Former UM booster Nevin Shapiro's allegations that he povided impermissible benefits to scores of student athletes over an eight-year period could lead the NCAA to levy harsh sanctions against the Canes football and basketball teams. The size and scope of the ongoing scandal are larger than any other in the recent history of college athletics.
However, it appears the NCAA could shy away from some of the harshest punishments at its disposal, including a television ban or the so-called "death penalty," which would force UM to shelve its football program for a year.
Julie Roe Lach, the NCAA's vice president for enforcement, told the New York Times Wednesday that internal NCAA discussions regarding punishment (should Miami be found guilty of any rule-breaking after the NCAA investigation is complete) have focused more on postseason bans and suspensions for coaches.
"I have not heard it turn much to television bans or the death penalty," she said of discussions to the Times. "The majority of the ideas or support I keep hearing relate toward suspensions or postseason bans being the most powerful."
The NCAA used the death penalty only once, against Southern Methodist University's football team in 1987. No team has received a television ban since 1996, according to the Times.
Former chairman of the NCAA Committee on Infractions David Swank told the Times he thinks the death penalty or a television ban will not be used by the NCAA in the Miami case. The death penalty "destroys a program" in his words, and a television ban hurts the offending team's conference.
Another longtime compliance official, speaking to the Times anonymously, said the accusations in Yahoo! Sports' report on Shapiro's time as a booster are the most significant case of rule-breaking he had ever seen. "It would seem that this could set the program back light-years," he said of the scandal.
The official compared the Miami scandal to the one that faced Southern California a few years ago. USC lost 30 football scholarships and received a two-year postseason ban, though the size of the Shapiro scandal dwarfs that of USC.
But if Miami can avoid the death penalty, Canes fans will have to take that as a major victory. Even if some of Shapiro's allegations cannot be proven by NCAA investigators, at this point it seems like the NCAA has all the evidence it needs to give UM the death penalty if it really wants to.