With 20 Starters Back and NCAA Saga Almost Over, Miami Is Thinking Football

Lisa HornePac-12 and Big 12 Lead WriterMarch 4, 2013

Miami head coach Al Golden
Miami head coach Al GoldenSteve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Miami football is officially under way and there's no more wondering when the sky is falling, if it does at all.

According to a Yahoo!Sports report via the Associated Press, the University of Miami will be facing the NCAA's Committee on Infraction for a June 14-15 hearing. Miami should have a good feel of where it stands with the NCAA regarding potential sanctions when the hearing is over. Miami head coach Al Golden seemed to have had a large burden lifted from his shoulders when he explained the team's mindset after the school's hearing date was finally set.

You could almost sense it in the building and for the players that we have a chance to move forward now. We know that there's at least a terminal date now as opposed to being in the gray and we're excited about moving forward.

Sometimes wishful thinking is an asset; sometimes it is a devastating distraction. 

But Miami, after self-sanctioning itself with two consecutive postseason bans, has probably endured the brunt of its punishment in as far as its absence from bowls. Scholarship reductions may be forthcoming but right now, here in 2013, Miami is playing with a full deck.

With 20 starters returning, Miami should be a heavy favorite to win the Coastal division of the Atlantic Coast Conference. For a 7-5 team to only lose two starters coming into the 2013 season is reason enough to put the Hurricanes down as a legitimate contender for an Orange Bowl berth.

And despite the negativity surrounding the program over the last year, a lot of people have become Hurricane fans not because of their love for the school, but because they abhor the NCAA's investigative processes—processes that seem to presume guilt among its targeted witnesses and have elicited shady investigative tactics by the association's own admission.

Harsh words for the NCAA, yes, but the association's "missteps" have inadvertently made a lot of us temporary fans of Miami football because we naturally root for the underdog, even if that underdog was once near the top of Earth's food chain.

Case in point: Not a lot of folks have an emotional attachment to great white sharks—many may view them as man-eating monsters that kill in a gruesome fashion. But when we see footage of a fisherman slicing off a shark's dorsal fin while it's still alive—all for the sake of an Asian soup—and then tossing the shark back into the ocean where it sinks in a glorious death spiral, suddenly it's not a monster. 

It's a poor, defenseless creature that has been robbed of its natural ability to survive. 

Miami could be our dorsal fin-less shark. It's nasty and has a lot of teeth but it too could be reduced to fodder if the NCAA decides to go for the kill. And unpleasant as that all seems, Golden doesn't appear to be dwelling on the negatives—he was impressed with what he has seen after the team's first Saturday practice. More from Yahoo!Sports

I told the team I thought we were better today than when we got back from (the season-finale at Duke), which is not easy to do.

While most teams are scraping off the rust from the last three months (or more) of the offseason, Miami is better off than it was when it beat Duke 52-45 last November? That's a scary thought.

The U, ladies and gentlemen, may be feeling that swagger again. 

And as long as the NCAA's knife blade is dulled, Miami could be in the thick of it this year.

Get in, sit down, buckle up and hang on. It's going to be a fun ride.