For the second straight year, Miami beat South Florida to become bowl-eligible.
And now, the Hurricanes' fate is up to the university's decision-makers once again.
Stephen Morris threw for 413 yards and three scores, Herb Waters had an 87-yard touchdown catch for Miami's longest reception in more than five years and the Hurricanes rolled past South Florida 40-9 on Saturday for their sixth win, the magic number for postseason eligibility. Miami (6-5) would finish no worse than tied for first in the Atlantic Coast Conference's Coastal Division by beating Duke next weekend.
The question is, will that be the final Hurricanes' game of the season, no matter what?
"I thought our kids played hard and we have to do the same thing next week," Miami coach Al Golden said. "We've got to block out the circumstances, don't make any excuses. We're responsible for what we can control."
Clive Walford (135), Waters (130) and Phillip Dorsett (111) all topped the 100-yard receiving mark for Miami, and Duke Johnson rushed for 66 yards and another score for the Hurricanes.
Demetris Murray ran for 108 yards and Maikon Bonani kicked three field goals for the Bulls (3-7), who lost starting quarterback Bobby Eveld to a shoulder injury late in the first quarter.
The margin of defeat was South Florida's largest since a 33-point loss to Rutgers on Nov. 15, 2008.
"It's certainly disappointing to play the way we did tonight," USF coach Skip Holtz said. "I thought we had a really good week of practice. To come out and make some of the mistakes we made tonight, it was frustrating."
A year ago, when Miami got win No. 6 by topping USF 6-3, the university announced a day later that the team would forgo any postseason opportunities because of an NCAA probe into the school's compliance practices.
That investigation is ongoing and as such, speculation is rampant that the Hurricanes — who still have not been presented with their notice of allegations from the NCAA — may feel compelled to make a similar no-bowl decision this year.
"We don't know what's going to happen," Morris said.
Schools sometimes choose to self-impose things like bowl bans with hope that the NCAA's committee on infractions takes those moves into account before issuing sanctions. For example, if the infractions committee decided Miami deserved a two-year bowl ban for whatever wrongdoing is found, then it would be possible — though not guaranteed — that the Hurricanes could play in a bowl next year, since they willingly sat out in 2011 and may do so again in 2012.
It's believed that the decision will ultimately come from university president Donna Shalala — the former Health and Human Services secretary under President Bill Clinton — and acting athletic director Blake James, who said earlier this month that the school has "to be very careful and think through all the ramifications."
"We have the best president in the country," Golden said. "We have a president that oversaw a $600 billion budget when she was in the Cabinet. She was in rooms where they made decisions whether they were going to overthrow heads of state or whether they were going to commit troops. I think she can handle this one. I have complete confidence that she can handle this one."
Last season, Miami was almost certainly headed to a lower-tier bowl. This season, since the Hurricanes still have a chance at the ACC title, a trip to the Orange Bowl is possible.
Time will likely soon tell if even the chance for the Hurricanes to play in a marquee bowl like that — in their home stadium — sways Shalala and James.
"They have to do what's best for the program, but this being my senior year, I'd like to play in a bowl game," said receiver Kendal Thompkins, who had a touchdown in his home finale.
The Hurricanes feasted on big plays all day, with Morris picking apart the Bulls' secondary for his third game of more than 400 yards this season.
Walford, Miami's tight end, caught only three passes, but they went for 34, 36 and 65 yards. Waters, pressed into major action because Miami was missing a number of receivers because of suspension and injury, entered the day with 32 receiving yards all season and more than quintupled that total.
"I put in work all week, just knowing I had to do it for the seniors," Waters said.
With B.J. Daniels gone for the season because of an ankle injury, the Bulls used most of the past two weeks to decide which quarterback to start against Miami and settled on Eveld, who played a key role in South Florida's road win over the Hurricanes in 2010.
But Eveld, who hadn't thrown a pass in 2012 before Saturday, didn't last long. He was knocked out after a hit by Denzel Perryman, forcing Matt Floyd into the game. Floyd had his moments, completing 20 of 35 passes for 175 yards, but also finished with two interceptions.
"It was two young guys coming into a football game," Holtz said. "They competed hard. I don't think we played well around them."
The Bulls may have had a shot to get back into the game late in the first half, but let about 20 seconds run off the clock — despite three timeouts to burn — after a first-and-goal at the Miami 7. They settled for a chip-shot field goal from Bonani as time expired, and Miami took a 16-3 lead into the break.
Ultimately, clock management didn't matter much.
Johnson ran in from 8 yards out for a score to open the floodgates in the third quarter, Morris connected with Waters for the 87-yard TD and then scrambled early in the fourth quarter before finding Walford all alone for another easy score and a 37-3 lead with 14:09 left.