Well, I'm thinking that the Miami game on Labor Day might've just gotten a little easier. Yahoo! Sports' went public with an article earlier today detailing the absurd illegal benefits received by some Miami football players over the past decade or so, and it's pretty massive:
In 100 hours of jailhouse interviews during Yahoo! Sports' 11-month investigation, Hurricanes booster Nevin Shapiro described a sustained, eight-year run of rampant NCAA rule-breaking, some of it with the knowledge or direct participation of at least seven coaches from the Miami football and basketball programs. At a cost that Shapiro estimates in the millions of dollars, he said his benefits to athletes included but were not limited to cash, prostitutes, entertainment in his multimillion-dollar homes and yacht, paid trips to high-end restaurants and nightclubs, jewelry, bounties for on-field play (including bounties for injuring opposing players), travel and, on one occasion, an abortion.
As far as specifics go, emphasis mine:
Ultimately, what documents show is a booster who broke NCAA rules while simultaneously making tens of thousands of dollars in annual contributions to Miami's athletic program. All while incurring massive bills aligning himself socially with a stable of Miami players. A stable that features multiple elite players such as Wilfork, Beason, Andre Johnson, Devin Hester, Kellen Winslow Jr., Antrel Rolle and many more - including at least 12 players currently on the Hurricanes roster.
Frank Haith is accused, too. Seriously, read it all.
While this obviously means Miami's athletic department will be blown to smithereens in due time, I'm more immediately concerned about how this changes the Maryland-Miami opener on September 5. Yahoo has graciously provided a central hub to view all the implicated players (and what they did). The list of current Canes: starting safety Ray-Ray Armstrong, starting WR Travis Benjamin, starting DT Marcus Forston, start CB JoJo Nicholas, starting DE Olivier Vernon, starting DE Adewale Ojomo, starting LB (and 2010 Miami MVP, and personal Testudo favorite) Sean Spence, starting safety Vaughn Telemaque, talented-but-enigmatic WR Aldarius Johnson, DL-turned-TE Dyron Dye, backup linebacker Marcus Robinson, and maybe-starter-maybe-not QB Jacory Harris.
That's seven starters on defense and one and a half on offense, though Johnson and Dye have too much talent to be considered anything other than important reserves. Included are arguably the the three or four most important defensive players for the Canes, and the most dynamic offensive player.
The real question will be: how many of these guys are gonna be out by September 5? The NCAA is a notoriously slow-footed organization, but they worked fast enough to make sure UNC lost most of their players last year. They've been going with the investigation for over a year now, but I expect this story will move making a judgment on it to the top of the list. Vegas, for the record, seems uncertain about the matter: Caesar's has already pulled the game off the lines, and others are expected to follow shortly.
And, of course, this is all on top of the heavy suspensions already placed on the team: starting OT Seantrel Henderson, starting LB Kelvin Cain, redshirt freshman CB Keion Payne, and the aforementioned Dye are all slated to miss the opener already, along with redshirt freshman OL Jermaine Barton. Oh, and electric RB Storm Johnson, redshirt freshman CB Devont'a Davis, and redshirt freshman LB Travis Williams are all transferring, stemming from the suspensions doled out to them as well.
Assuming the NCAA suspended everyone listed above by the Maryland game - by no means a given, but I'd say a strong possibility - Al Golden will be fielding a team without nine assumed defensive starters and a whopping nineteen total players, most of them on the defensive side of the ball. The best players on the team - Spence, Armstrong, Benjamin, Telemaque, Forston, Henderson - will all be out of commission. Both the secondary and the DL will be playing with only one of their assumed starters - music to Danny O'Brien's ears, I'm sure. Miami will be playing, frankly, with the shell of a team.
The question will be if they indeed all that happens Sept. 5, and if it happens in time for the NCAA to "consider" Miami's appeal. (Remember Ohio State with Pryor et al. in the Sugar Bowl?)
Maryland might've had a rough spring with defections, but it definitely wasn't that bad. A relatively full-bodied Maryland squad playing at home should be able to deal with a rather scattered Miami team - not that it's that simple, but I'd at least expect the Terps to become the favorites. Keep in mind that a battered UNC squad gave an LSU team much better than them a run for their money in a similar situation.
NB: Yes, I feel mighty bad for Al Golden and Jim Larranaga, two apparent class acts in the coaching world now apparently stuck in a horrible position. Any chance for a Golden-Edsall trade?