And some, such as CBSSports.com columnist Dennis Dodd, suggest, “Hey NCAA, why don’t you just give it up and let Miami go?
“The Miami case is now tainted beyond reason. We know that now. Mistrial. Throw it out, NCAA. Move on, NCAA. You’ve lost face — and perhaps the credibility to ever investigate anyone again.
“Is it time to outsource the most controversial department of a highly controversial nonprofit, tax-exempt — though extremely powerful — giant? The answer would seem to scream, yes.”
However one believes the UM saga involving Shapiro, a convicted Ponzi schemer, should be decided, there’s little doubt that the NCAA enforcement staff is a beleaguered, overworked and understaffed group of people who juggle too much at a time.
Two investigators involved in the Miami case were already fired.
“I don’t think they have enough people,” one person close to the process said. “I would not be surprised if they said they’re going to, in essence, declare a mistrial and accept Miami’s self-imposed sanctions and move on. They’re sort of stuck in a no-win situation, because if they settle the case quickly they’ll lose tremendous credibility on enforcement going forward. On the other hand, if they don’t [punish] Miami then all the other schools will be really upset, starting with [NCAA rule-breaker] USC, because Miami got off free.
“So, whichever way they go they’ll have huge credibility problems. I think they’re trying to figure out what makes the most sense at this point. They’re stuck.
“In the meantime, Miami is sitting there waiting. The more this drags on the better it’s got to be for Miami.”
The NCAA’s investigative staff, which does not have subpoena power, encompasses about 55 people, about 37 of whom are actual investigators — at least as of late 2011, when NCAA vice president of enforcement Julie Roe Lach made a nationwide media tour to explain the enforcement process.
The NCAA did not respond to calls or an email to update those numbers.
Lach said the NCAA handles upwards of 100 cases at a time, with sometimes more than five people on a case. She said 75 percent have law degrees and some were former prosecutors, public defenders, FBI agents and coaches.
“We have people who used to work on campus in compliance,” she said, “and we even have people who were athletic directors or spent time in a conference office.
“At least two-thirds of our staff are former student-athletes across all divisions.
“Most investigators are carrying two to three cases.”
Lach admitted that her staff “sometimes can be demoralized by the misunderstandings of people” about the enforcement process and the often more than 100 interviews that are done in a case, not to mention the endless collection of phone records, academic records, bank records and the like — and doors shut in their faces.
“We’re actually representing every other member institution in trying to get to the truth,” she said, not referring specifically to the Miami case. “We’re trying to uncover that something that went wrong and an unfair advantage was gained, when every other school theoretically was following the rules.
“There are some myths out there — other people think they’re truths — one of which is the process is unfair or inconsistent, that we go on witch hunts as an enforcement staff or there are sacred cows, or that everything we do we’re secret about intentionally.”
Bilas said he doesn’t think the NCAA investigators are bad people, but rather that they are questionable in the way they operate. He also said he believes UM’s sanctions should be softened because of the missteps in the case.
“We’re talking about potentially the NCAA having a lawyer for Shapiro on its payroll that they were directing to do certain things in a federal bankruptcy case that didn’t apply to that case,” he said. “Was that deposition only set up for the NCAA? It also violates all the procedures and process of enforcement.
“The same sort of use of the NCAA laws for slamming Penn State, would they apply that to themselves?” Bilas said, referring to the NCAA’s swift, sweeping and severe sanctions in the sex-abuse scandal involving former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. “My guess is they wouldn’t.”
Miami Herald sportswriters Manny Navarro and Barry Jackson contributed to this report.