April 03, 2014

Thu pm 4-3: Pay college footballers beyond scholarship? Poll's tight. Vote!; plus Riley on Big 3's decision, Dolphins, Marlins/Loria verdict & more

1) It is THURSDAY, APRIL 3. Congratulations to Alonzo Mourning for being voted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. After Wade/LeBron, Zo might be the most popular Heat player of all-time. 2) Ryan Grover today was named Dolphins new head athletic trainer. He'd been an assistant the past 15 years with Steelers. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Marlins opens season with poll, Dolphins signing, Heat surge, Hochman, Neil Young & more. 4) Follow on Twitter @gregcote.

ON COMPENSATING COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYERS BEYOND THEIR SCHOLARSHIPS: The National Labor Relations Board ruling last week approving Northwestern players' right to vote to unionize for collective
1aa1aquestion 1aa1astudentbargaining and benefits could affect all private schools including the University of Miami. Former



Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter, a leader of the movement, was in Washington just yesterday lobbying politicians. The NLRB ruling says players are employees/workers, symbolically turning the phrase student-athlete backward. The ruling in time could force states to allow the same rights for public- university teams. Initially this is about medical benefits and workplace environment, but all logic suggests unionization in time would lead to full-fledged pay-for-play, a professionalization of college football. And if college football players are getting paid, you don't think men's basketball players and other athletes will want some 'o that? Pay-for-play could in turn cause a reduction in scholarships for non-revenue sports and higher mandatory student fees. in short the NLRB ruling is a nightmare for the NCAA and every college and university -- all of them opposed to it. I tackle this dense issue in today's latest column; click Draw The Line Here to read. I wrote why I'm oppoosed to the NLRB ruling and unionization, and part of it is that college football players already are well-compensated and well cared-for. A four-year full-ride scholarship to UM, for example, is worth close to $250,000. That's pretty fair compensation for playing a game and also getting the coaching and platform to enhance NFL chances. What is your view? Agree or disagree with my column. Agree or disagree with college football players deserving more? Take a dip in our poll and say why.

PAT RILEY WAXES PHILOSOPHICAL: ESPN's Mike Wallace has an interesting new piece talking to Heat impressario Pat Riley. Click HERE for the whole thing. From it: Riley on the Big 3's summer decision: 1aa1apriley"You always fear. It's not a real fear. I always have concern when players are in the situation they're in. But we feel we have the best organization in the league for those players to stay, and to also attract others to want to come here. With our three guys, we hope that this turns into a generational team. And that it's not just we're at the end of this four-year run right now because players have some options this summer." On owner Micky Arison: "He really wanted to win and wanted to put on a great show and have a great product. Micky has always been one that tactically and with great thought, weighing all the pros and cons, has swung for the fences. And I have too." On himself: "You have to have a big-picture approach. That's what I do best; I try to see the big picture." On LeBron James: "LeBron, being who he is in this world, in this game, has a very heavy load. There's a heavy load off the court and on the court. It's a lot different than what it used to be. He manages everything he has to manage that maybe Magic Johnson didn't have to manage back in the 1980s. I've adapted to that." e life we're living today."

Poll result: Support for Marlins but anti-Loria feeling remains strong: We asked what best describes your feeling toward the Marlins and a majority called themselves either a big fan (37.2 percent) or casual fan (20.6%). But another 36.3% said they were not a fan because of owner Jeffrey Loria. The remainging 5.9% said they simply don't like baseball.

Click back often. Am constantly updating/adding...

March 27, 2014

Mon am 3-31: Gators in Final Four; plus Dolphins' big upgrade, NLRB's bad ruling, Heat's shot at No. 1, Greatest Ralph & more

1) It is SUNDAY, MARCH 30. Check out my latest Random Evidence Sunday notes-column package, leading with the Marlins. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Greatest Ralph poll, Heat fall to Pacers, the art of child-spoiling, topless protestors & more. 3) Follow on Twitter @gregcote.

An optimistic take on Marlins. No, seriously: In today's special Marlins preview section I write an upbeat column on the Marlins. I list 10 reasons to like this team and feel good about this season. Check it out.

DOLPHINS AN APPRECIABLY BETTER OFFENSE BY ADDING MORENO: Signing free-agent running back Knowshon Moreno yesterday makes Miami's offense better -- period. You don't need a bunch of nerdy metrics 1aa1amorenorbor useless stat breakdowns to know that. In Denver last year he rushed for 1,038 yards and 10 TDs and -- this is important -- caught 60 passes for 548 yards and three more TDs. Yes, much of that was thanks to Peyton Manning. Still, Moreno, used right, can be the dual-threat back the Dolphins had but underutilized in Reggie Bush. Moreno also is healthy, young, a very good pass-blocker and fumbled only one time in 241 carries last year. Lots of upside. He should complement Lamar Miller well, no matter who starts. The onus now is on Daniel Thomas to earn his roster spot and carries. The fact Moreno only signed a 1-year, $3 million contract could be smart for both sides. He isn't a financial burden for the Dolphins. At that price, he's low risk, high ceiling. Smart, smart. Moreno is pictured gesturing where he hopes to be on Miami's RB depth chart this season.

BRACKETS BACK! CINDERELL-O-METER (PATENT PENDING) AT 33.3% ENTERING ELITE 8 GAMES: Excluding the four even-seeded play-in games, there have now been 20 upsets (by seeding) in the 60 men's NCAA Tournament games through the Elite Eight round, or a Cinderell-O-Meter reading of 33.3 percent. We update the Cindy Meter throughout March Madness. Here are all 20 upsets thus far, ranked based on seed differential:

1. No 14-Mercer over 3-Duke (+11)

2. 10-Stanford over 2-Kansas (+8)

2. 11-Dayton over 3-Syracuse (+8)

4. 8-Kentucky over 1-Wichita State (+7)

4. 12-North Dakota State over 5-Oklahoma (+7)

4. 12-Harvard over 5-Cincinnati (+7)

4. 12-Stephen F. Austin over 5-VCU (+7)

8. 8-Kentucky over 2-Michigan (+6)

9. 7-UConn over 2-Villanova (+5)

9. 11-Dayton over 6-Ohio State (+5)

9. 11-Tennessee over 6-UMass (+5)

12. 7-UConn ovcer 3-Iowa State (+4)

12.8-Kentucky over 4-Louisvile (+4) 

14. 4-Michigan State over 1-Virginia (+3)

14. 6-Baylor over 3-Creighton (+3)

14. 7-UConn over 4-Michigan State (+3)

14. 10-Stanford over 7-New Mexico (+3)

18. 2-Wisconsin over 1-Arizona (+1)

18. 9-Pitt over 8-Colorado (+1)

18, 11-Dayton over 10-Stanford (+1)

The Cindy Meter composite standings among teams still alive in the tournament are: Kentucky +17 and UConn +12.

Elite Eight round: And my bracket wants...: I had five of eight teams still alive on my bracket. Saturday: I needed Florida to beat Dayton (thanks, Gators), and Arizona to beat Wisconsin. Got one of two. Sunday: I needed Michigan State to beat UConn and Michigan to beat Kentucky -- and got neither.

Sweet 16 round. And my bracket wants...: I had nine of 16 teams still alive in my bracket entering the Sweet 16 games. Thursday night: I needed Wisconsin, Florida and Arizona to win, and all did. (I didn't have a dog in the Dayton-Stanford hunt). Friday night: I needed Michigan and Michigan State to win -- and both did. I did not get the wins I needed from Iowa State and Louisville.

