reduced to rubble? You think Boston College or Maryland might start eying the Big East or someone else if it looks like the ACC might get picked apart and left behind in the race to form super conferences? Do Clemson and Virginia Tech want to get stranded in a dead-end conference?
Loyalty isn’t what it used to be in the ever-shifting collegiate sands. Tradition be damned if it doesn’t make a buck.
As a lifelong ACC enthusiast, it’s sad to see the current state of affairs in the once-proud union. Its basketball supremacy has been usurped by the Big East (among others) and its football is sliding further into the shadow of the SEC it tried to emulate through expansion.
That expansion is the root of all this evil. It was a bad idea to begin with back in 2003 when the ACC raided the Big East for its marquee programs. Looks worse now.
Karma has proved brutal.
But Swofford has continued to stand by the league’s decision to grow beyond its traditional borders. On the fifth anniversary of Miami and Virginia Tech being ACC eligible, he spoke of adding “three schools that have fit in tremendously well to the culture of the league, to what our goals are and what our values system is. That’s been pleasing to see, because I think that our league is something special from a cultural and values standpoint.”
Really? Are these the values and the culture that the ACC really wanted?
If you lay down with dogs you get fleas, and the current ACC is infested.
Swofford hadn’t changed his defense too much by the time this year’s ACC football kickoff took place in July.
“Miami has not contributed – football-wise,” said Swofford in an admission that the Hurricanes haven’t been the factor the ACC believed it was purchasing eight years ago. “Miami has been a tremendous addition. As they came into our conference, they slid some competitively as a football program. But I’m confident that it will turn around. Miami has too much potential for it not to.”
In light of everything that’s come out in the month since that statement was made, Swofford must be wishing he’d swallowed his words.
Miami has been a disastrous addition to the ACC. It was the catalyst that encouraged the league to grow to 12 teams, eroding the close-knit bond that the former nine schools had with each other and destroying the annual matchups with every other team in both football and basketball.
And now they have stained the conference with the rogue brush that the Hurricanes have so long been painted with.
The ACC got what it deserved.