NORMAN — It’s party time again in Miami.
Not on the yacht where booster Nevin Shapiro liked to take players, fat cats and assorted, er, guests. Not in the waterfront mansions or swanky nightclubs where Miami players were invited to unwind after a long day on the practice field.
But party they will in the hallways of University of Miami, where once again it’s a good time to be in the business of college athletics.
A three-year dance with the NCAA is over, the football team is undefeated and ranked No. 7 in the nation, and visions of a big bowl game fill the air. All for a couple of paltry scholarships, the final payment for a decade of allowing the football and basketball programs to run amok.
“It’s been a long haul,” Miami President Donna Shalala told The Associated Press. “But I don’t have any anger or frustration.”
No reason for any of that, though a few fist pumps and a victory dance around campus might be in order. Yes, Miami sacrificed two bowl games and an Atlantic Coast Conference football title game to appease the NCAA, but Tuesday’s announcement sparing the university from much further damage couldn’t have been scripted better by the school itself.
That’s partly because NCAA investigators bungled the case so badly from the beginning that Shalala finally put the organization on notice earlier this year that enough was enough. But it also shows the increasing irrelevance of the NCAA in big-time college athletics, where the money flows like Dom Perignon at one of Shapiro’s parties and the large conferences are free to do pretty much anything they want to do.
The big schools and conferences don’t mind keeping the NCAA around for window dressing to make it look as if college athletics are really for the kids and not the grown-ups. But try to really get tough — even in a case where most of the evidence was already laid out for them — and the fight begins.