Georgia Tech is on four years' probation. North Carolina has committed nine major NCAA violations. And Miami? Well, the allegations of NCAA violations facing the Hurricanes’ once-mighty program has become the biggest story in college football.
The Coastal Division isn’t collapsing, but it’s definitely under construction this fall.
Memo to Virginia Tech, Virginia and Duke: Here is your chance to throw the ACC entirely out of whack.
With half of the Coastal Division having some sort of run-in with the NCAA, what was once perceived to be the stronger of the two divisions is now almost entirely Virginia Tech’s domain by default. The uncertainty facing Miami and North Carolina doesn’t guarantee their opponents any wins, but it certainly raises doubts about their status as contenders.
North Carolina, while still loaded with talent, is under the direction of interim coach Everett Withers, who has never been a head coach before. Even if Withers delivers a coach-of-the-year performance, the Tar Heels’ season could still be thrown for a loop in October, when university officials are scheduled to again meet with the NCAA in Indianapolis.
Miami’s situation is so volatile that an NCAA official told ESPN.com’s Pat Forde that all penalties, including the death penalty, could be on the table. It’s important not to jump to conclusions, though. North Carolina’s case reminds us that players often get cleared, even if it takes some time and eligibility to get there.
Georgia Tech has the least to worry about regarding the NCAA, as its violations pale in comparison to North Carolina and Miami. Four years' probation is more of a written reprimand than anything else, but until proven otherwise, Virginia Tech still has the upper hand. The Jackets are coming off a losing season, and they need to show improvement in all three phases of the game, including special teams, where mistakes have proved costly. The quarterback position and taking care of the ball also remains a question.
Those three programs -- all which have been ranked in the Top 25 at some point in recent years -- are looking much more vulnerable this season.
Meanwhile, Duke’s biggest concern is replacing its injured center and improving a lousy defense, and Virginia’s top priority is finding a quarterback who won’t throw the ball away. By no means will Duke or Virginia get a free pass to relevance, but their chances of surprising their Coastal Division counterparts suddenly looks a lot better.
It’s Virginia Tech, though, which has an opportunity to make the most of its opponents’ misfortunes.
The Hokies proved last year they can roll through the ACC schedule undefeated. Now is as good a time as any to do it again, especially during a season in which the nonconference schedule is so friendly. An undefeated season would no doubt put the Hokies in contention for a national title in Frank Beamer’s 25th season, but whether they would get credit for their strength of schedule remains a question -- especially considering what’s going on in the rest of the division.
Only time will tell just how much of a factor the offseason, off-field issues will be this fall in the Coastal Division, but the effects of the NCAA investigations will likely reach beyond Chapel Hill and Coral Gables.