Forget any NCAA investigation: Golden, Miami are in enough trouble on the field this season

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Next up …

… Miami?

The NCAA handed the Penn State program Monday what has been called a slow death penalty, and the next once-mighty program sliding in front of the NCAA's headlights – and perhaps entirely off the college football landscape – is the formerly feared U.

After last summer's Yahoo! Sports report regarding convicted Ponzi schemer and Miami booster Nevin Shapiro's alleged series of egregious NCAA violations, the headlines somehow have managed to get even worse for the Hurricanes.

Second-year Miami coach Al Golden and his assistants are being accused of using Sean Allen – a former equipment manager and close friend of Shapiro – to break NCAA rules. Friday's Yahoo! Sports report cited sources claiming Golden knew of Allen's improper involvement with Miami recruits.

Golden would not talk specifically about the allegations Monday at the ACC Media Days event, but he addressed the situation to a certain extent.

"I was disappointed in the article Friday," he said. "First and foremost because of how it attacked my integrity, both personally and professionally. … There will be a day when I can refute that, discuss that, and I look forward to that day.

"I don't want to lose sight of that the person [Allen] in that deal hasn't been with us for a whole year. So we're not talking about something that just happened yesterday. This is behind us. We are moving forward. Our kids have moved forward."

But the NCAA most certainly will be pressing rewind during its investigation. And considering that the NCAA previously warned that sanctions will continue to increase in severity – a threat backed up Monday – the Hurricanes might want to prepare for a vicious storm.

"What happened today [with Penn State] and what led to today was unprecedented," said Golden, a former Penn State captain who took two body blows with the sanctions against his alma mater and new allegations against his UM program falling within days of one another. "I don't think you can compare our situation or any situation to what we're seeing."

Miami's program managed to tumble down the mountain on its own over the past decade, and now appears to be teetering on the edge. Whether the NCAA provides the extra shove into oblivion will be determined later.

That is, if the Hurricanes don't do it to themselves in what could be a disastrous season on the field.

Only four players with double-digit starts – two on offense, two on defense – return from last season. Just 11 percent of Miami's passing and 22 percent of its rushing returns, the lowest and second-lowest percentages in those categories, respectively, in the league. And the schedule will be tough, with non-conference games at Kansas State and against Notre Dame in Chicago.

The Hurricanes were picked to finish fifth in the ACC's Coastal Division – ahead of only Duke – which marks their worst preseason spot since joining the league in 2004.

"I don't care … I'd probably pick us fifth, too," Golden said. "Half the guys just finished with the senior prom. I get it. Not going to slow us down.

"Certainly we're rebuilding, but think about what we're rebuilding to. There are a lot of teams that would be happy with 7-5 and being bowl-eligible. But that's not acceptable at the University of Miami. We don't want to lose that standard. That's why we went to Miami."

Until now, proclamations of Miami's resurrection had become an annual summer event. In the eight previous ACC preseason polls since joining the league, the Hurricanes exceeded their predicted slot just once. Half of those years, they failed to reach their preseason prediction, including:

• In 2006, Miami was an overwhelming favorite to win the ACC. It finished 7-6 and ended its season on a cold night in Boise, Idaho, edging Nevada by a point in what was then called the MPC Computers Bowl.

• Last season, the 'Canes were picked to finish second in the Coastal and received votes to win it. They went 3-5 in the ACC, 6-6 overall and spent the bowl season at home because of a self-imposed postseason ban.

But this season, no one is giving the 'Canes any extra respect for simply wearing the same uniforms as the past Miami machine. What a machine it was: four national titles during a dominant run in the 1980s and early 1990s, and another title during a 46-4 stretch from 2000-04.

"Sometimes I go back and look at highlights," Miami senior running back Mike James said. "They just dominated teams. That's what I want to do. Dominate people. You see [opponents back then], and they didn't want no more. Falling down. Giving up. Taking it to the point that they don't want to play football no more. That's what I remember the most and what I used to love about them.

"They were bad men. Bad men."

The U's on-field intimidation is gone now. So is its national respect – judging by the preseason predictions.

And soon we will know whether Miami joins Penn State as a former power destined to fade into a footnote for the next generation of fans.

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