NCAA investigation

University of Miami goes on offensive with NCAA

 

University of Miami president Donna Shalala called the NCAA’s handling of the prolonged investigation ‘unprofessional and unethical.’

bjackson@miamiherald.com

For 18 months, the University of Miami’s philosophy has been to cooperate with the NCAA in its investigation. But that approach essentially ended Monday when the NCAA declined UM’s overtures to settle the matter — even amid the NCAA’s admission that it handled part of the case improperly.

UM president Donna Shalala called the NCAA’s conduct “unprofessional and unethical” and said the “process must come to a swift resolution.” Another UM official, not authorized to comment publicly, called the NCAA’s handling of the case “shameful” and said the school now would defend itself “aggressively.”

Last week, UM proposed a settlement but the NCAA balked, and school officials were left with the impression that NCAA president Mark Emmert believed he did not have the support of two key boards — made up of university presidents — to settle with UM and circumvent the usual process for recruiting cases.

A UM official said the school does not believe another postseason ban in football is warranted. And UM said it will not self-impose an NCAA Tournament basketball ban.

It remains to be seen if UM would appeal modest scholarship reductions in football, but Shalala said Monday that UM deserves no additional penalties.

UM is expected to receive its Notice of Allegations in the coming days, after which it would have 90 days to respond before the infractions committee. The NCAA’s next infractions committee hearing is scheduled for April. After that session, UM likely would not receive its penalties for at least two months.

But the NCAA didn’t announce North Carolina’s penalties until four months after its hearing. Central Florida appealed its football bowl ban last September and is still awaiting a response 15 1/2 months after receiving its allegations.

“I bet leaders at Miami feel [dumb] for not fighting and taking a stand against the NCAA,” former UM football star Alonzo Highsmith, now a Green Bay Packers executive, tweeted Monday. “We got rolled over and got played by everyone.”

Kenneth Wainstein, whose law firm conducted the investigation into the NCAA’s improper conduct in the UM investigation, said 20 percent of the evidence against UM has been tossed, including the Sean Allen and Michael Huyghue depositions, 13 interviews and parts of 12 others that used information from those depositions and two other interviews with Allen.

The investigation determined that NCAA enforcement staff members knowingly circumvented legal advice to hire Nevin Shapiro’s criminal defense attorney. Among details in the 52-page report:

• The NCAA paid Shapiro’s attorney more than $19,000, including out-of-pocket expenses, and transferred $4,500 to Shapiro’s prison account for phone calls. NCAA officials visited Shapiro three times in prison, and he gave them four boxes of documents, including bank and credit card records and yacht records.

• Naima Stevenson, the NCAA’s associate general counsel, learned last September that investigator Ameen Najjar — a former police officer who was fired by the NCAA last May for undisclosed reasons — disregarded the legal department’s advice and struck a deal with Perez late in 2011 for her role in assisting the case. Emmert was then informed last September.

Najjar said he told Perez the enforcement staff would not pay her for billable hours, but they could reimburse her for costs and expenses. But Perez said Najjar told her the NCAA would pay her for “costs and fees.”

• When Stevenson learned last September that Perez was paid for the depositions, the NCAA began removing evidence tied to those depositions but did not inform UM it was doing that until Jan. 11.

• Najjar told his supervisors that using the bankruptcy proceedings to subpoena Allen and Huyghue was necessary because “I do not believe we will be able to secure interviews” with them.

• Perez also wanted to subpoena UM basketball booster Dave Leshner and Shapiro’s bodyguard, Mario Sanchez, but neither materialized.

• Perez told Najjar that Shapiro wanted to help partly because “conducting these depositions would help Shapiro get revenge on UM and its student-athletes and coaches who had turned their back on him.”

• Najjar showed up to the Allen deposition in December 2011, but Allen’s attorney asked him to leave the room. Najjar provided 34 “areas” the NCAA wanted Perez to discuss. Shapiro also wrote some questions.

• Perez spoke to the NCAA in 2011 and 2012 about using Luther Campbell’s defamation suit against Shapiro before a Florida court as a vehicle for securing witness testimony and documents, but she never gave the NCAA records because of a dispute over payment.

Read more UM stories from the Miami Herald

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