What some originally thought might take three days to hash out didn’t take that long after all.
The University of Miami wrapped up its hearings with the NCAA Committee of Infractions on Friday afternoon after 16 1/2 hours of talks over two days — less than it took the same committee to sort through the USC case in February 2010.
The scene inside the well-guarded, second-floor conference room at the downtown Westin Hotel was described by one person as “an intense process that covered a lot of material” — one that “didn’t include any surprises, just all of the same stuff we’ve talked about for months and months and months.”
When it was finally over, Hurricanes football coach Al Golden was the first person out the door. He streaked down the hallway and out the doors of the hotel.
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The next step? A decision on penalties from the eight-person panel headed by Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky will take at least six weeks. It will deliberate in private and weigh whether the findings made by the NCAA’s enforcement committee or the arguments made over the past 48 hours by UM and others accused by former booster Nevin Shapiro of breaking NCAA rules are right.
“I don’t think there’s any exact time frame that the committee has [to reach a decision], but we certainly hope we would be done prior to the beginning of the football season,” said Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford, who attended both days of hearings in support of Miami.
“It’s been an extraordinarily long investigation. I’ve said it before: I think the sheer length of the investigation has been a penalty in itself.”
Swofford, the only person present at the hearings to speak publicly after they concluded, did not discuss any events involved in the case and simply spoke in generalities for the most part.
Asked how he felt about the University of Miami when Yahoo! Sports first reported Shapiro’s allegations in August 2011 compared to Friday, Swofford said: “Well, I’ve never not felt good about the University of Miami, but I feel real good about the University of Miami right now.”
“It’s a very unified place right now that is very committed to each other, the program and the University, very supportive of each other. It’s very good to see. Their concern is the university and the program moving forward.”
Football the focus
UM’s contingent — led by school president Donna Shalala and featuring athletic director Blake James and Golden — returned Friday to the same conference room where it spent 10 hours Thursday delving into the list of allegations brought forth by Shapiro nearly three years ago. The NCAA began its own investigation in March 2011 and ended it this past February.
While the primary focus of discussion at Thursday’s hearings centered on basketball, football was the topic Friday. According to a source, the infractions committee worked through the allegations pertaining to individuals involved in the case first before shifting its focus to UM and more serious charges the school is facing, such as lack of institutional control.
A day after former UM basketball coach Frank Haith and two former Hurricanes basketball assistants wrapped up their business with the NCAA Committee on Infractions, former UM football assistants Clint Hurtt and Aubrey Hill did the same by 11 a.m. Friday.
Hurtt and Hill, facing allegations of receiving and providing impermissible benefits and the dreaded 10.1 rule of unethical conduct for providing false and misleading information during the 23-month investigation, did not comment on the hearings as they left. But as they were leaving, one of their attorneys was overhead telling another in the hallway: “I want to keep them away from 10.1.”
Can’t discuss case
A source said Friday it was not a pleasant experience for the parties on trial. Another source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, described it as “a very humbling experience.”
Despite admitted mistakes by the NCAA enforcement staff that led to 20 percent of the case being tossed out by an external review committee (nearly all of those were football charges pertaining to Kyle Wright and former assistant equipment manager Sean “Pee Wee” Allen, according to a source), the infractions committee went hard on the other 80 percent of the case.
Because of the amount of leaks involved in the case and high volume of news reports that have come out about it, a source said everyone allowed into the hearings not only had to wear a special blue wrist band to get through the doors but also had to sign an agreement that they wouldn’t discuss the case or face severe consequences.
UM’s Notice of Allegations, received Feb. 19, reportedly said Shapiro — now serving a 20-year sentence for his role in a $930 million Ponzi scheme — provided $170,000 in benefits to players, recruits, coaches and others between 2002 and 2010, according to The Associated Press. About $90,000 of that was used to get former UM defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and cornerback Antrel Rolle to sign with Shapiro’s sports agency, Axcess Sports.
The AP also reported that the NOA mentioned that 48 players received VIP access and beverage service from Shapiro at Miami nightclubs; 38 were entertained at Shapiro’s home; 18 received invites to bowling alley events; and seven dined with Shapiro at Benihana.
Haith, now the coach at Missouri, was charged with a failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance during his time at UM. The NCAA also alleged that Haith’s former UM assistant, Jake Morton, aided Shapiro in violating NCAA rules in the recruitment of three players, including 2010 NBA No. 1 overall draft pick John Wall. The NCAA also alleges that Jorge Fernandez, another former UM assistant under Haith, provided impermissible inducements in the form of transportation and entertainment to individuals associated with those same prospective student-athletes.
A source confirmed that Hill, Hurtt and Fernandez are the only three coaches facing 10.1 infractions for unethical conduct.
UM, which said again Friday it will not comment on the hearings, has self-imposed postseason bans the past two years, including sitting out the ACC championship game in 2012.
The school has also said it has trimmed football scholarships, but hasn’t detailed how many.
In other news, the Florida Bar’s Grievance Committee has contacted the NCAA in regards to Shapiro’s attorney, Maria Elena Perez, and the subpoena power she abused to help college sports’ governing body interview key witnesses during its investigation of UM, a source has confirmed.
The Grievance Committee is trying to determine whether there is enough evidence to move forward against Perez and if she should be disciplined, the source said.
The complaint was first filed back in January and the entire process – from Bar investigation, Grievance Committee investigation, and finding, filing of formal complaint and disciplined ordered – can take up to a year.
Perez was paid $19,000 by the NCAA for her services in what was ruled to be an improper relationship, according to an external review committee hired by the NCAA back in January. The committee decided to toss out about 20 percent of the enforcement staff’s case against Miami and other parties involved because the information was improperly obtained by Perez and the NCAA enforcement staff.
If probable cause is found by the Grievance Committee, a formal complaint could be filed against Perez in state supreme court.