SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Some UM and NCAA investigation tidbits:
### Before UM put itself in good position to win the Coastal Division title, most everyone around the program was comfortable with the idea of self-imposing another bowl ban. But there is now sentiment among several high-level UM people, under president Donna Shalala, to eschew another bowl ban and play in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game if UM makes it, according to three of them, and Shalala must decide whether she agrees with them.
All three said playing in the ACC championship - if Miami qualifies - makes the most sense, but cautioned it's Shalala's call and there are variables that could change that: if UM receives its notice of allegations from the NCAA this month, and the findings are very damaging; or if key outside attorney Mike Glazier is given information this month that makes him believe a bowl ban would greatly help ease the punishment.
Shalala, asked a week ago in a Board of Trustees meeting about the likelihood of a self-imposed ban, told the trustees she’s waiting for guidance from the attorneys. The ACC says if UM plays in the title game, it cannot self-impose a bowl ban after that.
UM could clinch the Coastal title as early as Nov. 17 if Miami wins at Virginia next Saturday and Duke loses at Georgia Tech on Nov. 17. Miami plays at Duke on Nov. 24.
“Self-imposition goes a long way with the NCAA,” said one high-level UM official. “But if we make the ACC championship, it's best for us to play. The ACC would want us to play, and we have to consider their wishes. It’s best for the league. It’s the right thing to do.
“It’s Donna’s decision, but I don’t see how she can feel any other way. She has to listen to the coaches. Even if we get future bowl ban, playing in the ACC championship still gives us a foundation.”
Said another high-level UM official: “You have to let the kids play in that game if you make it. Morale would be better.”
That official said it wouldn't be right to yank that prize away from the team after Al Golden dangled it as a goal all season. Golden, by the way, told us UM has given him no indication whether it will self-impose.
If UM self-imposes, the ACC could be stuck with a .500 or sub-.500 Duke or Virginia Tech team in the title game, which would make the league unhappy.
### The NCAA, in the final stages of its investigation, is now doing an internal review of its findings. UM expects to be mailed its allegations by late November or December, barring an unforeseen delay.
One former UM basketball coach recently was asked to provide additional bank records. Considerable time has been spent on Nevin Shapiro's allegation of a $10,000 payment to a DeQuan Jones family member, with bank records obtained from multiple people.
The NCAA says punishment typically comes five to seven months after a school receives its notice of allegations – meaning UM could get sanctions late next spring or summer.
According to a school official, UM’s mindset likely will be to take the allowed time (up to three months) to respond to the allegations in front of the infractions commitee. Keep in mind that North Carolina didn't get its penalty this year until four months after it went before the infraction committee.
### One UM official said the school is worried NCAA president Mark Emmert “will try to make an example of us.”
### The hope around UM is Golden’s strong relationship with his players – and the fact UM is playing a lot of young players – will discourage players from transferring after sanctions are handed down.
Keep this in mind: According to the NCAA, if NCAA sanctions against a school include a one-year bowl ban, seniors-to-be can transfer to another FBS school and play immediately. If the sanctions include a two-year bowl ban, seniors-to-be and juniors-to-be can transfer and play immediately.
But if the sanctions include no bowl ban (beyond previous self-imposed bowl bans), a player who wants to transfer to another FSB school and play immediately would need to petition the NCAA for permission, which might be granted but isn’t automatic.
Players like how Golden sends them encouraging personal text messages. Typical Golden: He sent a congratulatory text to Dolphins rookie Olivier Vernon, who left UM after his junior season last year, after his big game against the Rams last month. That sort of interaction with their coach has to mean something when players consider whether to stick it out at UM.
### We hear testimony of some former UM recruits and transfers has been damaging, but the NCAA has received several different versions of what happened with the recruiting of the Sanford Seminole players -- Ray-Ray Armstrong, Dyron Dye and Andre Debose -- and has had to sort through inconsistencies.
### Some of the damaging details given to the NCAA were known by only one former player (Kyle Wright). Those details involved benefits given to Wright by the Shapiro/Michael Huyghue sports agency and weren't given by Huyghue in his deposition to Shapiro's attorney. That has led to suspicions among some that Wright spoke to the NCAA, which he he wasn't required to do.
Wright – through his father – declined to respond when I asked whether he spoke to the NCAA. A UM person said Wright was unhappy when he left UM because of what he perceived as harsh fan treatment.
### Shapiro, from prison, has told associates that another UM booster also committed violations and has given his name to the NCAA.
According to multiple sources, that booster is Dave Leshner, who one UM person described as “a blowhard wanna-be big shot, an overzealous fan who yelled at refs and wanted to be involved in the basketball program. He disappeared around the time Nevin did.” Leshner allegedly introduced Shapiro to then-UM coach Frank Haith.
Whether Leshner committed violations is not known, but a source said he has refused to talk to the NCAA, and a man answering the phone at his California home hung up when we called.
### Impending free agent Anthony Fasano said the Dolphins haven’t approached him about a new contract. But Miami is interested. “He’s having a hell of a year – exceeded my expectations,” offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said. Fasano puts it succinctly: “I will never be that flashy guy, but I’m reliable and solid.”
Two people in touch with the Dolphins said Jeff Ireland seems in no rush to address the contracts of his several key impending free agents. One of them said it’s difficult from a morale standpoint, during a season, to start serious talks with a couple but not the others.
### This Dolphins coaching staff strongly believes Daniel Thomas can be an impact back -- one reason he’s playing ahead of Lamar Miller -- and his decisive three-yard run on third and goal against the Jets was encouraging. But here’s what’s troubling: He has converted a dismal 6 of 21 career short-yardage runs, meaning third or fourth down with one or two yards to go. Miami is 8 for 16 overall on runs in those situations this season.
And Thomas' overall 3.0 yard average is sixth-worst in the NFL among qualifying backs.
### The Dolphins have sold hundreds of prorated season tickets since the season started and have managed to eclipse last year’s season-ticket sales count (42,584), which was its lowest since 1983. The Dolphins were disappointed by their renewal rate, but those who didn't renew were offered an interesting deal late last week (through Al My Sons Moving and Storage Company): If you buy a season-ticket to the final five games, you get the Titans game free.
### The Marlins, who say third base and left field will be their priorities, appear inclined to use Emilio Bonifacio in center field, move Logan Morrison to first to replace Carlos Lee, and go to spring with Donovan Solano as their second baseman.
Marco Scutaro, Kevin Youkilis and Jeff Keppinger are among free agent third basemen they have considered. But if they can't upgrade significantly, they could have journeymen compete at the position, including Kevin Kouzmanoff, who signed a minor-league contract with the Marlins on Saturday, with an invitation to spring training. He was out of the majors last season after batting .235 with seven homers and 33 RBI for Oakland and Colorado in 2011. Kouzmanoff, 31, hit .247 with 16 homers and 71 RBI for Oakland in 2010.
They will consider trading a high-priced pitcher (Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco or Mark Buehrle) for a quality hitter if they get a tempting offer.
### Dwyane Wade said he hired a shooting coach, whom he declined to identity, and it’s paying dividends. “It’s like Tiger Woods always had a swing coach, even though he’s one of the greatest. It’s someone to help you look at things a different way," he said.
“I’ve been feeling a lot better with my shot, and even when you miss, he can tell you why you missed. The biggest thing for me is finding out when to release the ball. A lot of times I hold onto it and may be releasing it on the way down.” The coach, with whom Wade said he had no prior working relationship, has helped him get comfortable "releasing it at a center point." Wade is shooting 50 percent (22 for 44) through three games.