Miami Hurricanes, NCAA pressing forward toward resolution

The University of Miami’s NCAA travails have been burdensome, but the school’s cooperation in the investigation could help.

01/14/2013 12:01 AM

08/10/2014 10:55 PM

Sometimes, as they say, the only way out of hell is through it.

The University of Miami’s pending NCAA saga has officially dragged on for nearly two years — more if you count former Hurricanes booster/convicted Ponzi-schemer Nevin Shapiro’s first revelations in August 2010 about planning to author a “tell-all’’ book detailing alleged rampant NCAA violations by UM athletes and coaches.

UM’s nightmare is far from over, but it appears to be accelerating toward a resolution, which could come this summer — give or take several weeks depending on how the process unfolds.

Monday is the day some have been told to be available to speak to NCAA representatives regarding their alleged NCAA violations. The so-called notice of allegations, which describes the case and outlines the rules that are alleged to have been broken, is expected to be received by UM sometime this week.

UM President Donna Shalala, who has made it clear to university personnel that they are not to discuss the investigation, told The Miami Herald on Sunday night regarding the NCAA’s notification: “I have no timetable.”

Individuals embroiled in the case, some of them now employed at other universities, will receive their own notices of alleged wrongdoings.

Shapiro, serving a 20-year prison sentence for orchestrating a $930 million Ponzi scheme, accused more than 100 UM athletes — most of them former football players — of accepting impermissible benefits worth thousands of dollars between 2002 and 2010.

Former football and basketball coaches were implicated by Shapiro with recruiting-related accusations.

But the thing UM has most going for it, according to those on the inside and the periphery, is how cooperative Shalala, her administration and lawyers have been with the NCAA.

“In my experience with the case, it appears the university has gone out of its way to be transparent and cooperative with the joint investigation, not only to facilitate some sort of good will with the NCAA, but to avoid any additional sanctions that might occur,’’ said Miami-based attorney Jason Setchen, who received his bachelor’s and law degrees from UM.

Working together

Setchen represented former UM basketball player DeQuan Jones when he was originally prevented from competing in games last season. Shapiro claimed that former UM assistant Jake Morton asked Shapiro for $10,000 to secure Jones, then a recruit. Jones was allowed to return to action after the NCAA couldn’t find evidence against him.

“Miami’s position from Day 1 was to work together, as opposed to being adversarial,’’ Setchen said. “These guys from the NCAA are judge and jury. Once you tick them off, if you’re not cooperative and don’t handle yourself in a way that is acceptable to them, they’re ultimately the ones that define your fate.’’

John Infante, a former compliance officer at NCAA Division I schools, formerly wrote The Bylaw Blog for the NCAA. He now writes it for Athnet, an informational website for recruits. On Sunday, Infante wrote that if UM receives its notice of allegations this week, he believes the NCAA hearing — UM has 90 days to respond to the allegations — would most likely be in June.

“After the hearing,’’ Infante wrote, “the Committee on Infractions tries to release the public report [with the penalties] within six weeks, but often takes longer. Given the complexity of the Miami case and the attention it has attracted, two months is probably a minimum. August or September seems more likely than not.’’

Infante added that “given Miami’s self-imposed postseason bans and apparent excellent cooperation, an appeal seems unlikely’’ – that is, unless the NCAA imposes severe sanctions, he indicated.

UM football coach Al Golden, who was hired in December 2010 without being told about the Shapiro situation, spoke about the NCAA case last week during a radio interview.

He told WQAM-560 that UM has been “a beacon in terms of how you should operate if something occurs. Hopefully we’ll be a model of how you self-impose [sanctions] and how you make restitution to move a program forward.’’

Added Golden: “People want to talk about probation. We’ve been on probation. This has been recruiting probation – [public relations] probation. I think we’ve exhibited class in terms of being open and honest and reaching resolution.”

The Hurricanes basketball program also could face sanctions, even though no members of the current coaching staff were at the school when the alleged infractions were committed. Former head coach Frank Haith left the UM program abruptly in early April 2011 to accept a job at the University of Missouri. None of his assistants were retained when new coach Jim Larranaga was hired.

Larranaga has been left to deal with the uncertainty and questions from recruits’ families.

“Every kid we recruit asks about it, and I have no good answer to give them,’’ he said recently. “We have definitely lost recruits over it, and it’s a challenge we have to deal with until this gets resolved.’’

Despite the roadblocks, Larranaga said he and his staff “are fully committed’’ to the Hurricanes “for the long haul.’’ UM and its fans just hope the haul will hurry toward its conclusion.

Miami Herald staff writer Michelle Kaufman contributed to this report.

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