WHY THE NLRB'S NORTHWESTERN DECISION IS WRONG-HEADED AND SHOULDN'T STAND: So a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago rules that Northwestern football players may vote to unionize, and all hell breaks loose in college sports. The ruling affects only private universities (for 1aa1anlrbnow), so the potential reaches to Coral Gables and UM. The Northwestern players bid for compensation benefits for injuries well into their post-school futures, plus bargaining rights for working conditions such as number of practices. The NLRB in effect has ruled that football players are primarily workers and employees, not students. Pay-for-play is not a part of this whole thing, although the ruling surely opens the door for that, too. There are problems with the ruling. Where do I begin? Players already have medical benefits; your ankle injury is well-treated. And is it really good for college sports to have players negotiating how much they'd like to practice? Mostly this ruling is wrong because it assumes players contribute substantially to a school's football revenue. (In Northwestern's case that was $235 million from 2003-12). That's a faulty premise. The ruling alludes to the "enormous commercial value" of players' work. That's wrong. Players come and go, and very few actually impact a university's success or brand. For every superstar exception like Johnny Manziel or Jameis Winston, there are a hundred relatively anonymous low- or no-impact players along for the ride. About 99 percent of all players have zero relevance on attendance and revenue at Any Given University. They are incidental. They are passengers. The backup guard who seldom plays and should be grateful for his scholarship is lumped in this ruling with the star quarterback -- either that or somebody has to decide relative value. The whole idea of most athletes' entitlement beyond their scholarship is faulty. The brand is Ohio State or Southern Cal or Florida, and fans will be there no matter who temporarily fills the uniform. This NLRB ruling is an unnecessary mess for college sports. I'd call it a landmark ruling if I weren't pretty sure it'll be overturned on appeal and disappear. (At least for now...).

1aa1aheatindHEAT NOT CONCEDING NO. 1 SEED: Last night's 84-83 Miami loss at Indiana gave the Pacers a 3-game lead for the Eastern Conference's top playoff seed, and 2 in the loss column. But the tiebreaker (conference record) goes to IND so Heat must finish with a better record, not tied. Still, it ain't over! Miami has 12 games left, and seven are at home including an April 11 rematch with the Pacers. Only five of 12 Heat games left are against teams with a winning record. Indiana has only four games left, of 10, and five against teams with a winning record. In sum, Miami if it wins the rematch here in two weeks will have a shot at wresting No. 1 and home-court advantage in what should be a deliciously brutal playoff series.

1aa1akramdenBUS DRIVER BEATS POET FOR GREATEST-RALPH HONORS: We asked you in the previous blogpost to name the Greatest Ralph of All-Time (you may still vote), and I'm thrilled to report a delightfully diverse two-way battle emerged from among 11 finalists, and that Ralph Kramden of The Honeymooners (32.7 percent) beat Ralph Waldo Emerson (20.3%). Ralph Lauren and Happy Days' Ralph Malph were dueling for a distant third. A fictional sitcom bus driver winning my poll over a legendary essayist/poet says much about my blog readership -- all of it good!

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January 01, 2014

What was biggest Miami/South Florida sports story of 2013? New poll. Vote now!; plus Jeff Fireland, Cote's Top 10 New Year's resolutions & more

1aa1a20141) It is THURSDAY, JANUARY 2. I'm back in the Friday Page Dungeon today divining my NFL first-round playoff predictions. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins who-to-fire poll, D.Wade's surprise child & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter (gregcote), Instagram (Upsetbird), Vine (Greg Cote) and Facebook (Greg Cote).

A message from me to you: To all our readers, longtime and recent, print and online, to our Blog Family, radio listeners and followers on Twitter, Instagram and Vine ... thank you! You made it a great past year and make me look forward to 2014.

WHAT WAS MIAMI/SOUTH FLORIDA'S BIGGEST SPORTS STORY OF 2013?: We asked you previously to name the past year's top national sports story and you did (results below). Now we invite you to select the 2013 Miami/South Florida sports story of the year, from an alphabetically presented top 10 of my choosing. You may vote for your top three (3). I offer no synopsis beyond what's in the poll, because if it needs further explaining, it obviously wasn't that big/impactful/important to you. Remember, you can choose your top three. Ready? Vote!

Mea culpa: One glaring poll omission: As many of you are pointing out, the above poll is missing UM's ACC championship and NCAA Tournament run in men's basketball. That's my fault all the way; it just slipped between the cracks. Doubt it would have threatened the top vote-getters here, but it absolutely should have been in the poll. Sorry, Jim Larranaga! (I also could well have included either of two international soccer matches that drew huge crowds to Dolphins stadium).

MARATHON BOMBINGS TOP NATIONAL STORY: You voted from a list of The Associated Press' top 10 national sports stories of 2013, and your clear top three were the Boston Marathon bombings (30.9%), the Heat's second straight NBA title (19.6%) and the Aaron Hernandez arrest (15.8%). (I had the same top three). Others in order were Lance Armstrong admits to doping; NFL $765 million concussion settlement; Red Sox win World Series; Manti Te'o girlfriend hoax; Baseball/A-Rod PED scandal; Ravens win Super Bowl; and Auburn football resurgence.

1aa1fripixNFL PIX / WEEK 16: ENDING STRONG: Hectic holiday time to blame (again) for posting this a couple of days later than usual... NFL predix: Went a nifty 13-3 overall and a just-as-buoyant 10-5-1 against the spread to end our regular season. Where was this all year? On to the playoffs with a tailwind of mo'!

Poll result: Ireland, Sherman bear brunt of Dolfan frustration: Dolfans want change in the wake of the late-season collapse and I asked in the previous blogpost who they'd most like to fire (if anyone). The bull's-eye was on GM Jeff Ireland (53.6%) and offensive chief Mike Sherman (23.6%). Objection was mild toward coach Joe Philbin (9.8%) and owner Stpehen Ross (9.3%), and negligible toward defensive chief Kevin Coyle (2.2%) and QB Ryan Tannehill (1.5%).

GREG COTE'S TOP 10 NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS FOR 2014:

1aa1a2014resolutions1. Lose 145 pounds.

2. Cut down on cigars by smoking only one at a time.

3. Admit that being Platinum Member of Functional Alcoholics Society may not be good thing.

4. Redouble efforts to recycle. Not cans and bottles. Column ideas.

5. Curb temper issues; limit road-rage incidents to one a month.

6. Do as credit-card machines rightly suggest and Remove Card Quickly.

7. Stop answering Jeff Ireland's frantic draft-day phone calls.

8. Increase blog readership with daily $100,000 giveaways.

9. Engage Le Batard in profanity-laced on-air brawl.

10. Tackle terrorism.

What y'all got planned?

Click back. Will be updating/adding to this latest blogpost....

October 23, 2013

Who is most "beloved" Dolphins player ever? Poll. Vote now; plus London calling, Greg Oden, Red Sox, NCAA/UM poll result & more

It is FRIDAY, OCTOBER 25. We'll have a new blogpost later today, but since our most-beloved-Dolphin poll below has proved so popular we're leaving this post up top for a while longer. 2) Click here for my latest column, on the NCAA/UM verdict. Now let's move and forget all about renegade booster, um, what was his name again!? 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NCAA/UM verdict and poll, Bryant McKinnie, NFL Pix 'n Fantasy, World Series odds, SOPY rankings & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter (gregcote), Instagram (Upsetbird), Vine (Greg Cote) and Facebook (Greg Cote).

