NCAA Pauses Investigation of Miami To Investigate ItselfPosted by mpatton on January 24th, 2013
Right on the heels of Jeff Goodman breaking the news that the NCAA was nearly ready to release Miami‘s notice of allegations and that Frank Haith would be slapped with unethical content and failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance, the NCAA held a press conference that changed everything.
Haith went from dead man walking–unethical conduct was the same verdict that slapped Bruce Pearl before giving him a multiyear show-cause penalty–to potentially getting away totally unscathed when Mark Emmert announced that the NCAA is conducting an external review of its enforcement program. But this won’t stop with Miami. This has the potential to change NCAA enforcement as we know it.
The problem facing the NCAA is that investigators “gained information for the investigation that would not have been accessible otherwise.” Now, alone that sounds like a minor deal, but in the press conference things became more clear: the NCAA worked with Nevin Shapiro’s lawyer to collect evidence against Miami’s athletic department. My (and John Infante’s) guess is the enforcement staff used the bankruptcy case as a way to get relevant parties to talk about the scandal under oath. To add insult to injury, the NCAA noticed the rule-bending when Shapiro’s attorney sent it a bill for his help. So for those of you keeping score at home, the NCAA effectively hired a lawyer to question people under oath for an investigation. Not surprisingly, that’s not OK.
What we know is that all evidence wrongfully collected will be thrown out. What we don’t know is essentially everything else. It’s impossible to say whether the NCAA will have enough to get Haith for either charge. The unethical conduct charge came down to $10,000 allegedly paid to DeQuan Jones by Shapiro (who was repaid by Haith). Even with the impermissible evidence, the NCAA was not able to prove Shapiro’s allegations that a member of DeQuan Jones’ family was paid, but the organization wasn’t satisfied with Haith’s explanation for how money that was supposed to be slotted for camp ended up paid to Shapiro’s mother. According to Goodman, the NCAA confirmed the repayment with Shapiro’s mother. But was she under oath? This charge feels like it might be on shaky ground because a lot of people are involved (Shapiro, Shapiro’s mother, assistant coaches, Jones’ family). The second charge of failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance reportedly stems from impermissible travel benefits. It is possible that this will be thrown out, but it looks more straightforward.
At this point I would not be surprised to see Miami walk away totally unscathed given their decision to self-impose postseason football bans the past two seasons. It would be a remarkable turnaround for a school and program that was skewered by the media including some media members who threw around incendiary phrases like “death penalty”. Having said that Haith may be an easier target, who also hasn’t self-imposed two consecutive bowl bans.
But this is a gamechanger. The NCAA is already facing several lawsuits thanks to its heavy-handed enforcement of late. Also if Miami decides to sue, the rest of the ACC has reason to piggyback, as every school lost money because of Miami’s decision to miss two bowls. Needless to say, it should be very interesting to see what the external review turns up, and how this situation changes the NCAA’s enforcement policies going forward.