UM/NCAA inquiry

UM’s Donna Shalala blasts NCAA after review finds staffers acted inappropriately

 

The NCAA revealed its findings of an inquiry into its conduct regarding the UM case, then said it would ‘move forward’ — infuriating UM president Donna Shalala.

WEB VOTE University of Miami President Donna Shalala says there should be no additional punitive measures by the NCAA other than those already self-imposed by the college. Do you agree?

sdegnan@MiamiHerald.com

The NCAA case involving the University of Miami will continue — but without about 20 percent of the information the governing body of college athletics has deemed tainted because of its own “improper conduct” during the investigation, according to NCAA President Mark Emmert on Monday.

In response, UM President Donna Shalala indicated Monday evening she is fed up with the drama, and implored the NCAA in a lengthy statement to “bring this to a closure.”

Said Shalala: “We believe strongly in the principles and values of fairness and due process. However, we have been wronged in this investigation, and we believe that this process must come to a swift resolution, which includes no additional punitive measures beyond those already self-imposed.”

Among the findings revealed in the 52-page report:

• The NCAA paid $18,000 of a requested $57,115 to the lawyer of former UM booster Nevin Shapiro.

• The NCAA paid $8,200 to fund communications with Shapiro from jail, including the transfer of $4,500 to the prison commissary account from which Shapiro pays for the communications.

Despite Shalala’s objections, expect the Notice of Allegations in the nearly 2-year-old case to arrive soon at UM and to any involved individuals. Judging by the national teleconference Monday led by Emmert and outside counsel Kenneth L. Wainstein, it appears there will be no swift settlement between UM and the NCAA.

“The intention is to move forward with this case,” Emmert said. “There is still a lot of information that is available that has in no way been tainted by this incident. In terms of timing, I’m not going to guess when that occurs. I know everyone is trying to get it done as quickly as possible.”

Added Emmert of the expected Notice of Allegations: “They’re moving forward with dispatch.”

For UM, that’s the crux of the matter that was revealed during the teleconference that released the results of the NCAA inquiry — announced Jan. 23 — into its own misconduct, namely using Shapiro’s attorney, Maria Elena Perez, and paying her to improperly obtain information during two bankruptcy-related depositions. The NCAA does not have subpoena power.

The NCAA initiated the investigation of itself — conducted by Wainstein, a former FBI general counsel and former assistant attorney general for national security — for the “very severe issue of improper conduct” that it discovered last month.

The report indicated that Perez sent the NCAA nine invoices requesting payment for the billable time that she spent on the investigation between Oct. 11, 2011, and July 31, 2012. “The invoices, reflecting an hourly rate of $350” for her legal work, according to the report, “requested a total payment of approximately $57,115.”

The NCAA’s enforcement and legal staffs, however, “jointly agreed to pay a final amount of approximately $18,000.”

Though the external review found that “select enforcement staff members did not violate a specific bylaw or law,” the NCAA fired its vice president of enforcement, Julie Roe Lach, as the result of the inquiry into its own wrongdoings, Yahoo! Sports reported earlier Monday.

“To ensure that the parties at risk of the investigation suffer no prejudice from the NCAA’s use of the bankruptcy proceeding, the Enforcement and Legal Staffs decided to remove from U. Miami’s Investigative Record any information directly or indirectly derived from the work of Ms. Perez in the bankruptcy proceeding,” the report stated.

Thus, for example, “13 interviews were excluded” from the investigation’s findings; and “portions of 12 interviews were excluded,” the report stated.

Additionally, “some factual allegations were entirely removed,” according to the report, and “if there is ever a Notice of Allegations issued in this matter, that same information would not be the basis for any charges contained therein . . .”

The report said outside counsel “reviewed and analyzed over 75 interview transcripts and voluminous other records, including bank account documents, receipts, photographs and other evidence.”

The report also indicated that “it is clear” that UM attorneys “knew from the beginning the NCAA was using Ms. Perez to secure depositions,” though they didn’t know she was being paid.

“Despite their awareness of the depositions,” the report stated, “the U. Miami attorneys made no effort to prevent the NCAA from taking these depositions,” after UM’s “initial reservations.”

Why? “The attorneys explained they did not want to appear uncooperative or to look like they were standing in the way of the truth.”

Shapiro, now serving a 20-year federal prison sentence for his $930-million Ponzi scheme, has spent countless hours telling the NCAA how he provided more than 100 mostly former UM athletes with several thousand dollars worth of improper benefits from 2002 to 2010.

Shalala expressed her unhappiness about the whole situation.

“The University takes full responsibility for the conduct of its employees and student-athletes,” Shalala’s statement began. “Where the evidence of NCAA violations has been substantiated, we have self-imposed appropriate sanctions, including unilaterally eliminating once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for our students and coaches over the past two years, and disciplining and withholding players from competition . . .

“In September 2010 — two and a half years ago — [UM] advised the NCAA of allegations made by a convicted felon against former players and, at that time, we pledged our full cooperation with any investigation into the matter.”

Shalala said UM pledged to “vigorously pursue the truth, wherever that path may lead” and insisted on “complete, honest, and transparent cooperation with the NCAA from our staff and students.

“[UM] has lived up to those promises, but sadly the NCAA has not lived up to their own core principles.”

Shalala went on to complain about the “flawed investigation” and the NCAA’s “disappointing pattern of unprofessional and unethical behavior,” and how UM has suffered because of it.

“Regardless of where blame lies internally with the NCAA, even one individual, one act, one instance of malfeasance both taints the entire process and breaches the public’s trust,” she said.

Emmert said the NCAA’s misconduct in the Miami case represented “a single situation,” and that the NCAA is “trying to make sure that everything we do is seen as being conducted in a fashion that is consistent with our values. I wouldn’t characterize this as a case of corruption. It was certainly a case where there was some bad judgment and bad decisions made, but it shouldn’t, and we have to make sure it does not over the long run diminish the ability of the NCAA to govern itself.”

Emmert said Lach was replaced by attorney Jonathan Duncan, who will serve on an interim basis.

Asked whether the NCAA had discussed a settlement possibility in the UM case to expedite the situation, Emmert said: “This is going to go forward to the Committee on Infractions, like all of our cases, and the committee has some latitude in the way they handle cases. But it also is a complicated case because there are many other parties of interest here at risk beyond the university. There are other people involved.

“It will be up to the Committee on Infractions to make any of those judgment calls.”

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