The NCAA flagged itself Wednesday, temporarily halting its 22-month investigation into the University of Miami’s football and men’s basketball programs because the people it was paying to ask the questions were breaking rules.
NCAA president Mark Emmert said college sports’ governing body has hired outside counsel to investigate why the attorney of Nevin Shapiro was being paid and using her subpoena power to help the NCAA obtain information against Miami. Emmert wants to throw out any of the findings that were improperly obtained.
In the meantime, UM, and the former coaches who are in hot water, will have to wait another week or two to receive their official notice of allegations. School president Donna Shalala expressed her frustration and disappointment that the integrity of the investigation had been compromised, but promised UM would continue to work with the NCAA for a swift resolution.
She wasn’t the only Hurricane angry.
“I really think it should go away,” running back Mike James said while practicing at the Senior Bowl in Mobile.
Legendary running back Alonzo Highsmith, whose son AJ who is entering his senior season and has been hurt by the school’s back-to-back self-imposed bowl bans, was the most vocal.
“Can Miami now sue the NCAA?” Highsmith posted on Twitter. “If [UM] had hired a big-time attorney and fought we might not be in this situation based on new findings. Seems that a qualified attorney would have reviewed what the NCAA did and how info was obtained.”
John Infante, a former compliance officer at a couple of NCAA Division I schools who runs the well-read Bylaw Blog on the governing body and its issues, has been watching the proceedings. He said Hurricanes fans should feel better about the investigation and potential penalties after Wednesday’s announcement.
Infante said he would be shocked if the football program got another postseason ban or faced “crippling scholarship penalties” in light of Emmert’s announcement. But he said nobody at UM should think the school is off the hook entirely.
“I think people, when they think positive for Miami, they think significantly reduced sanctions. To me, that remains to be seen,” Infante said. “I know president Emmert said in his press conference that this affected only a small portion of the information in the case. They still have to go through and find out exactly which allegations or specific violations this tainted information is involved with.”
Infante said more importantly he isn’t exactly sure if the NCAA will follow the “fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine” in this case.
“That basically says if you gather information you wouldn’t otherwise have gotten without the use of an improper lead, you can’t use that new information either,” Infante said. “They could just say ‘we got this through this deposition, but then here’s the other document we obtained properly that has the same information in it.’
“In the end, anything the NCAA cannot corroborate is helpful [for Miami]. The fewer student-athletes, the fewer former coaches, the less money, the fewer violations involved the better the case will be. The question now is if it is going to enough to result in a significantly different set of penalties.”
Infante cautions that despite the fact Yahoo! had such detailed information from Shapiro — the jailed former UM booster — and other reports pertaining to the case and its findings “nobody knows exactly what the NCAA has been able to corroborate given its abusive power.”
Miami Herald sportswriter Adam H. Beasley contributed to this report.