Miami officials said Monday 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 the 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 hope that the NCAA takes those measures into account when doling out punishment.
"Do I think it's fair? No," Miami coach Al Golden said, asked about punishing players who have not been accused of wrongdoing. "But that's the system."
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.
"To control the things that you can control. The rest of it is out of our hands -- we're all in this together," said head coach Al Golden. "This is not a situation where we can go backwards, and we have a great opportunity this Saturday to focus on Duke and get a piece of the Coastal championship."
Golden said he plans on adding about 15 recruits next year, and has already started to factor anticipated scholarship-reductions into his count.
"I'm not allowed to comment on anything relative to the investigation," Golden said. "But I'm already factoring it in to my count. They're going to tell us, ultimately, but I've already started down that road of not taking a full group."
Interim athletic 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.
"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," said the university's statement.
It continued, "The University and President Shalala have been clear from the start of the inquiry that Miami will cooperate fully and will seek the truth, no matter where the path might lead and that the institution will be stronger because of it. The University has already taken proactive measures to ensure more strict compliance with NCAA rules and continues to evaluate further steps."
James said the team was disappointed, as he would have expected.
"We feel it's a decision that's best for us moving forward," James said.
It's the first time since the 1981 and 1982 seasons that Miami will go consecutive years without a bowl trip. In 1983, the Hurricanes won the school's first of five national championships.
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 the 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 Miami the chance of playing in its first ACC title game — the Hurricanes almost certainly would have gotten there if they beat Duke — 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, however, still has a championship game of sorts waiting. If the Hurricanes beat Duke, they will finish tied for first in the Coastal. And for a program that's has been starting over in many respects, that alone would provide a boost heading into 2013.
"We're here as a family," quarterback Stephen Morris said. "We've faced a lot of adversity here at this university. Something that was done a couple years ago affects us right now, but that's what men have got to do. We've got to step up and stay focused on the task at hand and stay together."
The rogue booster who sparked the investigation, convicted and jailed Ponzi scheme architect Nevin Shapiro, pleaded guilty to charges that he orchestrated a $930 million scam in September 2010 — three months before Golden arrived in Coral Gables.
Still, Golden reaffirmed his commitment to Miami on Monday, saying he's "not in the business of searching for another job right now."
"I can see the end. I can see what we're going to become," Golden said.
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 coming weekend.
The ACC pools its bowl revenue and shares it among all 12 of its member schools, but it's unclear how that process will be affected — if at all — since the league will not receive payouts from the usual number of postseason matchups. James said he believes Miami will remain part of the bowl-distribution process.
Golden said his message to the team was simple: Stay the course.
"I'm here to lead them," Golden said.