London calling for Dolphins: NFL announced that Dolphins vs. Raiders would be one of three games played in London next season. It'll be Oakland's home game. Miami played in the first-ever regular-season game at Wembley Stadium, losing 13-10 to the Giants on Oct. 28, 2007.

WHO IS THE DOLPHINS MOST "BELOVED" PLAYER EVER?: Two points I'd make about the Sporting 1aa1belovedNews. First, it used to be The Sporting News, even called itself 'TSN.' Then it quietly they dropped the The, just like The Miami Herald did, and is now simply Sporting News. Whatever. The larger point is that Sporting News just named the most "beloved" player for all 32 NFL franchises, and for Miami they chose Larry Csonka. (Click here for the gallery). "Hmm," I thought. My assumption would be that Dan Marino was the no-brainer pick, but maybe I'm wrong and they got it right. Debate or doubt, of course, form the petri dish in which our blog polls grow! Remember, this is not a greatest-player poll. Instead we invite your vote by however you define "most beloved." Make your choice and say why.

1aa1carlcard"LET'S GO RED SOX!" (NOT THAT I'M BIASED OR ANYTHING): Series now tied 1-1 heading to St. Louis. I'm nervous. ... Original post: I foresaw a Tigers-Dodgers World Series, so I'm delighted to be wrong as the Red Sox-Cardinals WS launches with Game 1 tonight at Fenway Park. Many loyal readers may know I was weaned on the 1967 Red Sox and the Year of Yaz. It's what turned a little kid into an avid sports fan, which in turn astonishingly somehow led to a career. It will be emotional for me tonight as Carl Yastrzemski throws out the first pitch. I predict a Red Sox championship, 4 games to 3, while fully admitting that's roughly 97 percent wishful thinking and 3 percent logic.

ODEN PROMISING IN HEAT DEBUT: Greg Oden played four minutes in Wednesday's Heat exhibition. But when it was your first game action since Dec. 5, 2009, that's a big deal, especially when your first touch resulted in a dunk. Miami will continue to baby Oden's progress, but this was encouraging. Michael Beasley's early effort has been encouraging, too. The Heat bench will be hugely better if these two perform as the club hopes. Early days, but the gamble on each seems smart right now.   

1aa1kinglbjSurprise! LeBron pick again for MVP: Bovada has it LeBron James at 3-2, then Kevin Durant 4-1 and Derrick Rose 11-2. For the scoring title it's Durant 7-5; for rebounds it's Dwight Howard even; for assists it's Chris Paul 3-2; and for rookie of the year it's Orlando's Victor Oladipo at 12-5, with notable others including Tim Hardaway Jr. at 12-1 and Shane Larkin at 20-1.

Poll result: NCAA's final verdict on UM was fair: A majority of 70.2 percent said the NCAA got it right Tuesday in docking the Canes with scholarship reductions but no additional postseason ban. Another 18.6% called the punishment too severe, while 11.2% said Miami got off easy.

Click back. Will be updating/adding to this latest blogpost...

October 22, 2013

Poll: Your verdict on NCAA's UM verdict. Vote now!; plus link to full 102-page NCAA report; Canes socked with scholarship cuts but no bowl ban

It is TUESDAY, OCTOBER 22. It's No-Radio Tuesday. I'm off the air today. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins lose again, DSM poll & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter (gregcote), Instagram (Upsetbird), Vine (Greg Cote) and Facebook (Greg Cote).

UM/NCAA verdict on ESPN's Outside The Lines: Thanks to ESPN, the legendary Bob Ley and OTL for having me on today.

Verdict proves UM, NCAA both got it right: Miami was right to self-impose penalties, and NCAA was fair in properly weighing that. Click Finally, The End for today's column by me off the final verdict. An on UM Deserves Lenience for earlier column in advance of decision.    

NCAA Report on UM: Click HERE to access the full 102-page NCAA report on UM.

POLL: DID NCAA GET IT RIGHT TODAY WITH UM VERDICT? The University of Miami's long nightmare finally is over with today's long, lonnngggg-awaited NCAA verdict in the three-year 1aa1ncaa 1aa1uinvestigation stemming from renegade-booster Nevin Shapiro. The Canes had already done their time and paid their price with self-imposed penalties, especially in football. Today's NCAA verdict revealed UM will incur nine additional lost football scholarships (three each over the next three years), and three (one each year) in men's basketball. Significantly, there is no added postseason ban in football. That's reasonable. That meets our definition of proper lenience. There were also penalties imposed upon former men's basketball coach Frank Haith, now at Missouri (five-game suspension) and a two-year ban from college coaching for two since-departed football assistants. The key for UM, though, is no more postseason ban and a fairly minor hit on reduced scholarships. Another postseason ban would have been a shame -- and the shame would have been the NCAA's. Here's a new poll on today's NCAA verdict. Vote and say why you feel as you do.

MCKINNIE A DESPERATE STOPGAP: The Dolphins trading a low future draft pick for Ravens tackle (and 1aa1bmacex-Cane) Bryant McKinnie illustrates just how desperate Miami is upon three straight losses and continuing poor offensive-line play. McKinnie is 34, just had his knee drained, and is not renowned for being in great shape. Miami explored signing him in the offseason when he was a free agent and said nah. McKinnie was on the Party Bus when teammate Jacoby Jones got clocked with a champagne bottle swung by a stripper named Sweet Pea. Hmm. I like that Miami is being aggressive in helping itself any way possible, but if McKinnie is an upgrade, the Dolphins may be in worse shape than we thought.

NFL PIX 'N FANTASY / WEEK 7: THE OK AND THE BAD: OK on the predictions, bad on the fantasy 1aa1fripixteam. NFL predix: Our 8-7 record overall sucks, but that same 8-7 against the spread we'll take, especially after the way we've been going lately. Nailed Texans-with-points over Chiefs on our Upset of the Week ("Aawwk!"), and also hit a rare exact score in Packers' 31-13 win. Fantasy: Must I? Greg's Lobos lost yet again, falling to 1-6, this time drubbed 125-76. Tom Brady and Arian Foster are killing me. I vow major changes. The jobs of my coach and general manager are on the line. Wait, that's me. S---!

1aa1bb13wsRED SOX A VERY SLIGHT WORLD SERIES FAVORITE: This Boston-St. Louis World Series (starting Wednesday night) is about as close to betting-even as Vegas gets. Red Sox are a 5-7 favorite to Cards' 6-5, but Bovada sports book manager Kevin Bradley tells us 60 percent of the early money has been on the Redbirds. MVP favorites are Boston 's David Ortiz (15-2) and Dustin Pedroia (8-1), then STL's Carlos Beltran (9-1) and Matt Holliday (10-1). I'll have my WS preview and pick in the blog on Wednesday.

