Free the “U” of Miami from NCAA crosshairs

Nevin Shapiro, in an image from a 2003 video, at an NCAA college football game between Miami and Florida.
Nevin Shapiro, in an image from a 2003 video, at an NCAA college football game between Miami and Florida.

As Herald sports columnist, Greg Cote, noted this week, my alma mater, the University of Miami (fondly known as the “U”) has spent about 1,000 days in the crosshairs of the NCAA. All based on the allegations of Nevin Shapiro, a convicted ponzi schemer, and clearly a person whose infamy will live longer than this flawed (in the best terms) investigation, we hope.

Upon knowledge of the “allegations,” many of which have been determined to be not credible — (Wow, really, you mean convicted felons lie or exaggerate from time to time? Who would have known?) — the U administration, led by President Donna Shalala, took unprecedented steps to cooperate with NCAA investigators and enhance program compliance efforts, which are now a model for all member schools.

How was this cooperation been appreciated by the NCAA?

Well, NCAA investigators used highly questionable (and by questionable, I really mean unethical) means to elicit information from interested parties, with the help of a U alum I might add. The NCAA later expressed shock and dismay that its investigators would have resorted to these tactics.

Any information derived from these tactics, should have been considered fruit of the poisonous tree, a legal doctrine that basically provides that any evidence obtained illegally, or that was obtained by any evidence that was obtained illegally, should be barred from use in prosecution.

Despite this, the NCAA, in its infinite wisdom, decided to allow most of the “evidence” to be included in its final report to the governing body for NCAA enforcement.

To add insult to injury, the U has self-imposed a two-year post season ban that kept the team from not only appearing in two bowl games, but, more important, eliminated a little more than a month of additional practice time that is invaluable for team development.

In all this time, the U has acted with class and composure. The NCAA has yet to act, in effect holding the program hostage. This adversely affects recruiting efforts, as other schools, namely rivals in-state, use the looming potential NCAA sanctions to lure recruits away from the most successful football program in the Florida, and one of the most successful programs in the country over the past three decades.

Most recently, the NCAA announced that it would reduce scholarship reductions imposed on Penn State University following the extremely concerning Jerry Sandusky child-molestation circus. And yet, they have not acted here.

Scholar-athletes, frustrated with the NCAA and its rules and regulations, have started a movement against the NCAA, coining the acronym “APU” on sneakers and other apparel, which stands for “All Players Unite.”

It is time for our community to rally around our U, and demand a swift end to this 1,000-day nightmare. The U has paid its penance. The NCAA, unfortunately, will get away scot-free with its dereliction of duty and unethical behavior.

Be that as it may, I urge our community to join with a common call for the NCAA to finally #FREETHEU!

Carlos J. Gimenez is the vice president and general counsel for Balsera Communications in Coral Gables, Florida. He graduated from the University of Miami School of Business (’98), and School of Law (’02).

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