Posted: Wednesday August 17, 2011 3:00PM ; Updated: Wednesday August 17, 2011 5:29PM
Stewart Mandel
Stewart Mandel>COLLEGE FOOTBALL MAILBAG

Three factors that will determine Miami's punishment; more mail

Story Highlights

Mark Emmert, NCAA are feeling pressure to come down hard on rule-breakers

Houston is the most logical replacement if the Big 12 loses Texas A&M to SEC

USC might not feel the full effects of its severe sanctions until 2013 and 2014

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The severity of Miami's punishment will hinge in part on whether former AD Paul Dee, current president Donna Shalala and other members of the school's administration knew about violations.
The severity of Miami's punishment will hinge in part on whether former AD Paul Dee, current president Donna Shalala and other members of the school's administration knew about violations.
AP
/2011/football/ncaa/08/22/miami-investigation.ap/index.html

So ... anything interesting going on this week?

Hey Stewart. I'm a long-time Mailbag fan and even longer-time 'Canes fan, so I have a question for you on this whole ordeal. While I don't doubt that a lot of the allegations are true, do you think there is really enough hard evidence for the insane sanctions people have been speculating? Can the NCAA really use anonymous sources reported by a news company as evidence? No former players have to cooperate right? While the impermissible recruiting can most likely be punished by interviewing the old assistants and current players, most of the other issues were further back and people involved (excepting Donna Shalala) are all gone.
-- Mark, Miami

First off, you have to take into account what the NCAA considers to be its "burden of proof" in an enforcement case. Not to keep harping on it, but take USC/Reggie Bush as an example. Nearly all of the key testimony was provided by an ex-convict (Lloyd Lake) with an axe to grind -- just as the Miami case will be based primarily on the testimony of a current convict (Nevin Shapiro). The two key pieces of evidence used to determine that running backs coach Todd McNair knew of Bush's relationship with Lake, therefore resulting in a Lack of Institutional Control charge, were a picture of McNair and Lake together at a party and phone records confirming contact between the two. That's pretty much it.

Compare that with the evidence in the Yahoo! report, which, quite frankly, is astonishing. Charles Robinson's exposť is a landmark in online journalism; it not only tells a story but includes links to individual pages for every single player or coach alleged to have taken or orchestrated benefits, with the accompanying documentation. For some that means incriminating photos, for others phone records and bank statements. In nearly all cases, there's actual audio of Shaprio's testimony to federal investigators. That's a lot of hard evidence, and since Shapiro seems hell bent on bringing down The U, I assume the NCAA will have access to all of it.

It really doesn't matter if investigators get to speak with Willis McGahee, Kellen Winslow or any of the other long-gone 'Canes. I'm not sure those allegations even matter in the grand scheme of things, other than to establish how Shapiro originally got involved with Miami players. The three key factors that will determine whether this thing reaches SMU proportions are: 1) Whether the NCAA can prove administrators knew what Shapiro was doing; 2) Whether Shapiro in fact induced players to sign with the sports agency he co-owned; and 3) whether the assistant coaches mentioned in the allegations did in fact steer recruits to Shapiro. The first one will be the toughest and may well be false. The second is pretty clearly established in the article. And because the active coaches are required to cooperate with investigators, they'll either confirm or deny the third part, but they risk a career-ending unethical conduct charge if they aren't truthful.

No one can predict how an NCAA case will play out and whether or not it will ultimately result in "insane sanctions." I do know that with all the criticism the NCAA is facing right now, and considering all the tough talk in recent weeks from Mark Emmert and others about coming down harder against egregious rule-breakers, the enforcement staff will be facing significant pressure to deliver a thoroughly established set of severe allegations for the Committee on Infractions to consider. What happens from there is anyone's guess.

Hey Stewart: Why couldn't the Big 12 replace Texas A&M with Houston if the hammer falls? It makes sense geographically, the two teams are about equal talent-wise (though it'd be swapping a traditionally defensive team for an explosively offensive team), and it'd cement the Houston television market for the conference.
-- Wood, Minneapolis, Minn.

Houston is my clubhouse leader. I know there's been more national sentiment toward BYU, but that might not make sense for either party. Considering Texas' TV network helped create this whole hubabaloo in the first place, it might not be in the Big 12's best interest to go out and grab another school with its own network. Granted, BYUtv doesn't have the same clout as ESPN-backed TLN, but one of the driving factors behind BYU's move to independence was to achieve more national exposure (which it's getting with its own ESPN deal) and reclaim more programming for BYUtv. Obviously a chance at a BCS auto bid might trump all that, but I'm not sure that's the direction -- geographically or philosophically -- that the Big 12 wants to head.

The Big 12 is a Texas-based conference, even more so now with the departures of Nebraska and Colorado, and it makes sense to add another Texas school. Television markets really aren't an issue here -- Texas A&M isn't providing any markets of its own as it is -- and reportedly the conference won't lose much, if any, of its ESPN dollars if it finds a "suitable replacement." (Have you noticed how often ESPN comes up in these conference realignment answers? Who's really running this sport?)

While Houston has never had a national breakthrough season like TCU or Boise State, it's been consistently successful on the mid-major level for nearly a decade now, and it spent two decads (1976-95) in the same conference with Texas, Texas Tech and Baylor. Fan support would be a concern (average attendance last season: 31,728), as it would with SMU (23,515), another contender. I don't know what the deciding factor would be if it came down to those two, only that Houston is slightly more established right now.

I feel like you're one of the only national media members who doesn't enjoy conference realignment talk. To me, it's made the past two offseasons much more enjoyable than they would have been without it. Why don't you like it?
-- Josh, Omaha, Neb.

Is it that obvious?

I get why fans eat up this stuff. It's like a trade-deadline for college football ... if the trades in question possibly impacted 15 different teams. I'm sure debating all the potential scenarios is a whole lot of fun. But I don't think you'll find too many media members who "enjoy" covering what is essentially an endless charade of propaganda, misinformation and wild speculation that all blends together into one big gossip party on Twitter, changing by the hour.

Case in point: ESPN last weekend ran as "news" on its ticker a "report" from radio host/basketball analyst Doug Gottleib that A&M was "headed to the SEC" and that Clemson, Missouri and Florida State were "likely to follow." That was basically gossip disguised as news, but ESPN legitimized it by running it front and center, thus forcing all those schools to have to respond. (And unfortunately, I'm no better. I contributed to the misinformation last weekend when I hastily read the SEC's statement from Bernie Machen, naively took the first part about being "satisfied" too literally and rushed out a mistaken tweet that the SEC had "passed" on A&M, which promptly got retweeted a zillion times.)

You would think we all would have learned a lesson from last summer, when Texas leaving for the Pac-10 was a "done deal" right up until the moment it wasn't. But we haven't. And far be it for me to deprive everyone of enjoying the closest thing we have to a trade deadline.

 
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