SOPY RANKINGS / WEEK 8: WINSTON STRETCHES HIS LEAD: This is the second season of our blog-exclusive State Offensive Player of the Year (SOPY) rankings, a weekly updated list of the 1aa1sopymost productive quarterbacks, running backs and receivers from the state's seven FBS schools: Miami, FSU and Florida, FIU and FAU, and South Florida and UCF. Because our rankings are cumulative players on a bye week take a temporary hit that evens out over course of season. Canes QB Stephen Morris won the 2012 season title with 1,900.5 points. FSU QB Jameis Winston is the current leader by an ever-bigger margin. Our simple formula awards a half-point for every passing yard and one point for every rushing or receiving yard, with six points for every TD scored or thrown. Our 2013 standings entering Week 9:

Rk (LW)   Player, Team-pos.               SOPY Pts. Wk8=Year

1 (1)     Jameis Winston, FSU-qb           248 = 1,217.5

2 (2)     Jaquez Johnson, FAU-qb           BYE = 932

3 (3)     Blake Bortles, UCF-qb               153 = 915 

4 (6)     Storm Johnson, UCF-rb             200 = 804

5 (4)     Duke Johnson, Miami-rb            83 = 756

6 (8)     Stephen Morris, Miami-qb          161 = 690

7 (5)     Marcus Shaw, USF-rb                BYE = 611

8 (--)    Rashad Greene, FSU-wr             158 = 595

9 (7)     Jonathan Wallace, FAU-rb         BYE = 579

10 (--)  Devonta Freeman, FSU-rb          101 = 550

Bubble: Kenny Shaw, FSU-wr, 548. Other team leaders: Florida--Solomon Patton-wr, 506; FIU--Jake Medlock-qb, 408.5. Note: Florida and FAU have played seven games, all others six each.

Cote's State of the State rankings: 1. FSU (6-0); 2. Miami (6-0); 3. UCF (5-1); 4. Florida (4-3); 5. FAU (2-5); 6. USF (2-4); 7. FIU (1-5).

1aa1bieberHEADLINES YOU COULDN'T MAKE UP: Click HERE for one. My comment: Mental illness takes many forms, and I'm guessing plenty of folks have been locked away for exhibiting behavior far less bizarre than this.

Click back. Will be updating/adding to this latest blogpost...

August 29, 2013

PS5: Dolphins 24, New Orleans 21 (Final); plus more on Shapiro letter and reaction, LeBron's oops, Morris/Manziel, U-Bird Countdown (8 days) & more

1aa1mjackson1) It is FRIDAY, AUGUST 30. Michael Jackson would have turned 55 yesterday. 2) Will the last Miami-Dade County mayor to not be arrested please turn out the light? 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): UM accuser Shapiro's letter from federal prison and my response, Schnellenberger poll result, Upset Bird Countdown & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter (gregcote), Instagram (Upsetbird) and Vine (Greg Cote).

Coming Sept. 8: Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: Our sixth season of Dolfan Satisfaction Meter polls appear in the blog right after every Dolphins game, beginning with the Sept. 8 season opener at Cleveland.

Coming tonight!/Friday: Canesfan Satisfaction Meter: The fifth year of Canesfan Satisfaction Meter postgame polls starts tonight right after the UM-FAU opener ends. Watch for it!

"NCAA, Texas A&M decide half-game penalty is too harsh, instead rule that Johnny Manziel may not sit by window on team bus ride to stadium."  --Greg Cote

PS5: DOLPHINS 24, NEW ORLEANS 21 (FINAL): MIAMI ENDS PRESEASON 2-3: Final: Miami wins it on a 56-yard Pat Devlin-to-Marvin McNutt TD pass with 3 minutes left and then a late win-preserving INT by DeAndre Presley. (Don't know why but I love the name Marvin McNutt! Sounds like the alter-ego of a Marvel Comics superhero). Mostly scrubs last night; RG John Jerry was the only Dolphins starter to start. So no weight in the result. The question is what to make of this 2-3 preseason overall and what kind of shape the team is in entering the season. Despite the issues and questions, I think that shape is pretty solid. Nine-win/wild-card type of solid. But solid. Can't wait to find out. ..... Halftime: Our scrubs lead their scrubs. Whooo! Most interesting to me is an uneven dossiere on QB Pat Devlin, who is 13-for-23 for 142 yards withg a TD and a pick. Good enough to secure a No. 3 roster spot? My guess is yes. I'll be back with some postgame thoughts. ..... Original post: NFL preseasons are interminably 1aa1dolnawltedious even when four games. When five games, like Miami this year, the preseason seems to 1aa1ps5drag on longer than a continuous loop of Barry Manilow singing "Mandy." Tonight the Dolphins host New Orleans, with both teams expected to field junior-varsity squads and play the starters little if at all. If you are actually attending tonight's game, chances are you lost a bet, or your TV is broken. Tonight matters vitally only to Miami's bottom-feeders, because by Saturday the roster must slash from 75 players to a final 53, meaning that the players you have barely heard of are playing for their professional lives tonight. There is real human drama in that; it just isn't a drama that interests me much. Right guard and nickel corner are two positions that still need settling as exhibition play wraps up. Coach Joe Philbin -- who provides basic information as if it was a state secret with national security at stake -- has not formally named a starting running back, either, but if it isn't Lamar Miller I'll hitchhike to Cleveland waving a Terrible Towel. The real season can't get here fast enough.

WHY I PUBLISHED NEVIN SHAPIRO'S LETTER, AND THE REACTION: I know many of you dislike that I gave a forum to Shapiro (in the previous blogpost), but like it or not he is the central figure/accuser in the NCAA's long investigation of Miami. I also found some of what he wrote illuminating, such as his obvious bitterness toward former Canes players and others he felt abandoned him. This, as I state in my reply, calls into question his credibility as a witness. The reaction to the letter and to my publishing it has been fierce, and not just in the Comments section of that blogpost. Reaction also has poured in on Twitter and in emails to me, a slight majority of it negative. Here I share snippets of a very small, representative sampling of the Twitter and email reaction:

Negative: "It is reprehensible you would publish that letter." --Scott Ramsden / "You should have replied: STFU you human excrement." -- Francis Colls / "Scum shouldn't even be allowed computer or mail." --Jorge Morales / "He is delusional. Why print such crap?" -- George Kitchens / "Giving the felon attention. Way to go Cote you turd." --Cane Fan / "Giving that liar a public forum is morally wrong." --Tony Foley

Positive: "Great rebuttal letter to Shapiro." --Deval Patel / "Thanks for posting. More evidence of his lunacy." --Chris Avros / "Great read and response on your part." --Jeff LaBelle / "Through Shapiro's noise you nailed it. Well done!" --Jason Mizrachi / "Thanks for letting us who follow you see inside his mind." --Steve Petrie

It always amazes me how two people can read the same thing with such opposite reactions. (It also amazes me that some people still use the word "turd.") Thanks to the above readers and to the dozens of others on either side who cared enough to respond.

HERALD FOOTBALL SPECIAL SECTIONS: NFL, College and High-School special preview sections appear today/Friday in the old-school, inky pulp newspaper version of the Miami Herald, but they have been available the past two days online -- yet another of myriad ways the newspaper industry astonishingly defeats itself by unnecessarily giving readers another reason to not buy the paper. But enough of that. Here are links to my three contributions to the special sections:

  • Dolphins column: No more excuses, Dolphins. This is it. Been too long. Don't preach patience. 'Almost' won't cut it. Playoffs, now!
  • NFL team rankings: I list the teams 1 through 32 and have Miami surprisingly high at No. 12, and in the playoffs. No, seriously.
  • Hurricanes column: "It's a Canes thing. You wouldn't understand." Al Golden understands. After the NCAA cloud, Golden sunshine lay ahead.

