Did the NCAA Just Earn the ‘Death Penalty’ for Itself?

by Greg Pollowitz

Oh my. The NCAA has discovered major issues with its investigation into the University of Miami athletic department and is voluntarily launching an immediate “external review” to “ensure operation of the program is consistent with the essential principles of integrity and accountability.” USA Today reports:

The NCAA will launch an external review of its own enforcement program after uncovering an issue of improper conduct during its investigation into the University of Miami, which has come under scrutiny from the NCAA since the release of a Yahoo! Sports report in 2011 that claimed 72 student-athletes received impermissible benefits from 2002-10.

As a result, the NCAA announced Wednesday that it would not move forward with its case against the university until the completion of the external investigation.

According to a release Wednesday from the NCAA, former members of its enforcement program worked with the criminal defense attorney for Nevin Shapiro, the disgraced former booster at the center of the NCAA’s case, to improperly obtain information through a bankruptcy proceeding that did not involve the NCAA.

Since the NCAA does not have subpoena power, members of the enforcement staff gained information through the proceedings they would not have access to otherwise.

Keep in mind rumors were that the NCAA was about to announce what penalties it was ready to impose on the University of Miami, to the point where those involved were issuing preemptive statements from their lawyers. For example, this story on former Miami basketball coach Frank Haith and his ties to the scandal ran yesterday:

The any-day-now waiting game is now months old.

Miami’s official notice of allegations from the NCAA in the Nevin Shapiro recruiting scandal could drop, well, any moment still. Speculation and media reports are on the rise as the day nears.

Pompano Beach attorney Michael Buckner can tell you all about it.

He represents former Miami basketball coach Frank Haith, who’s now at Missouri. Buckner was on a teleconference with co-counsel Monday afternoon when CBSSports.com published a story about his client.

The report stated Haith would be charged with serious allegations for his role in the wide-ranging investigation into Miami’s football and basketball programs.

Buckner was stunned.

He said he had not heard anything from the NCAA about charges. A day later, on Tuesday evening, he still hadn’t heard anything from the NCAA.

And he’s not happy, either.

“Whoever leaked that or communicated that to CBSSportsline is violating the NCAA confidentiality provisions,” Buckner told the Sun Sentinel. “And if the NCAA had made a conclusion, we would have received a notice of allegations already. Based on what we know about the evidence, there should not be any allegations against coach Haith.”

The article states Haith will be hit with serious charges from the NCAA soon. Unethical conduct and failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance on Haith’s part will be the result of the long investigation into that portion of Miami’s athletic department, CBSSports.com reports.

The violations could lead to a three-year show cause penalty that could cost Haith his job at Missouri, the story read.

But today we learn that not only has the Miami investigation been put on hold, but that the entire process itself might have been compromised from the beginning. University president Donna Shalala is not happy:

Since the University first alerted the NCAA to the possibility of violations more than two years ago, we have been cooperative and compliant with the NCAA and, I believe, a model for how institutions should partner with NCAA staff during investigations. In addition to encouraging current and former staff members and student-athletes to cooperate with investigators, we have provided thousands of documents to the enforcement staff.

I am frustrated, disappointed and concerned by President (Mark) Emmert’s announcement today that the integrity of the investigation may have been compromised by the NCAA staff.

As we have done since the beginning, we will continue to work with the NCAA and now with their outside investigator hoping for a swift resolution of the investigation and our case.

Not that CBS Sports — which wrong about Frank Haith above — can really be trusted at this point, but their “sources” now say Shapiro was being “retained” by the NCAA when the alleged improper conduct occurred:

The NCAA improperly retained Nevin Shapiro’s attorney to work on depositions in a federal bankruptcy case in order determine NCAA violations, a source close the case told CBSSports.com. It would be improper for the NCAA would hire the attorney representing the subject of an ongoing investigative process. That attorney is believed to be Marie Elena Perez. It is also thought that the NCAA’s involvement in a federal case that has nothing to do with the government’s interest in that case could be cause for concern for the NCAA.

We’ll see what the next step is, but if I’m Donna Shalala, I’d be getting a legal team together to not only get the entire NCAA case dismissed against the University, but compensation for damages as well.

Right Field

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