The ACC champion goes to the Orange Bowl, and Miami's decision effectively ends the Coastal race. Georgia Tech will play Atlantic Division winner Florida State in Charlotte, N.C., on Dec. 1 for the conference title and automatic BCS spot.
Miami, however, still has a championship game of sorts waiting. If the Hurricanes beat Duke, they will finish tied for first in the Coastal. And for a program that's has been starting over in many respects, that alone would provide a boost heading into 2013.
"It's critical," Golden said. "It's critical for our seniors, for them to have weathered what they will have weathered and be able to have an opportunity to go out like that. And if you just look at it all the way down the line, if you're a freshman and you're playing for that your freshman year, now you become accustomed. You changed the culture. They start to understand what it means."
The rogue booster who sparked the investigation, convicted and jailed Ponzi scheme architect Nevin Shapiro, pleaded guilty to charges that he orchestrated a $930 million scam in September 2010 — three months before Golden arrived in Coral Gables.
"I've never been in a kids' home recruiting where I didn't have to answer those questions," Golden said. "And I can't wait for that day. I thank the parents and the players that stayed here to fight through this."
Miami's decision will add to the ACC's bowl dilemma this season.
The ACC has affiliations with eight bowl games, but this year, it will be unable to fill those spots. North Carolina is ineligible because of NCAA sanctions, Miami is choosing to be ineligible, and Maryland, Boston College and Virginia have already lost too many games to be bowl-qualified — so at most, seven teams will be going to the postseason. Wake Forest (5-6) and Virginia Tech (5-6) could merit bowl invitations if they win this coming weekend.
The ACC pools its bowl revenue and shares it among all 12 of its member schools, but it's unclear how that process will be affected — if at all — since the league will not receive payouts from the usual number of postseason matchups.