1aa1carmenoLEBRON IN RUMOR MINI-MESS: Heat star LeBron James, who is engaged to be married next month, is rumored to be involved in some sort of friendship/relationship with "bikini model" Carmen Ortega, who is pictured here, well, bikini-modeling I guess. The report is courtesy popular rumor-monger Jose Lambiet; read it here. I take it for what it's worth, which may be nothing. My guess? The future Mrs. James' wedding ring just got bigger.

CANES' MORRIS TOPS MANZIEL ON PROSPECTS LIST: Sports Illustrated trots out a Top 40 prospects list 1aa1morrissfor the 2014 NFL draft, and what jumped out at me is that Miami quarterback Stephen Morris (pictured) -- at No. 31 the only Cane listed -- slots ahead of Texas A&M Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, who is 37th. Morris is the fifth QB listed, after Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater (from Miami) at 2nd overall, Clemson's Taj Boyd 9th, UCLA's Brett Hundley 18th and Oregon's Marcus Mariota 22nd.

1aa1byrdsUPSET BIRD COUNTDOWN: 8 DAYS: The Upset Bird and I kick off our season of Friday NFL prediction 1aa1birdupages on Sept. 6, and we began a 10-day countdown honoring outstanding notable birds. Today, at 8 days, we spotlight The Byrds, seminal 1960s American folk-rock band out of L.A. The Byrds' 1965 version of Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man," with its mesmerizing opening by Roger McGuinn on a 12-string Rickenbacker, was one of the first sounds to lure a then-very-young Greg Cote into the lifelong caress of music. This in turn would lead to the portal of serendipity in which, decades later, the Upset Bird was born.

UM-FAU / Collball Week 1 advisory: Note, our weekly in-season college football posts will debut here later today in the blog. Each week, I'll predict every game involving the seven state FBS teams and every national matchup of Top 25 teams. There was one state-school FBS game last night so I got on the record beforehand with my pick for that one: UCF 37, Akron 16. [UCF won, 38-7].

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August 28, 2013

Exclusive: Inside the mind of Nevin Shapiro: A letter from federal prison; plus Schnellenberger poll result, Upset Bird Countdown (9 days) & more

1aa1mlk1) It is THURSDAY, AUGUST 29. This week marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington at which Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I Have A Dream" speech. Keep the dream alive! 2) Here's a hint of the breadth of my music tastes: Links to new songs from forthcoming albums by Eminem and Elton John. Click Berzerk for Em (warning, bad words) and Mexican Vacation for Elt. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): The legacies of Howard Schnellenberger with poll, Dolphin roster cuts, Upset Bird Countdown & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter (gregcote), Instagram (Upsetbird) and Vine (Greg Cote).

INSIDE THE MIND OF NEVIN SHAPIRO: A LETTER FROM FEDERAL PRISON: I wrote a blog item earlier this week blasting the NCAA for the length of its continuing investigation of Miami in the Nevin Shapiro 1aa1nevin2 1aa1nevincase, and Shapiro responded to me with a lengthy email from federal prison. I am sharing the email here because this is the central figure in the UM case, a former renegade booster now serving hard time on a Ponzi scheme conviction. Shapiro is pictured, along with a T-shirt reflecting how most Canes fans feel about him. I know some of you object (strongly) to my giving Shapiro this forum, but I simply offer a glimpse into his mind. Publishing what he says does not mean I endorse any of it. My reply speaks for how I feel. Whether you think what Shapiro writes here makes him seem delusional or anything else is for you to decide. The following is as close to verbatim as possible. I only edited/condensed slightly and softened profanity. Shapiro's letter has a background shade of gray. After that I offer brief thoughts of my own in a response that bears a background shade of light green.

SHAPIRO'S LETTER TO ME:

