The NCAA investigation into the University of Miami has veered so strangely off course that nobody knows exactly what will happen next.
Will the NCAA soften its not-yet-delivered notice of allegations to the university and former UM coaches and assistants linked to the case?
Will the NCAA follow the unprecedented lead in the Penn State case and come down with a swift and sweeping settlement?
Will the NCAA’s investigation of itself — prompted by its realization that it obtained information improperly in the Miami case — uncover further improprieties?
Will the NCAA toss out everything?
“My sense is that after Penn State, anything is possible,” said Jerry Parkinson, a University of Wyoming College of Law professor who served as coordinator of appeals for the NCAA Committee on Infractions from 2000 to 2010. “But it’s highly unlikely the case would be removed from the ordinary enforcement process unless the conduct is so egregious that it somehow tainted the entire investigation.”
Last July, in the child sex-abuse scandal involving former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, the NCAA bypassed its usual enforcement process and handed down a punishment that included a $60 million fine, five-year probation, four-year postseason ban, severe scholarship reduction and vacation of all wins from 1998 to 2011.
Penn State agreed to the punishment.
“They signed a consent decree,” said Parkinson, who handled 28 appeals and 22 oral arguments on behalf of the NCAA.
He acknowledged that any evidence garnered improperly in the UM case “is tainted,” but said “the broader issue is that presumably the NCAA enforcement has gathered tons of other evidence that is not in any way tied to the evidence that may have been improperly obtained.
“It’s unlikely the case would be removed from the ordinary enforcement process, because it’s unlikely that Miami would have a persuasive argument that could eliminate other allegations that are based on evidence that is not related to this.”
And unless there’s some type of exceptional settlement reached between all parties involved — there is no current settlement provision in the enforcement process — the case will go on.
The list of UM coaches alleged by former UM booster Nevin Shapiro — who was at the center of the scandal and is now serving a 20-year prison sentence after being convicted in a Ponzi scheme — or since reported to be involved in infractions includes former basketball head coach Frank Haith, now the coach at Missouri. It also includes Haith’s former assistants Jake Morton (now at Western Kentucky), Jorge Fernandez and Michael Schwartz (Fresno State); former football assistants Clint Hurtt (Louisville), Joe Pannunzio (Alabama), Jeff Stoutland (Alabama), Aubrey Hill (most recently at Florida) — and even, as alleged in a July 2012 Yahoo! Sports story, UM linebackers coach Micheal Barrow and current head coach Al Golden, who has adamantly defended his integrity and record.
CBSSports.com reported Monday that Haith, Hurt, Hill, Morton, Fernandez and Schwartz are facing unethical conduct charges, known in NCAA terms as a violation of Bylaw 10.1. The report also indicated that Haith is expected to be charged with “failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance as related to the NCAA’s investigation.”
Pannunzio indicated he and Stoutland do not expect to be charged with the 10.1 violation for being forthright to the NCAA from the beginning, a person close to Pannunzio told The Miami Herald.
Bylaw 10.1, entitled “unethical conduct,” includes, but is not limited to, “knowingly furnishing or knowingly influencing others to furnish the NCAA or the individual’s institution false or misleading information concerning an individual’s involvement in or knowledge of matters relevant to a possible violation of an NCAA regulation.”
When asked Wednesday if those coaches or UM had already been told or shown in writing what charges they are facing, NCAA president Mark Emmert said, “Our staff has been in conversations with the university and with the individuals involved to discuss some of the matters related to this, and in some cases given an overview of the fact that there were issues with some of the evidence and we would be dealing with them.
“But the specific details out in certain stories are not based upon formal allegations that we’ve presented, and are more supposition and in some cases speculation.”
So now, all involved must wait until the NCAA does its internal investigation and sifts through what evidence is useable and what is not. If the case goes on, there are two conventional ways of resolving it. One way is through “summary disposition” and the other way is through a hearing.
In a summary disposition, every party involved in the UM case — from the university itself to all the former coaches and outside people who are delivered a notice of allegations — must come together and contribute to a single report that proposes penalties.
The Committee on Infractions would then review that information, which also includes all the investigative findings from the school, involved parties and the NCAA, and determine if the penalties are appropriate and the investigation was thorough enough.
The Committee on Infractions could accept the findings and agree with the penalties and the case would be concluded. It also could opt for additional penalties (the parties involved could then request an expedited hearing), or reject the summary disposition and move forward with a hearing.
Because the Miami case is so complicated and has so many people involved in the alleged NCAA violations, Parkinson said he doubts they could all agree on proposed penalties.
“In light of that,” he said, “the chances of a case that’s apparently this involved being suitable for summary disposition is negligible. It’s kind of a global resolution and it just seems highly unlikely.”