Miami reacts to end of NCAA scandal

TIM REYNOLDS (AP Sports Writer)
The Associated Press
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Miami coach Al Golden, left, and his coaching staff argue a penalty call during the second half of an NCAA college football against Wake Forest game in Miami Gardens, Fla., Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013. Miami won 24-21. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) -- Miami coach Al Golden went looking for athletic director Blake James at precisely 8:20 a.m. Tuesday, ready to finally hear the NCAA decision about the investigation that overshadowed the Hurricanes for more than two years.

Small problem. James was nowhere to be found.

''In my heart, I was going 'What does that mean?''' Golden said.

That was probably Golden's last angst-laden moment caused by this mess.

He got the good news from James moments later, who then addressed the Hurricane players and gave them the news that sparked everything from clapping to cheering to crying.

It was over. And with that, the Hurricanes went out to the practice field, back to work.

''I can sit up here and say we were focused all week,'' Golden said Saturday, after No. 7 Miami remained unbeaten with a 24-21 win over Wake Forest. ''I promise you I have never worked harder in my life the last 72 hours to get them focused for a game.''

For the first time Saturday, Miami's football team spoke out about the NCAA ruling that concludes the Nevin Shapiro booster scandal - no more bowl bans, just nine lost scholarships over three years, a penalty the Hurricanes still want lessened - and what it means going forward. The university decided not to make athletes and coaches available for comment on the ruling, or anything else, since it was delivered on Tuesday.

''We're just glad it's over,'' offensive lineman Shane McDermott said.

Not a single player on this Miami roster had any ties to the Shapiro scandal, a sordid tale of a Miami fan who became a Hurricane booster, then a convicted felon, then someone determined to bring down a program that he said turned its collective back on him when he needed support. He provided dozens of athletes, recruits and coaches with extra benefits over the span of nearly a decade, presumably with money gleaned from his $930 million Ponzi scheme.

Miami passed on going to three postseason games in the last two years, self-imposing those sanctions. This year, a bowl game awaits.

''It was a long wait,'' defensive end Anthony Chickillo said. ''It was a long time coming and we were all excited.''

A plane flew over Sun Life Stadium, where Miami plays its home games, Saturday morning thanking Golden, university president Donna Shalala and the team for their efforts over the last 2 1/2 years.

Golden acknowledged that the week was emotional, and some of his players weren't able to hide that, either.

''Obviously, it felt great just to put the NCAA behind us,'' quarterback Stephen Morris said. ''It was a great feeling for our team. But we practiced right after that. ... We've just put our faith and trust in President Shalala, Blake James and coach Golden to make the right decisions.''