NCAA hits Miami with scholarship penalties, but no bowl ban

Coral Gables, FL ( - Miami-Florida can play in a bowl game this year after the NCAA announced penalties stemming from an investigation into booster-related activities.

The Hurricanes will lose three football scholarships in each of the next three seasons for a total of nine, but this year's team will finally be able to play in the postseason after the school had self-imposed a bowl ban since the investigation officially began in August 2011.

Miami, which is off to a 6-0 start this year, sat out the postseason in 2011 and again last year. The Hurricanes would have reached the ACC title game in 2012, but the university decided to continue its postseason ban while the investigation dragged on.

"The Committee on Infractions report closes a challenging chapter in the history of the University of Miami," said school president Donna Shalala in a statement Tuesday. "I am grateful to our coaches, staff, and student-athletes for their dedication to the university and to intercollegiate athletics. I also want to thank Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford for his steadfast support. Finally, I want to apologize to the Hurricane family, as we have asked for your patience, faith, and support during a difficult time. Thank you for standing with us."

The NCAA began looking into the football and basketball programs after reports surfaced that players were given gifts and extra benefits from booster Nevin Shapiro, who is now serving a 20-year jail sentence for running an alleged Ponzi scheme.

Former Miami basketball coach Frank Haith, currently the head coach at Missouri, was given a five-game suspension from the NCAA for his role, while former Miami assistant basketball coach Jorge Fernandez was slapped with a two-year show-cause penalty.

The NCAA also penalized Miami one basketball scholarship per year over the next three years and placed the athletic program on three years' probation.

"Our honest and committed efforts to address these allegations have made us stronger," said Hurricanes athletic director Blake James on Tuesday. "We have already taken many proactive steps to ameliorate any concerns, and we will continue to improve in all areas. Now it is time we look ahead and work diligently to support our student-athletes."

According to the NCAA report, Shapiro entertained student-athletes and prospects at his home, on his yacht and in restaurants and clubs for a period of about a decade. Approximately 30 student-athletes were involved, while some coaches provided false information during the investigation.

The investigation itself had its problems. In February, the NCAA acknowledged that some mistakes were made by its own enforcement department. According to the review, staff enforcement members knowingly circumvented legal advice to engage Shapiro's criminal defense attorney, violated the internal NCAA policy of legal counsel and did not sufficiently consider the membership's understanding about the limits of the enforcement staff's investigative powers.

Overall, the NCAA said 18 general allegations of misconduct were involved in the case and the school lacked institutional control related to the conduct of the booster.

The school self-imposed numerous penalties, which the NCAA considered in its final verdict, including the postseason football ban, paid visits by recruits and a reduction of the recruiting contact period.