First-year coach Al Golden said the one-game suspension of Jacory Harris did not end the battle with Stephen Morris to start, it only extended it.
A day after the University of Miami football team was hit with its NCAA player penalties — eight Hurricanes are suspended for the season opener Monday at Maryland — coach Al Golden discussed the aftermath with reporters from around the nation.
He even ignited a spark in the quarterback competition that just won’t quit, extending the duel between suspended senior Jacory Harris and sophomore starter Stephen Morris beyond the opener.
When asked Wednesday on the Atlantic Coast Conference coaches’ teleconference if Morris will automatically be the starter if he has an exceptional performance against the Terrapins, or if he will reopen the competition going into the Sept. 17 game against Ohio State, Golden replied, “We have two or three practices during the bye week, so we’ll let them compete. The competition was really close and then obviously it got skewed toward the stretch because it looked like one was going to be ineligible and we didn’t know if he was going to be reinstated. So that competition abruptly ended.
“We’ll continue it after this game.’’
Golden said he couldn’t answer what his starting quarterback decision would have been had Harris not been suspended.
“It’s impossible to answer,’’ he said, “because we hadn’t even had the second scrimmage and news started breaking and Jacory’s name was mentioned. So at that point we basically had to abort the competition, if you will, to make sure Stephen was ready. But Stephen was certainly up for the challenge. They were neck and neck. Anybody on the team would tell you that.’’
With Spencer Whipple as the backup quarterback, Golden said A.J. Highsmith, who served as a backup quarterback the past two seasons but was converted to safety in the spring, will be Miami’s third quarterback in an emergency situation at Maryland.
“A.J. is a bright kid and he can move his feet, so we’ll make sure we have three ready. Even though he didn’t get as many reps during the preseason he’s been getting a lot of reps over the last five or six practices.’’
As for the suspensions — Harris, defensive tackle Marcus Forston, linebacker Sean Spence, defensive end Adewale Ojomo and receiver Travis Benjamin each got one game; safety Ray-Ray Armstrong and tight end Dyron Dye got four games; and defensive end Olivier Vernon got six games — Golden said it was “a correct assumption’’ that he let out a sigh of relief when he learned most of his players had one-game suspensions.
Each player also has to repay various amounts of impermissible benefits they received from former booster Nevin Shapiro, now in prison for his $930 million Ponzi scheme. The repayments are usually earmarked for charity.
The coach praised his players for doing “a tremendous job being open and honest’’ during their interviews with the NCAA, as was noted to him, he said, by the NCAA, though he said he has no idea what actually happened during their talks. He said he met with each player individually after UM got word from the NCAA on Tuesday evening, “then the athletic director made sure he talked to them collectively.’’
Other ACC coaches, including Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Virginia’s Mike London, said they commiserated with Golden.
“Al and I are really good friends from [coaching together at] Boston College and Virginia,’’ Virginia coach Mike London said. “He’s got a tough situation he’s going through. But from all accounts through the media and what I know about him, he’s handling it in a first-class manner.’’
Has London used the Hurricanes as a way to approach the subject with his team? “Absolutely,’’ he said. “You become self-reflective of what you’re doing. When you see things around you happening like that you look around your own program and want to make sure you do your due diligence in educating…’’
Fisher was asked if he felt for Golden walking into the UM situation. “I sure do,’’ he said. “You don’t want that to happen to anybody. We hope that everything is OK and I wish him nothing but the best.’’