Greg,

This is Nevin Shapiro. Although you have dogged the s--- out of me for 24 months and 9 days to be exact as of the writing of this letter, I still feel as if I need to make you aware and educate you on the reality and truth behind your commentary regarding UM and this fraudulent operation known as the NCAA. I am mailing you an article from this past week's USA Today which discusses the USC probationary status for a parallel comparison. You can choose to not read it, as this is your right, but I recommend that you do for the mere fact of being fair to your loyal readers and giving them reality as opposed to fantasy. Let's be clear and I'll be respectful yet direct in this letter, which will lay out facts not hypotheses to you. USC got four years probation for what amounted to 2 individuals, Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo. That is two players, and that investigation took approximately four years. Here is the math and it comes with an explanation. The University of Miami had 114 players involved, 72 of which were confirmed because of what the NCAA thought was used in the initial Yahoo Sports story, and the reason it wasn't 114 and "only" 72 I have no idea. That amount didn't even include walk-ons or maybe they just weren't scholarship players. There were 6 coaches involved,the entire equipment staff and 3 University Administrators and specifically 2 Athletic Directors, though they weren't completely guilty, just ignorant by selective amnesia. OK, so let's do the math: 2 players = four years of investigation and 4 years of probation. So what does 125 or so coaches, players and administrators deserve penalty-wise and how long should this have taken? Let's be realistic and practical. Forget my current criminal position and here are the reasons why. For one, nobody and I mean nobody outside of my internal camp realize or know yet what happened in my case, as I was victimized with my lender's money. That will come out shortly once my "guilty plea" is withdrawn. That is another matter for another time and will come to light eventually. Here is the second reason: 9 years worth of bank statements (cash & check deposits), credit card statements, deposed Federal Testimonies and FBI written interviews were presented as evidence. So, in fact, it wasn't my word, it was the documented evidence that subordinated this investigation. So how can you sell to your readers that this is ridiculous and taken too long? Maybe the NCAA is a sad oufit, I don't disagree. But this was also the worst case of violation of rules with no "institutional control" that has ever taken place, SMU included, though in a different era. What makes this matter even worse is this: It is still going on!!! Maybe not what I was doing because my access and network of power in South Florida was pretty strong and tight, but the agent/runner game is thriving and I know because I'm still involved from a distance. I realize the University of Miami is a big client of the Herald's and I realize that you are a hometown writer and respect that position that you must take, but let me share this with you and try to dispute it all that you want. If you were Yahoo Sports,USA Today, Sports Illustrated or just a media outlet from another venue outside of South Florida and were provided what they were all provided with, you would be trying to win a Pulitzer and wouldn't let this rest until you did. If this were a real criminal trial, which it isn't but if it were, the University of Miami would have been (a) indicted on fIrst look in front of a Grand Jury and (b) sentenced to life in prison and (c) possibly given the Death Penalty. That is exactly how gruesome and transparently blatant their charges would be and actually are in comparison to a University who operates within a structure of 1,000 or more other Universities. People are tired of this story just like A-Rod and his PED situation, as am I by now, but I ask these questions of you. Is it time to clean up the Collegiate game once and for all? Wouldn't you if you were a member of the enforcement division or even a University President just want to use this case as your barometer to remake and simplify all of these rules and lay it out in layman's terms? Or is it because it is too time consuming or maybe because you are a writer for the hometown team, let's just say "f--- it" and move on and hope that it doesn't happen again because this was more like a once-in-a-lifetime situation? I personally regret getting involved with this matter, as it took me out of Miami to serve my time while fighting and withdrawing my plea, from a very difficult situation within these walls because of how [this story] was and is portrayed. I read when you wrote about a year ago that "Is anyone else hoping that Nevin Shapiro is having a miserable time in prison?" I want to tell you how that made me feel. I have a mother and a father who have one child (me). I was raised properly, I was educated properly, I was the legal guardian of my two grandparents at the age of 22 years old (unprecedented by the family courts) and I gave time and millions of dollars (my money, not stolen) to many charitable functions and organizations but never wanted publicity for it. Even my $250K donation to a school that I never attended was done when my financial riches were new, legal and could have been used anywhere but I chose to give it to a passion of mine, the University of Miami football program, and this was way before any possible legal hurdles availed themselves. My point is that on the personal stuff, get the facts right because there are people that love and care for me who know what exactly was done to me that the public has not become aware of yet. But back to my point for writing this letter to you and here are some of my final points. You wrote one article earlier in the year about President Shalala making the whole investigation transparent so the public could wage their own opinion. Did that happen or did they (UM) just share what makes them look good in public perception? Did my attorney Maria do anything wrong? Did she? She followed the orders & direction given by a group of [NCAA] individuals that were supposedly the heads of their massive organization, Julie Roe & Ameen Najjar. Why would a billion-dollar entity such as the NCAA have incompetents running their organization and why would Maria be guilty of anything if they were in charge of their organization and she followed their protocol? She wouldn't be, that is the point. And who is to say that those persons mentioned were even incompetent? They weren't. [NCAA president] Mark Emmert is incompetent and needed a scapegoat and found them. Is there any wonder or coincidence that the two "main"investigators were fired before any of this stuff with Maria blew up? Richared Johanningmeir & Ameen Najjar, plus an additional 3 or 4 members either quit or were fired during this investigation. Aren't you curious as a media member as to why? Maybe those investigators who quit were just dumbfounded as to how their job revolves around the enforcement of rules, though the NCAA just stumbled on to the biggest scandal in recent history or in history period and yet they (NCAA) decided to just roll over and play dead? How would you feel if you were an investigator searching for and acquiring the truth and then your boss says "let's just make this go away"? You would be of a different mindset wouldn't you? Of course you would be and don't say anything contrary to that statement. I will not win this war anytime ever with the South Florida media or maybe anywhere else, all because of my currently pending criminal case but let the record show this: Miami gave themselves 2 years of probation voluntarily because they knew that they had to as a mercy plea to the COI [Committee on Infractions]. That's one, but this point is as large as that point. Of all the players mentioned in the initial Yahoo Sports reports, which subsequently was reported in multiple media outlets, none of these former players, most of which are worth in the millions dollar-wise, ever sued Yahoo or any other outlet for damages [for] slander, defamation or any other collectible damage-driven lawsuit. How come? Because they couldn't win a lawsuit. Why? Because to win a lawsuit you must prove that lies were prevalent, witnesses would have to testify and also there were criminal charges that most to all of these players would have walked into if they pressed their arrogant luck of being a professional athlete. Come on, Jon Vilma sued the NFL and they are equivalent to the Mob or maybe even the U.S. Gov't as big as they are, so he could easily pick a fight with Yahoo Sports or any other media outlet who slandered his name. Jose Canseco was a scumbag, no question about it, but he was also correct and proved it without even talking about it after the fact. Is my case different? The facts are the facts, yet the Unversity of Miami is the victim here now? Look, for the record, Greg, so you know: I loved that city and team more than any other thing in my life outside of my family. I love what they have done recruiting-wise to be mentioned in the possibility of reverence again, but let me share this with you: 47 former players were interviewed by the FBI and were prepared to testify against me in Federal Court. Furthermore, President Shalala owed me a great deal more respect than to piss right in my face at the time of my self surrender (April 21, 2010) without knowing anything that had truly taken place. I can't stomach when the UM logo and motto has always been "It's a Cane thing, you wouldn't understand." No, I understand perfectly clear. When you are supporting these guys/takers, pick a word, everything is fine, but when adversity stares you in the face, [they] run away from the subject, or in my case, [from] the guy that did a whole lot more than throw parties on yachts and in nightclubs. You don't know the personal stories involved between me and more than 20-30 of these guys, from Willie Williams to Devin Hester to Sean Taylor, Bryan Pata, Vince Wilfork, Tyrone Moss, Willis McGahee or the Antrell Rolle's of the world. It's not about money, buddy. It never was. It is about supposed family & loyalty, two descriptions opposite of what these former players, coaches and adminsitrators ever reciprocated or demonstrated to one of their own (me) at the the worst possible time of need. Please stop selling the UM Kool-Aid to the public, it's merely a myth just like the Loch Ness Monster. I copied your editor on this email/letter and if you wish to reply feel free to do so and if you wish to print this, feel free to do so as well. Miami is lucky to avoid losing their football program and if you think that they have been severely punished for what they not only allowed to happen within a 9-year period (2001-2010) but also were co-conspirators in these rules of engagement, then you are just in plain denial and don't want to be rational, realistic and perceptive, which I know you are because I read your column weekly.

Respectfully, Nevin Shapiro

MY RESPONSE TO SHAPIRO:

Nevin,

I continue to believe the NCAA investigation of Miami has dragged on much too long, and that UM's significant self-imposed penalties thus far should greatly mitigate against further punishment being too severe. But I also think those volunteered penalties alone were obviously a pretty clear acknowledgment of years of lack of oversight, and of the truth of many of your allegations. Comparing yourself to Jose Canseco was apt. Even the dubious, unpopular messenger you don't want to believe can sometimes be telling the truth. On the other hand, the bitterness you harbor against former UM players and others for abandoning you in your time of need comes through clear in your letter, and that creates the sense you have an axe to grind, which in turn could leave some to think you are out to "get" the university. Your own damaged credibility and the NCAA's embarrassing internal issues in this probe are two other reasons -- along with Miami's self-imposed penalties -- why I think this two-sided mess needs to be put in the past with minimal additional sanctions. On a personal note, I admit some of the shots I have taken at you (especially in the Sunday notes column) have been harsh at times, and I have tried to be more professional in avoiding shots that seem personal. Bottom line? The Nevin Shapiros of the world would not exist if there were not willing athletes with their hands out, but you were the instigator who got Miami in trouble. You say you loved Canes football, and I don't doubt you did once. But you had a misguided way of showing it. You hurt the one you loved, badly. For that, no absolution awaits you.

Sincerely, Greg Cote

Now, on to a couple of quick unrelated blog items:

Poll result: Canes title is Schnellenberger's top legacy: I asked Howard in an interview for this column what he is proudest of, and he mentioned three accomplishments. He didn't rank them but you sure did, with 89.7 percent calling his Miami years most impressive, 8.6% opting for his building FAU football from scratch, and 1.7% citing his turnaround of Louiville. You may still vote.

UPSET BIRD COUNTDOWN: 9 DAYS: The Upset Bird and I kick off our season of Friday NFL prediction 1aa1birdu 1aa1birdladypages on Sept. 6, and we began a 10-day countdown that each day will honor outstanding notable birds. Today, at 9 days, we bring you Claudia Alta Taylor Johnson. Who? Lady Bird, of course! That's right, children. The United States of America once had a First Lady in the White House (1963-69) named Lady Bird. We have had eight First Ladies since, all bearing pedestrian names that bow to the great Lady Bird. No funkier moniker has ever graced a presidential spouse. ("Whoa! Hold on one darned second," says Mamie Eisenhower).

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August 26, 2013

Dumb, dumber, dumbest: NCAA's torture of UM, Miley at the VMAs, Zimmerman at the gun factory & more

1) It is MONDAY, AUGUST 26. Click on Random Evidence for latest Sunday notes column, leading with onset of college football and Canes' opener. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins lose PS4 to Tampa Bay, The List & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter (gregcote), on Instagram (Upsetbird) and on Vine (Greg Cote).

Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest: It's up to you which of these Three Things That Make Me Mad deserve which designation on the Dumb Scale. I just woke up Monday feeling all three needed me to dropkick them...

SHAME ON THE NCAA FOR ITS EGREGIOUS FOOT-DRAGGING: There are statutes of limitations in the United States. There are laws about double-jeopardy. There is the right to a speedy trial. These safeguards convey the general belief in America that the accused should not be punished by an 1aa1emmertncaaextraordinarily long process only to then be punished again. The NCAA of course is sadly beholden to none of these principles, and that is why the Miami Hurricanes still wait, three years later, for resolution of the Nevin Shapiro investigation. This is Hurricanes Week, with the football season opener vs. FAU on Friday night. We should be beyond NCAA matters by now and free to just enjoy football. Instead coach Al Golden and his program still deal with the enormous distraction of possible penalties yet to come. "We've done everything we can do," Golden said Monday. "It's felt like 50 First Dates, answering the same question [about the NCAA] all the time. I'm looking forward to that closure." Nobody formerly connected to the renegade/jailed booster Shapiro remains with the team. Everybody is ready to move on. Self-imposed penalties including two years of postseason bans already have been served. But the foot-dragging NCAA won't let this end, and with every day of further delay you get the uneasy sense that Mark Emmert's (pictured) corrupted, dysfunctional organization will levy additional penalties if only to justify the time and expense of its ponderous probe. Miami has paid its price and the paying continues. The shamed NCAA needs to wrap this case up with nothing beyond minor additional sanctions -- and wrap it up now.

MILEY CYRUS AT THE VMA'S: I assume Miley Cyrus, the pop singer, has a personal manager who steers her career and her professional choices. I assume said personal manager either should have been fired 1aa1cyrus3before this, or will be now. Miley once had a nice, role-model persona; sort of a Taylor Swift without the talent. Remember? Then somebody decided to turn her into a character of the type one might find on a street corner and rent for an hour. Like a brainless doll, she was re-dressed, re-made-up and paraded out as all sexy. Sunday night came an in-your-face reminder at the MTV Video Music Awards, when Miley, 20, stripped down to flesh-tone undies and turned the other cheek (see left) for Robin Thicke. I did not see the VMAs live, because the competing Dexter/Ray Donovan doubleheader had my attention. In missing Miley's twerkin' performance I feel like I made a good choice. Click HERE to watch her self-degradation, which includes some naughtiness with a foam finger. Constant readers know I am quite the opposite of a prude, but I'm embarrassed for this girl and what she has allowed herself to be turned into by the pimps in charge of her.

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN AT THE GUN PLANT: George, George, George. Seriously!? Last month George Zimmerman wins a controversial acquittal on charges he murdered unarmed teen Trayvon Martin while 1aa1georgegunserving as a neighborood watchman. Now Zimmerman is photographed touring the Kel-Tec firearms factory, the same Cocoa, Fla., manufacturer that made the semi-automatic handgun he used to kill Martin. Pictured via TMZ is the photo of Zimmerman all smiles with a Kel-Tec employee. This is pretty galling. This is an affront to Trayvon's family. Is this really who Zimmerman wants to be now? Mr. Vigilante? Mr. Gun Lobby Guy? I'm not sure if Kel-Tec makes bulletproof vests or not, but, with post-trial decisions such as this, I'd imagine George might want to consider such a purchase a wise investment.

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June 15, 2013

Finals G5: Spurs 114, Heat 104: Miami must now win two in a row at home to repeat as champs; also, Miguel Olivo, NCAA clowns, Sad-O-Meter back & more

1) It is TUESDAY, JUNE 18. Watch for a new Heat-Spurs Game 6 blogpost very soon. 2) Congrats to the Panthers' Jonathan Huberdeau, the club's first-ever NHL rookie of the year. 3) Thanks for NBC Sports national radio for having us on again to talk Heat. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat Game 4 win, Dolphins poll result, Marlins Sad-O-Meter.

TWITTER @gregcote (15 new Tweets in past day)

INSTAGRAM @ upsetbird (3 new photos in past day)

VINE @ Greg Cote (8 new videos in past day)

New column from San Antonio and Game 5 Heat loss: Click on It Don't Come Easy for my latest column, on the job  Miami has left itself with a 3-2 series deficit.

FINALS G5: SPURS 114, HEAT 104: POOR SHOOTING, BAD DEFENSE PUSH MIAMI'S BACK TO WALL: Heat shot only 43 percent Sunday night in the Game 5 loss but giving up 114 points and 60 percent shooting to the Spurs was worse. Can't blame the Big 3, which combined for 66 points. And Ray Allen had 21 off the bench. Miami simply must play more tenacious defense, especially against Danny Green, whom they have allowed to score an NBA Finals-record 25 3-point baskets in five games. Heat now have gone 12 consecutive playoff games this year without back-to-back wins. But they won't repeat as champs unless they end that slump and win the next two at home. Winning Sunday could have made things so much easier. But what fun is easy, right? Watch for my column from San Antonio off tonight's loss online. ..... Original post: Strange, isn't? This Heat team won a club-record 66 games including 27 in a row but the question attached to Miami tonight is, "Can they 1aa1heatspurswin two in a row?" They haven't since the second round of this postseason, an 0-5 stretch after wins that has this NBA Finals 1aa1g5knotted 2-2. That must change if a repeat title is to happen, because if they don't win a second in a row in tonight's Game 5, they'd need to win two in a row back in Miami in Games 6-7. I still feel like the far greater pressure is on San Antonio tonight. In a 2-2 Finals, Game 5 winners have won the title 20 of 27 times, and that likelihood would be even greater for a Miami team with two straight chances at home. Miami is expected to continue its small-ball starting lineup with Mike Miller in place of Udonis Haslem. All breakdowns of analytics show Miami is better when Chris Bosh (or Birdman Andersen or Haslem) is the only "big" on the floor. That stretches the Spurs' defense and provides space for LeBron and D-Wade. Should be an emotional night in central Texas, as San Antonians might be seeing their own Big 3 on the home floor for the last time. The Heat need to send them home quiet to lock down another championship.

FOR HEAT'S BIG 3, GAME 4 WAS ABOUT RESTORING FAITH: It wasn't the how as much as the 1aa1big3 who that restored so much faith in that Finals-tying Game 4 win the other night. The Heat's Big 3 collectively -- and LeBron James, 1aa1big32Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh individually -- hadn't been themselves much of this postseason. Doubts crept in. But Thursday they made all of that go away. Thursday the Big 3 were exactly what we were cheering in that arena celebration three summers ago: Dominance. Not one, not two, but three stars, all aligned. They must be that twice more for Miami to repeat as champs, but I think everything changed with Game 4. Title likelihood swung back to Miami, and trust in the Big 3 blueprint was restored. I explore this fully in my Saturday column from San Antonio. Click Restoring Faith to read.

