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Death penalty? Scholarship reductions? What should the punishment be for Miami Hurricanes scandal?

I n the bottom of all the filth, somewhere between the sleazy booster and the sleazy program, beneath the outlandish comportment and the outrageous rule-breaking, there are a couple of simple, chilling questions.

Does the University of Miami football program deserve to be put to death? Or at the very least, does it deserve to be hurt very, very badly?

Oh. My. Goodness.

They don't make scandals like this anymore. Prostitution. Strip clubs. Illegal payments. Cars. Parties. Travel. Bounties. Televisions. Gambling. An abortion. Miami is in a mess once again. And this time, who is to say how big a hammer the NCAA brings to town?

Hint: It's going to be bigger than Thor's.

If the allegations made in a Yahoo Sports investigation are true — if even a tenth of them are true — then UM is up to its ear holes in trouble and it should have no sympathy coming. When you consider the depth of the cheating alleged, and the length, the punishment involved ought to last for a very, very long time.

This has gone on for eight years. Six coaches (three of them basketball) have been implicated. Seventy-two players. And an administration building filled with the blind and the deaf.

Yeah, yeah. The finger-pointer, a little man named Nevin Shapiro, is a second-rate con artist who seemed to have been scraped up from a disco floor. Certainly, he deserves all the scorn UM fans can muster.

That said, it doesn't mean what he is saying isn't true. The testimony of bad guys sends other bad guys to jail every day. And Yahoo, well-respected for its investigative prowess, says it has corroborated charges with documents and other sources. Several players, Yahoo reports, have admitted they broke the rules.

So, yeah, it reads like cheating, and it feels like cheating, and it smells like cheating.

There are still questions for the NCAA to ask, and there are still answers that must be discovered. For Miami fans, however, it may soon be brace-yourself time.

Yeah, this is worse than Ohio State and Terrelle Pryor's tattoos.

Yeah, this is worse than Southern Cal and Reggie Bush's house.

Yeah, this is worse than North Carolina and Butch Davis' babysitter.

As often as many of us have read allegations against one program or another, as hardened as most of us have become when it comes to cheating, these charges still suck your breath away. How could a program go rogue for so long without anyone noticing?

You know the last football program this far out of control? It was SMU in the mid 1980s. That was before the NCAA strapped the program in the electric chair and pulled the switch. Maybe you remember.

Does that mean that UM will be executed, too? Already a lot of voices seem to be calling for it. And who can blame them? This may be the biggest argument for the death penalty since then.

Still, it's hard to see that happening, more so because of the devastating nature of the death penalty than for mercy. But if the charges are true, I think the NCAA will at least discuss it, which says volumes about how out of control this program was.

In many ways, it's as easy to blame the athletic department as it is the players. Yes, the players are aware of the boundaries. This isn't about ignorance of the rules. Nor is it about the old argument that players deserve a stipend. This was greed, not need.

Still, how do the administrators not suspect something over eight years? How can so many players run wild without anyone noticing? How many times can a renegade booster turn into an ATM without someone wondering what was going on?

"If they had hired a private investigator for a day, it would have been the easiest job that guy ever had," Shapiro told Yahoo. "It would have been over in five minutes."

This is Miami. If a program ever should be suspicious of boosters, it is this one. Remember Luther Campbell back in the '80s? Didn't anyone hear an athlete talk about sex parties on a yacht or late nights in a strip club or collecting a bounty for a big hit on an opponent? Think of it like this: If Yahoo reporter Charles Robinson could receive a tip, are we to believe no one in the UM administration did?

Then there is this: Robinson worked on his story for 11 months. Twelve months ago, UM heard Shapiro was starting to make his allegations. Gee, don't you wonder what UM's report looked like? Don't you wonder how many people the bosses interviewed?

So now the NCAA posse is in town. If the allegations stick, it's going to be interesting to see how bad this turns out for UM.

The NCAA is a funny entity. Even knowing Ohio State had violations, it allowed players to play in last season's Sugar Bowl. In other situations, it has tried to punish by stripping away victories.

With Miami, there is little to strip. What are you going to take away? The five-win season? The two seven-win seasons? The Sun Bowl runnerup trophy? Hey, UM would love for those years to be ripped out of the record book.

Just a guess, but if the NCAA decides punishment is in order, it will start with suspensions of the 12 players involved who are still on the roster. From there, it will proceed to bowl bans and the loss of scholarships. For instance, USC got two years of bowl bans and a loss of 30 scholarships for the Bush scandal. So what's fair for UM? Three years and 40 (spread out over four years)? Four years and 50?

Bottom line, this is what the NCAA has to determine.

How close to death can you get without crossing over?

Death penalty? Scholarship reductions? What should the punishment be for Miami Hurricanes scandal? 08/17/11 [Last modified: Thursday, August 18, 2011 1:07am]
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