The NCAA dropped a bombshell Wednesday afternoon, admitting it improperly obtained information via the attorney of former booster Nevin Shapiro – and paid her – during its investigation into the University of Miami’s football and basketball programs.
NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a national teleconference that college sports’ governing body has hired outside counsel to investigate its findings and will not move forward with a Notice of Allegations toward UM or any parties involved until it is completed.
Using phrases such as “grossly inappropriate” and “shocking,” Emmert said the NCAA must sift through the information that was improperly obtained and throw it out — a process he says that should take no longer than a week or two.
“We can’t have the NCAA bringing forward allegations collected by processes no one can stand for,” Emmert said. “We have to go through all of the evidence to determine what has and has not been appropriately collected and influenced by improper conduct.
“The single most important issue of fairness for me is that we make sure that any allegations brought forward are based on good, sound information that was gathered through appropriate means. We’re going to move [forward] as fast as possible, but we just have to get this right.’’
When asked if the NCAA could rectify the situation soon enough for Miami to get closure in the nearly two-year-old case that stems from imprisoned Ponzi-schemer Shapiro’s accusations of rampant NCAA violations, Emmert replied, “I certainly hope that it’s weeks, not months.’’
Because the NCAA does not have subpoena power, Emmert said NCAA investigators improperly hired Shapiro’s lawyer, Maria Elena Perez, to depose individuals and question them in Shapiro’s bankruptcy case. Emmert said the NCAA didn’t learn until last fall that it had been going about its investigation this way, despite multiple reports in many publications, including The Miami Herald.
Former UM equipment manager Sean Allen, who worked for Shapiro and his budding sports agency Axcess Sports, told The Miami Herald in October that when he was subpoenaed in Shapiro’s bankruptcy case, NCAA investigators were present with Perez and waiting to hear his testimony. Allen told The Miami Herald earlier this week he was told by the NCAA his testimony was being thrown out and he was being cleared of any wrongdoing.
If Perez was briefed by NCAA investigators before the deposition to ask specific questions of those being deposed, that would be, according to Miami-based lawyer Jason Setchen, who represented former UM basketball player DeQuan Jones last year in the NCAA case, “beyond egregious. I can’t tell you how impermissible that would be.
“That would be circumventing their own rules and regulations in an unfair advantage over [UM] by getting information that might not have otherwise been available to them in the course of their own investigation. Ironically, the NCAA’s purpose is to restrict unfair competitive advantage.’’
Added Ben Kuehne, past president of the Dade County Bar Association: “To use the legal process to do what the NCAA is not able to do brings up an assault on the system of justice.’’