Just a little more than two days before the Hurricanes take to Greentree Field with Coach Al Golden and company to embark on a new season.
And what a year Golden has been through. He was asked the other day about the things he didn't anticipate a year ago at this time. He got right to some off-the-field issues -- NCAA investigation not included.
"The three things that jump out to me that we have identified as areas that we need to make progress in -- and are making progress -- that I would have never guessed going to the University of Miami,'' he said, "are conditioning, strength and nutrition.''
He mentioned the combination of those three factors "and what it means to our team in terms of how we execute and how we play, perform in the fourth quarter and don't atrophy as the season evolves.
"I'm just saying in particular that teams that really don't have discipline in terms of their strength and conditioning, that really don't pay the price in the whole off-season, have a hard time staying strong and being as strong in November [as] they are in September -- have a hard time finishing games. There were a lot of opportunities where we did not finish.
"It's my team. It's not a function of the players; It's a function of what we demand and expect.''
Golden said he is using a nutritionist, educating players about what they should eat and drink, and monitoring their body weights -- "holding them accountable [and] creating more competition in the weight room.
"We didn't have a bencher [who could lift] over 400 [pounds] a year ago and now we have three. We didn't have anybody who could do 225 [pounds] 30 times, a year ago. Zero. Now we have 11.''
Golden said the players are holding each other accountable in the weight room and "not treating conditioning as punitive.''
UM running back Mike James, one of the best lifters on the team, pound-for-pound, told me he's in the best shape of his life at about "223, 224 pounds," and went from 375 to 400 on the bench, 500 to 525 in the squat and 310 to 320 in the power clean.
Cornerback Brandon McGee said he improved his squat max from 385 to 415 and is benching 300 now, up from 255.
NCAA HITS UCF
The NCAA punished UCF today for recruiting violations and lack of institutional control.
"The case centered on what the committee noted was an ever-increasing problem in college athletics today,'' reported the NCAA, "namely the involvement of outside third parties with prospects and student-athletes. This impermissible activity also resulted in findings of unethical conduct for the former director of athletics [that would be Keith Tribble, former long-time Orange Bowl Committee executive director and ex-Gators football player] and a former assistant football coach [David Kelly] and a failure to monitor by the head men's basketball coach [Donnie Jones].''
The NCAA-mandated penalties for UCF include:
- Public reprimand and censure.
- Five years probation from February 10, 2012, through February 9, 2017.
- Postseason ban for the 2012 football season and 2012-13 men’s basketball season.
- The head men’s basketball coach was suspended for the first three conference games of the 2011-12 season (self-imposed by the university) and given a three-year show-cause order starting with the 2012-13 season. Details of the show-cause orders can be found in the public report. Additionally, the coach may not recruit off-campus during all three July evaluation periods for the July 2012 and July 2013 evaluation periods.
- An assistant men’s basketball coach was suspended for the first two conference games of the 2011-12 season (self-imposed by the university). Additionally, the coach may not recruit off-campus during all three July evaluation periods for the July 2012 and July 2013 evaluation periods.
- A three-year show-cause order for the former director of athletics and a one-year show cause for the former assistant football coach. The show-cause orders do not allow any contact with prospective student-athletes. The public report contains further details. Disassociation of three representatives of athletics interest (self-imposed by the university).
- Reduction of five initial (from 25 maximum) and five total (from 85 maximum) football scholarships for three academic years.
- A limit of 11 men’s basketball scholarships (from 13 maximum) for three academic years.
- $50,000 fine.
- Vacation of all men’s basketball wins in which an ineligible student-athlete competed for the 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons. The public report includes further details (self-imposed by the university).
- Reduction of the number of permissible off-campus recruiters:
- Reduction of two full-time football coaches permitted to recruit off-campus during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years.
- Reduction of one full-time men’s basketball coach permitted to recruit off-campus during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years.
- Reduction in the available number of recruiting person days by 25 for men’s basketball during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years (self-imposed by the university).
- Reduction in the available number of recruiting person days by nine in the fall football evaluation period and 34 in the spring football evaluation period during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years (self-imposed by the university).
- Football official paid visits are limited to 30 for each of the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years.
- Men’s basketball official paid visits are limited to seven for each of the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years (self-imposed by the university).
According to the Orlando Sentinel, the NCAA "first began investigating UCF recruiting practices in April 2011.''
The program was found to have runners for sports agents and made cash payments to recruits.
The Associated Press wrote that Greg Sankey, an associate SEC commissioner and NCAA Committee of Infractions member, said the lack of control UCF had on outside entities was the most egregious finding.
"Part of what was troubling here is there was knowledge of the representatives or third parties being involved in the recruiting process and [UCF officials] facilitated that,'' Sankey said Tuesday.
Note that UCF is appealing the postseason ban in football.
You can't help but wonder when the NCAA will end its investigation of Miami, and how hard it will come down on the Hurricanes. No time seems like a good time.
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN