Dear Infractions Committee:
There are three reasons why there should be no added sanctions against Miami from this point forward. Under normal circumstances none of the three alone might be reason enough. But in this unique circumstance the combined weight of all three factors should be enough:
1. The NCAA’s botchery of the case — Emmert himself Monday called this an “embarrassment” and a “debacle.” It was estimated 20 percent of the investigation’s findings were tainted. That chunk of info supposedly will be stricken from the record and not held against Miami when the infractions committee deliberates, but any first-year lawyer will note you can’t put the smoke back in a cigar. A judge can admonish jurors to disregard what they improperly heard. But they still heard it.
An investigation 20 percent tainted is a tainted investigation.
This wasn’t even the first or only ethical question involving the NCAA’s probe of Miami. Investigators threatened potential witnesses who would not voluntarily testify, telling them Shapiro’s claims against them would be believed unless they did. That is the presumption of innocence turned upside down. That is a dirty, strong-arm tactic bordering on extortion.
Even Emmert would not defend it Monday, saying only, “We have to sit down with our membership and determine what approaches to obtaining information they find acceptable.”
How about this approach: Be aboveboard and ethical and don’t do anything that makes you look even worse than the people you are investigating and about to judge.
(The NCAA also apparently has provided Shapiro a free cellphone. If that isn’t an ethical breach, it’s enough a blurred line that I would hate to defend it if I were Emmert.)
2. The accuser — I’m guessing it isn’t often that the NCAA’s key witness against a school is a man serving hard time in a $930 million Ponzi scheme, as Shapiro is.
Hurricanes fans who might be angry at Shapiro are nowhere near the front of the line compared to victims he was found guilty of swindling.
This isn’t to pin all of UM’s troubles on Shapiro. That would be wrong. If there are not willing athletes on the other side with hands out, renegade boosters do not exist.
I would imagine, though, that an accuser’s motives and reputation would be given weight in any case, and that in this case the accuser, let’s just say, has relinquished any future bid for sainthood.
3. Time already served. The university and its athletic department — the football program especially but also men’s basketball — have lived with this cloud for some 2 1/2 years now, serving a de facto probation period and facing an uncertain future that has hindered recruiting. Who’s to say even Miami losing assistant football coach Mario Cristobal to Alabama on Monday wasn’t related in some way to possible looming sanctions against UM.
More tangibly, Miami already has self-imposed two seasons of football postseason bans that have encompassed two bowl games and what would have been the school’s first ACC Championship Game. Eight players already served a total of 19 games in suspensions. Coach Al Golden self-imposed a reduction of five scholarships on National Signing Day earlier this month.
This strikes us as fair punishment from what we already know of the allegations.
No other school ever investigated by the NCAA has stepped forward and volunteered more sanctions to put this in the past and move on.
No other school’s accuser has been more personally suspect and notorious.
No other school’s investigation was put on hold while the NCAA investigated its own wrongdoing in the case, its own violation of public trust.