It is good and right that the NCAA said Monday it would move forward with its investigation related to the University of Miami — the problem is it is moving forward against the wrong party. College sports’ governing body should drop its case against UM and instead direct the scrutiny and punishment upon itself.
NCAA president Mark Emmert distinguished himself for demanding accountability, especially for holding head coaches responsible for the misdeeds of their assistants or staff. Now Emmert has distinguished himself for hypocrisy. For not holding himself to the same standard of responsibility he would demand of others.
This gentleman somehow gets to continue sitting regally upright upon his high horse when the organization at his command, in effect his police force, has admitted and been found guilty of serious breaches of ethics in its own investigation.
Emmert somehow gets to continue being the imprimatur and face of cleaning up college sports when his own operation is proved dirty.
UM president Donna Shalala voiced strongly on Monday what I have previously written: “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.”
Shalala said “the NCAA has not lived up to its own core principles.” She called the investigation of Miami “lengthy and flawed.” She accused the NCAA of “unprofessional and unethical behavior.”
She was being kind.
The outrage reached a new head Monday.
Not quite a month earlier the NCAA acknowledged wrongdoing in its laboriously protracted probe of UM in the Nevin Shapiro matter. Emmert admitted his staff wrongly paid Shapiro’s attorney to use her subpoena powers in an unrelated bankruptcy case to gather information against UM in two depositions — information that would not otherwise have been available.
On Monday, an independent external review of the matter produced a damning 52-page report that makes Emmert and his underlings look even worse than first thought.
The findings accuse Emmert of an obvious lack of oversight. But the key development, to me, is that the NCAA staff went ahead with payments to Shapiro’s lawyer to improperly obtain information even after being strongly and clearly advised not to by the NCAA’s own staff counsel.
One presumes that a lengthy, high-profile investigation of a major university would merit the direct oversight of Emmert, and that staff attorneys being consulted to rule on payments to an outside counsel regarding subpoenas would further draw the attention of the president.
But, while two staff investigators have been fired over this unethical behavior and another has resigned, Emmert is unscathed, free to announce Monday that “the committee will now move forward” toward a Notice of Allegations against Miami.
The NCAA needs to check its own house before looking for termites elsewhere. The corruption of the UM probe calls into question all those that came before it. That is, unless one is naïve enough to believe that the same investigators who were unethical in this case — despite their own lawyers’ warning — had only been angels before.
Emmert said the UM case would proceed to the infractions committee, but said that committee “has some latitude” in meting out punishment.