Harry Rothwell, manager of AllCanes sporting goods near campus, said he gives Shalala “high marks” for how she handled the mess.
“Donna gained a lot of respect when she finally lashed out at the NCAA back in February,” Rothwell said. “Some people wished she had done it sooner, but she had a plan. The time came when she said, ‘Enough is enough! Stop bashing our program, give us credit for all our self-sanctions and be fair.’ When she did that, UM fans thought, ‘Wow, this lady doesn’t play around.’ I think we are all breathing a sigh of relief and benefiting today because of the way she and the whole administration handled everything.”
Her strongest statements came the week of Feb. 18, when the school received its notice of allegations from the NCAA. She said at the time: “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.”
She took a calculated risk by criticizing the NCAA publicly, a pre-emptive strike that cast the Hurricanes as victims in the seemingly never-ending investigation.
“The lengthy and already flawed investigation has demonstrated a disappointing pattern of unprofessional and unethical behavior,” Shalala said. “Many of the charges brought forth are based on the word of a man who made a fortune by lying. . . .
“Most of the sensationalized media accounts of Shapiro’s claims are found nowhere in the Notice of Allegations. Despite their efforts over 2 ½ years, the NCAA enforcement staff could not find evidence of prostitution, expensive cars for players, expensive dinners paid for by boosters, player bounty payments, rampant alcohol and drug use or the alleged hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and gifts given to student-athletes, as reported in the media. The fabricated story played well — the facts did not.”
Shalala expressed relief Tuesday that the NCAA cloud had been lifted, and she accepted the punishment. She can live with a reduction of nine football scholarships over three years, three basketball scholarships over three years, and various other recruiting restrictions.
“While we would have preferred just to get the sanctions we already imposed, having read the report and gone through the hearing, I think what they gave us was fair,” she said.
She said that the athletic department had “suffered greatly” through the investigation and the uncertainty.
“The recruiting was directly affected by both the infractions and failure to obey the rules by our own coaches and student-athletes and our admission of those failures,” she said.
“As both [UM basketball coach] Jim Larranaga and [football coach] Al Golden have reported, recruiting was directly affected. Since I’m involved in the recruiting process for all the student-athletes, I can tell you the parents asked about it. So, I think, more than anything else, the athletic program suffered greatly as much by the timeline as anything else. But we were responsible, and it was very clear we broke NCAA rules and we admitted that and were penalized appropriately for it.”