NCAA WILL COME OUT OF THIS PROTRACTED MESS LOOKING WORSE THAN CANES: So the NCAA infractions committee hearings on the UM/Nevin Shapiro case are finished and now we wait six weeks 1aa1ncaafor the verdict on possible additional lpunishments, and then likely more time as Miami appeals the decision. The question now: Which will end first? This saga that has already dragged on more than three years, or Shapiro's prison senetnec? (He's serving 20 years). I am as convinced as ever that the NCAA, with the bungled, corrupted investigation by its enforcement wing, will come out of this with its reputation damaged far more irreparably than The U's. (I took this photo of NCAA headquarters while in Indianapolis for the Heat-Pacers series. Based on recent history, the side of the building should have had a giant red clown nose affixed to it).

1aa1molivoCATCHER OLIVO QUITS ON MARLINS: Speaking of clowns, catcher Miguel Olivo walks out on the Marlins in the middle of the national anthem. He was upset about lack of playing time and team had ignored his request for a release. Dude, you're 34 and hitting .203. What a punk move. Whatever "professionalism" means, this act was its antonym.

SAD-O-METER IS BACK! (BARELY...): We have this blog feature we update as long as Marlins' winning 1aa1bbsadpercentage is under .300 -- as long as the New York Mets' infamous 1962 record of 40-120 (.250) is within dubious reach. Well, after the briefest hiatus, and by the barest of margins, last night's loss brings us back! Updated Sad-O-Meter: Current record 20-47, .299. Season projection: 48.36 wins, 113.64 losses.

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April 04, 2013

How much responsibility is on Shalala in UM's NCAA mess? New poll. Vote; plus The U's risky play, Bosh, Marlins, Kiper on Dolphin draft & more

1aa1ebert1) It is SATURDAY, APRIL 6. New blogpost coming by late afternoon today, post-golf. 2) R.I.P. Roger Ebert, renowned film critic, dead at 70. 3) Dolphins release framework of preseason schedule. It's Aug. 4 vs. Cowboys in Hall of Fame Game in Canton; Aug. 9-11 at Jaguars; Aug. 16-18 at Texans; Aug. 23-24 vs. Buccaneers; and Aug. 28-29 vs. Saints. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Marlins' fan dilemma poll, Kid Pitino bolts FIU, Herald's 'Heat 25' ballot, Dolphins draft. 5) Join us on Twitter @agregcote.

Click on Griner & The NBA for my most recent column, on why the best player in women's basketball has no shot in NBA and why Mark Cuban's noise about it is a disservice.

'Schulman Surge' continues!: The Herald's massive poll to name the 25 most influential figures in Heat's 25-year existence is underway, and I am encouraging my blog family to rock the vote for otherwise obscure front-office executive Sammy Schulman. Just because! Already, thanks to you, Schulman has surged ahead of the likes of Burnie the Mascot, Bimbo Coles, DJ irie, the Heat Dancers and Antoine Walker. Let's keep the harmless anarchy going! Click HERE, scroll down to vote for Schulman only and tell others to do the same. Power to the people!

RESPONSIBLE? BLAMELESS? WHAT IS SHALALA'S BURDEN IN UM'S NCAA MESS?: I explore this in Thursday's column, which uses as its launch-point the scandal at Rutgers that led to this week's firing of the 1aa1donnasmen's basketball coach. Click on The Buck Stops Where? to read. Penn State's president lost his job over that school's scandal. NCAA president Mark Emmert probably should lose his over the bungling of the UM case. Rutgers' president may yet be fired. But Miami president Donna Shalala (pictured) has received negligible criticism or suggestion of responsibility in the probe that centers on years of wrongdoing by renegade booster Nevin Shapiro. Is that fair? The poll question is specific to Shalala but really delves into the larger issue of how much responsibility college presidents should bear for major problems related to their athletic deprtments. Vote and say why.

UM's risky play with NCAA: Much is being made of UM's official motion to dismiss sent to the NCAA. It was long-expected. What is mostly newsworthy about it , to me, is the risk Miami is taking by focusing its 45-page argument on the NCAA's own "improper acts" during the 2 1/2-year probe in the Nevin Shapiro case. Those improprieties are valid; they happened. But they also are something the NCAA has said did not taint the investigation to a degree it won't go on. The likelihood of this matter being immediately concluded as UM asks is speck-of-sand small. That would be the NCAA admitting to such a botchery of the case that it could bring down president Mark Emmert. Such an admission simply will not happen. Miami's official motion here is more likely to simply anger and tweak the NCAA as it meets in June to mull any further punishments beyond what UM has already self-imposed. I do not blame UM and president Donna Shalala for being aggressive in filing this motion, as long as the very small chance of an actual dismissal was properly considered against the larger risk.

BOSH'S HOME SUSPICIOUSLY BURGLARIZED: Miami Beach police suspect an 1aa1boshcame;inside job in Wednesday night's burglary of Heat star Chris Bosh's waterfront mansion that netted thieves some $340,000 in jewelry. Cops are led to that suspicion by the lack of forced entry and the fact traceable items such as Bosh's NBA championship ring were not taken. The crime occured as Bosh and his wife were away celebrating his 29th birthday at a lavish -- and well-advertised -- nearby Moroccan-themed party that featured belly dancers, fire eaters and (not one but) two live camels. Photo from party courtesy atlnightspots.com.

MARLINS SCORE A RUN! MARLINS SCORE A RUN!: [Update: Marlins off the schneid! Beat Mets!] I was holding my 1aa1confettibreath 'til they did; now I can exhale. The Marlins had never before suffered consecutive shutout losses to begin a season. The previous fewest runs scored over the first two games was 1, in 1996 and 2012. (The fewest scored in the first three games had been 6 in 1994). Game 3 at Washington yesterday found Miami losing again but finally off the scoreless schneid in the top of the 2nd inning on a Justin Ruggiano solo homer. Party! Confetti!

Poll result: Loria animus still strong, but softening slightly: We asked how Marlins fans should feel this season, and it was 62.5 percent for no longer supporting the team because of Jeffrey Loria, vs. 27.9% for still supporting the team despite the owner (with 9.6% undecided). However, in November, the percents were 76.6, 16.4 and 7.0 -- an even stronger anti-Loria/boycott mentality. 

KIPER ON DOLPHINS DRAFT: ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper, on a conference call this week, asked if he thinks Miami could something "unconventional" with the No. 12 overall pick: "The one unconventional 1aa1djflukermove they made was when they had Matt Ryan [available], they took Jake Long and ended up with Chad Henne in the second round, so they thought they could get the left tackle, then the quarterback, neither of whom are with the team now and Matt Ryan is a franchise quarterback. So that's a move that obviously was critical in this whole equation for the Dolphins. We'll have to see how Tannehill develops. But a D.J. Fluker from Alabama (pictured), who's a right tackle or guard, could be an interesting guy at 12. The guy is as good a run-blocking right tackle as you'll ever find. He would be interesting at 12." [Note: In his latest 2-round mock draft, Kiper has Miami selecting Fluker in first round. His second-round pciks for Miami are Florida State DE Tank Carradine (42nd overall) and Southeastern Louisiana CB Robert Alford (54th)].

DORSEY TOPS UM HALL INDUCTEES: Champion QB Ken Dorsey and teammate Brett Romberg (both 1999-2002) head a list of seven latest UM Sports Hall of Fame inductees who'll be installed in a 45th annual ceremony April 11. Others are Ed Contreras (baseball, 1957-59); Bryan Gilooly (diving, 1994-98); Norm Parson (coach, 1972-2012); Don Soldinger (coach, 1984-88, '95-2006); and Jay Tessmer (baseball, 1994-95). Special congrats to Soldinger, whom I covered during the Jimmy Johnson years. Well deserved, Don.

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