UPDATE, 7:23 p.m. – Sunday could have been the day that Georgia Tech earned a spot in the ACC championship game. Instead, it was just a day to recuperate and to merely begin planning for the showdown with Georgia.
At his weekly Sunday news conference, Miami coach Al Golden said he had not been informed of his school’s decision regarding a postseason ban in the face of pending NCAA sanctions. Tech will play in the ACC championship game against Florida State Dec. 1 in Charlotte if Miami pulls itself out of the postseason for a second consecutive year. It is unclear how long Miami can take to announce its decision.
As of late Sunday evening, no official word had come from the school’s administration.
“I learned a long time not to worry about things I can’t control,” coach Paul Johnson said after the Yellow Jackets’ 42-24 win over Duke, a victory that earned Tech no worse than a share of the Coastal Division championship.
Miami earned bowl eligibility Saturday with a win over South Florida. Golden told reporters that the lack of an announcement may stem from the impact of last year’s announcement after the 11th game of the season, a day after the Hurricanes became bowl eligible. Miami lost the season finale to Boston College. Golden said Sunday “there’s no question” the timing of the self-imposed ban affected the team’s motivation.
Miami is facing a gamble with its decision. Should the school decide to play in the postseason and beat Duke, it will play against in-state rival Florida State for the Hurricanes’ first-ever ACC championship. But if it makes that decision, it’s possible Miami could receive a postseason ban of one or more years from the NCAA in the future when the team could be even stronger.
Miami also runs the risk of excessive self-sanctions with a second consecutive bowl ban, although NCAA compliance experts believe that the Hurricanes are due a multi-year bowl ban after allegations of millions of dollars of impermissible benefits, some with coaches’ knowledge and participation.
Even if Miami doesn’t self-impose, the Jackets can reach Charlotte via the old-fashioned method. If the Blue Devils beat the Hurricanes, Tech will win the Coastal with a better record than the Hurricanes. Tech could still tie with North Carolina at 5-3, but the Tar Heels are already ineligible for NCAA misdeeds of their own. Miami-Duke starts at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, 30 minutes after the kickoff Tech-Georgia, which could mean a busy afternoon of channel flipping for Tech fans.
“They’ve got another game to play,” Johnson said of the Hurricanes. “That (Duke) crowd we played today is tough. They played hard. They compete. I don’t think they are going to roll over.”
Duke coach David Cutcliffe, who has led the Blue Devils to bowl eligibility for the first time since 1994, will have to rally a team that Saturday saw its ACC title hopes dashed at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
“It’s too significant a year to not prepare and play well against Miami,” Cutcliffe said. “Our seniors are 5-1 in Wallace Wade (Stadium). I’m telling you, that’s hugely significant. We need to go prepare starting (Sunday) night like a team that intends to win.”
With uncertainty hanging over its head, Tech needs similar intent. Tech opened as a 14-point underdog Sunday to the Bulldogs, ranked No. 3 in both polls and winners of 10 of the past 11 games in the series. The topic was addressed in the locker room following Tech’s win over Duke.
“Everyone knew that next week was going to be the biggest game of the year for us,” said A-back Robbie Godhigh, who scored multiple touchdowns for the second game in a row. “We’re just ready to go out there and fight.”
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog