Shalala insisted she did not feel stress, despite the long wait. “I’ve been through much worse than this. I have a bigger job. We just had to get up every morning and put one foot in front of the other and not obsess about when the NCAA was going to report.”
Ed Williamson, a member of UM’s Board of Trustees, said he was impressed with the decisions made by Shalala and Athletic Director Blake James since the scandal became public. He especially liked that she closed in her wagons into a very tight circle.
“There were only three people who actually knew what was happening,” Williamson said. “Donna, Blake, and the lawyer. In the past, there was a lot of conversation, a lot of people involved, a lot of media leaks. She kept the circle real tight, did what she had to do, and that was the right way to do it.”
He also said her background in politics showed. “She rarely gets surprised,” Williamson said. “She was ready for every move the NCAA made.”
Shalala, ever the educator, said the athletic department should use the Shapiro scandal as a learning tool.
“We’ve learned the best compliance system in the world can’t substitute for the good judgment of the personnel that you hire,” she said. “People need to follow through on their instincts. We thought we had a very good compliance system in place. After all, we had the chairman of the NCAA Infractions Committee [Paul Dee] as our athletic director. And we had a very tough football coach and a good strong basketball coach with a good reputation, and a president who watches out for these things, and it still slipped through.
“We will all go back and think about what we missed and when we missed it. More than anything else, I think we’ve learned a lot about changing the culture to where people are comfortable calling us to turn things in . . . It’s about never letting your guard down.
“I apologize to our fans and our community that this happened in the first place, and we’ve just got to be on a path to continuous improvement. The culture has to be one in which anyone who commits an infraction calls us and checks and takes the appropriate punishment. What we can’t do is delay and be afraid we’re going to be fired if we turn ourselves in. It’s always the cover-up that gets you in trouble.